guests laughing over a light snack in a restaurant

Roughly 30% of all restaurants are offering a customer loyalty program, and with 57% of consumers claiming they’re more likely to return with these loyalty incentives in place, it seems to make good business sense. But does this mean your establishment needs to do the same?

Sure, a well-designed customer loyalty program can boost your business while allowing you to engage your guests in myriad new ways. But despite the obvious benefits, these programs might not be for everyone.

You should also consider some of the following questions before implementing a loyalty program into your POS or other operations planning.

Does a loyalty program fit your brand?

Let’s get one thing out of the way, right from the outset. The best way to build loyalty is to offer unbeatable food at a price that aligns with the quality. Bottom line – if you make the best flatbread pizza in the neighborhood, people will come back for it. And as long as you continue to offer quality and unforgettable food, the loyalty will come naturally.

If you have a built-in crowd, regular guests, and a steady flow of people coming through the door, maybe there’s no need for a loyalty setup. In fact, if your restaurant is so in demand that reservations are usually required, perhaps a loyalty program might actually diminish your overall brand value. It might come across as gimmicky and could take the focus away from your food.

However, if you’re running a restaurant that caters to a more transient crowd or one that seems to do best when offering specials and happy hours, perhaps a loyalty program could go a long way toward turning transients into regulars.

Evaluate your brand values and your mission statements, and see if a loyalty program matches up. Again, they’re not for everyone. That said, if a loyalty program could benefit your business, there are still questions to ask, such as:

What are the goals of the loyalty program?

Obviously, loyalty programs are designed to boost business. That, we already know. But the question lies in how you plan to attack that goal. Is your loyalty program going to reward regular customers by encouraging them to spend more? Or are you incentivizing them to spread the word and expand your customer base?

The hook here is that your approach needs to match your brand (there’s that word again). A beer and wings joint could easily get away with a simple “punch card” type program to keep customers coming back during football season. But a small cafe might need to be more creative in garnering attention, using loyalty discounts to help expand reach, introduce new menu items, and even build more expansive databases.

How do you plan on using and tracking loyalty?

Ultimately, loyalty programs need to be an extension of what your restaurant offers – not a way to redefine what your audience should be. So, if your restaurant has an older demographic that enjoys what you offer, maybe an Instagram loyalty promotion isn’t the most appropriate idea.

Instead, these reward systems can be tied into the service itself, with your POS system tracking how often they’ve come, how much they’ve spent, and what they’ve ordered, so you can customize an offer that speaks to them. Then, the reward can be included on a receipt, or even communicated from a host or manager, to further emphasize your appreciation for their business.

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Do you want to split the check four ways? No problem. Do you want to split the bottle of wine between two people? Too easy. Enhancing the guest experience is the business of Upserve POS.

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Brad Bortone is a writer, editor and content marketer, published in areas ranging from content strategy to music reviews, and seemingly everywhere in between. Brad's love of the food industry began during his tenure with Johnson & Wales University's web team, writing countless pieces about - and enjoying countless lunches from - the school's esteemed culinary program.