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restaurant loyalty program

Who doesn’t love to earn points and get free stuff? Most of us have shopped at a certain grocery store, applied for a credit card, or flown on a particular airline just so we can earn points and get rewarded for our purchases.

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 customers who are dedicated to using their loyalty programs. 

And while you may not be running a global chain like these, your business can increase sales and delight customers by implementing a restaurant loyalty program of your own.


Creating a Successful Restaurant Loyalty Program

When creating the framework for your restaurant’s loyalty program, keep in mind that they’re not all created equal—if a program is more hassle than it’s worth, the whole plan can backfire on you. Read on to learn our top five tips for successfully implementing your own restaurant loyalty program.

1. Try A Digital Restaurant Loyalty Program

The most successful loyalty programs for restaurants are easy for customers to use and for staff to implement. These days, that means going with a digital option; it’s best to stay away from anything that requires your guests to bring in a physical item like a punch card, for a few reasons.

  • Guests don’t want or need another card taking up space in their wallet.
  • If a guest leaves their house without remembering your restaurant’s loyalty card, they may decide to go somewhere else.
  • Damaged or lost cards have to be replaced—this costs you money and frustrates guests who have essentially lost their earned points.
  • Paper cards don’t provide data like a digital option does—you’ll have no insights on what your best customers order, how often they come in, or what keeps them coming back. 

Looking for more tips on creating a stellar guest experience? Download our free Guest Communication Guide.

2. Keep Your Restaurant Loyalty Program Simple

No one is going to want to be a part of a restaurant loyalty program that has a laundry list of rules, regulations, and stipulations. Set up your rewards program so that any guest visiting at any hour can redeem their points in the same way as everyone else.

3. Train FOH Staff on the Loyalty Program 

Be sure each server has been trained to ask guests if they are a loyalty program member when they deliver the bill, and how to respond when the guest’s answer is “no.”

Figure out a concise way to explain the benefits of your program and describe how easy it is to sign up. Having an incentive for new members to sign up right then and there, like 10% off that bill they’re about to pay, also helps get a “yes.”

When it comes to redeeming rewards, make sure everyone on staff is fully aware of how to redeem and enter them into the POS. The last thing you want on a busy night is three servers crowded around a terminal trying to figure out a discount code.

restaurant loyalty programs

4. Give Guests FOMO

How will anyone know what they’re missing out on by not being a member of your restaurant’s loyalty program if they don’t know about it? Tap into their FOMO (fear of missing out) by showing them exactly what they’re missing.

Promote those tasty rewards on your social media accounts, website, and to your email list to entice customers to sign up for the program. Who wouldn’t want to hit the “enroll” button when they see the image of a delicious (and potentially free) meal? You can also host special loyalty rewards members-only events at your restaurant and share the fun live on social media.

5. Promote Your Restaurant Loyalty Program Everywhere

In addition to promoting the benefits of being a loyalty program member online, take measures to promote the program in other places as well to cover as much ground as possible.

  • Create table tents so guests can read the membership benefits while sitting in your restaurant.
  • Implement a referral reward for current members who refer a new person to the loyalty program.
  • Cross-promote your program with another local business or influencer.

3 Examples of Digital Restaurant Loyalty Programs


The coffee giant’s loyalty program originally gave members points for each purchase, no matter the dollar amount, that could be rewarded for any beverage when they reach a certain number.

In 2018 they revamped the program which now ties points to dollar amounts, and lets you redeem them for customizable rewards like a full beverage, an extra shot of espresso, or even merchandise, depending on how many points the customer wants to redeem. Members also receive perks like a free birthday item, extra point days, BOGO specials, Free Coffee for Life contests, and more.

Panera Bread

Panera’s incentive for getting new members to sign up for their MyPanera program is an immediate reward of a free pastry from the bakery. The number of points earned varies based on how often you visit, what you spend, and which items you purchase, so to avoid any confusion Panera has a ticker in their app that lets you see how close you are to your next reward.


Don’t want to track points for your restaurant’s loyalty program? Follow the same model as Arby’s does. They have customers fill out a bit of personal information so they can send periodic rewards via email like coupons, a free birthday item, and try-it-first promos.

restaurant loyalty programs

Customer Loyalty Requires More Than a Rewards Program

While it’s important to have a restaurant loyalty rewards program in place, your customers also want to feel like their business is valuable to you—that they matter to you. That goes beyond points and discounts, which you can show in different ways.

  • Engage on social media by sharing photos they’ve tagged you in and replying to every comment and message.
  • Be transparent with your guests when things go wrong. Don’t sweep major issues under the rug as if they didn’t happen—acknowledge the issue and communicate your plan to avoid future mistakes.
  • Get to know your regulars. Nothing makes guests feel more welcomed than when a server remembers their name or—even better—their favorite dish.
  • Celebrate your guests. Even if a guest is not a member of your loyalty program, make the most of any data available to you by surprising them with a birthday or anniversary treat, sending them an offer for their most-ordered dish, or reserving their favorite table for them.

Looking to turn more guests into regulars with the best restaurant loyalty program? With Upserve’s restaurant loyalty program, the guest’s credit card serves as the loyalty card so it’s less expense on your end and less hassle for the guests, increasing the chances for them to sign up and stay with it.

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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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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