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As a kid, I’m sure you loved earning gold stars for reciting in class, acing a test and being on your best behavior. While you probably aren’t fixated on gold stars anymore, I’m sure you still love to earn points and get rewards. You’re probably a loyal customer to a cafe, airline, grocery store, fashion brand—simply to earn points.

This is why restaurant loyalty programs have a lot of potential for driving repeat sales. In fact, popular fast food chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are earning millions from their own loyalty programs.

My Starbucks Rewards has 11 million members. As of Q1 2016, it had $1.2 billion in customer funds loaded onto their plastic and mobile Starbucks cards. Meanwhile, Dunkin’ Donuts’ DD Perks Rewards program has 7.5 million members, and they sell two billion cups per year.

And yet, a lot of restaurants don’t use loyalty programs as a part of their restaurant marketing plan.

In today’s world, consumers stay loyal to restaurants that reward them with free products, great offers and a personalized experience.

What kind of rewards can restaurants offer their customers? How can they use loyalty programs to increase repeat purchases? Here are four examples of restaurants with great loyalty programs to get you started.

The Palm

The Palm, a fine-dining restaurant, rewards guests who keep returning to their restaurant.

Unlike most loyalty programs, users have to pay a one-time registration of $25 to be a part of the 837 Club, but the rewards are worth it. Once you’re a member, you get a $25 gift card, which you can use the next time you visit. The more times you visit, the more points you earn.

Club members enjoy exclusive wines and cocktails. Rewards change each month, but this September, loyalty members had access to a monthly featured cocktail and two Napa Valley wines—Duckhorn Vineyards Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon—at a special discount rate.   

The Palm Loyalty ProgramThe Palm Loyalty Program

Nekter Juice Bar

The Nekter Juice Bar loyalty program lets members skip the line when they place orders using the app.

Every time they make an online or in-store purchase, customers earn one “fruit.” Collecting 10 “fruits” makes them eligible for a free menu item of their choice.

Netker Juice Bar Loyalty Program

Loyalty members receive a free treat on their birthday, and they can enjoy a $3 juice or smoothie when they successfully refer a friend who makes a purchase with their Nektar app. Plus, members get access to exclusive purchases and rewards.

It’s a simple loyalty program, but it’s effective at getting customers to sign-up, refer their friends and make another purchase.

Tavern in the Square

Tavern in the Square, a 10-unit neighborhood bar and restaurant in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, drives sales through a popular Tavern Insider Loyalty program that gained more than 19,000 members after just one year.

Loyal regulars spend 67% more at restaurants than new guests do. With effective guest communication, you can make every guest a loyal regular.

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Tavern in the Square Loyalty Program

“Our customers are enthusiastic about the mobile app and, on average, we’ve experienced one thousand downloads a month since we first introduced it,” Tavern in the Square CEO Stephen Desousa told Hospitality Tech. “With more than 50 percent of our loyalty members using the mobile app, Tavern in the Square has quickly adopted a mobile marketing strategy that lets us segment and reach our members with targeted, highly effective campaigns.”

Guests can easily join, redeem rewards like the ones below, and check account balances.  

Tavern in the Square Loyalty Program

More than just offering benefits to the customer, the Tavern Insider Loyalty program allows the restaurant to create personalized and targeted campaigns to significantly strengthen their marketing strategy 

They send personalized push and in-app messages to members. In addition, they use geofencing, which enables them to target loyalty members within a radius of the restaurant. Last January, they used geofencing to send a “buy one, get one half off” offer that generated a 50 percent increase in sales for one day.

Panera Bread

Panera Bread Loyalty Program

Panera Bread‘s MyPanera loyalty program has a whopping 28 million members, which represents more than half of its customer base. The brand earns billions thanks to its loyal customers.

What’s the secret to its success? Members can reorder past purchases, easily track their rewards, save favorite menu items, and receive recipes and cooking tips. Because customers can easily reorder their favorites, the restaurant capitalizes on a lot of repeat purchases.

In addition to receiving bakery items, birthday freebies and experiential opportunities, MyPanera program members are also treated to personalized rewards based on their behavior and past purchases. For example, the brand offered bacon macaroni and cheese for a limited time, to customers who were fans of the existing macaroni and cheese dish.

“We have been very deliberate over the years in getting to know our customers, which has allowed us to create a highly personalized loyalty program. Panera customers are so connected to the company’s brand promise and values that they expect us to deliver something different, better. We are confident the MyPanera program will be seen as quintessential Panera in the eyes of our loyal customers and be regarded among the restaurant and retail industry’s best,” CEO Bill Moreton told MarketWired 

The brand also makes ordering fast and easy. Through the Rapid Pick-Up program, members can order online, visit the store and pick up their meal (labeled with the name tied to their MyPanera account) from the Rapid Pick-Up shelf. There’s no need to line up or talk to staff.

Panera Bread Rapid Pick Up

If you’re in St. Louis or Silicon Valley, you can even order through your Google Assistant. Simply say “OK, Google. Ask Panera for delivery,” or “OK, Google. Talk to Panera.” From there, you can get information on the menu items and make a purchase.

Loyalty programs are a must. In today’s world, consumers stay loyal to restaurants that reward them with free products, great offers and a personalized experience.

Check out Upserve’s guide on customer service and guest loyalty!

Written by   |  
Raul Galera is a marketing professional from Spain, currently working for Anafore, a Singapore-based tech company behind software like ReferralCandy and CandyBar. More specifically, CandyBar is a digital punch card loyalty program that allows restaurant owners to keep their best clients coming back and spending more.