A restaurant’s bottom line can live and die by repeat business, as loyal customers dine more frequently and typically spend more per visit. That’s why savvy restaurants offer special loyalty programs that both connect an individual to the brand, and allow them to be appreciated for their business.
The Halal Guys, a fast-casual restaurant franchise headquartered in Astoria, New York, finds that rewards customers spend an average of $1.35 more per transaction than non-rewards customers.
“Across the system, we are seeing about 19 percent of transactions being done with a rewards card and our average rewards customer visits us 2.01 times per month,” says Andrew Eck, director of marketing. “We are incredibly fortunate to have a tremendous number of passionate fans and brand loyalists, so this segment is tremendously important to us.”
The Halal Guys’ loyalty program is based on a points-per-item-purchased model, with platters and sandwiches receiving three points, sides and desserts garnering two points, and beverages earning one point.
“At 50 points, a customer will earn a free platter and they receive a free beverage for registering,” Eck explains. “Additionally, we offer customers double points for their first 30 days to help them get to their first reward faster.”
Other program benefits include exclusive invitations to off-hours events as well as special surprises. This past November, in celebration of its rewards program’s one-year anniversary, the Halal Guys partnered with street artist RISK to design an exclusive, limited edition piece for its top 400 rewards members.
The Wall, New Jersey-based Bubbakoo’s Burritos has also found success with its loyalty program that allows a customer to receive a free entree after they purchase 10.
“We have seen proof that the program is working,” says Paul Altero, Bubbakoo’s co-owner and founder. “We’ve seen and heard from our customers that they are excited about the loyalty program and that it motivates them to come back sooner rather than later, and more frequently at that. We’ve seen the foot traffic and the ticket numbers and can, to our best estimate, assume that the loyalty program is continuing to draw our customers into the restaurant and over time, they become loyal customers.”
Loyal customers also receive promotional emails through Bubbakoo’s mobile app to receive anything from 20 percent off an entree to free chips and salsa with the purchase of an entree.
“As technology has increasing changed the way we live and conduct business, we are steering away from the manual ‘frequent diner cards’ and steering more in the direction of marketing to and rewarding loyal guests through the mobile app platform,” Altero says. “We are meeting customers where they are currently, and we’ve found that yields more success than having a paper card some may lose.”
Bruce Schroder, president of Moe’s Southwest Grill in Atlanta, Georgia, says that the company prioritizes loyalty to ensure its fans want to come back time and time again. Moe’s offers a Rockin’ Rewards program for members to enjoy perks like a free burrito on their birthday, free nachos with the purchase of a drink when they sign up, and earning points on every purchase.
After customers score 1,000 points, the company rewards them with $10 in banked rewards. As a result of its loyalty efforts, the company has accrued more than 1.8 million fans on the Moe’s app.
“We know our loyalty members visit our restaurants more often and spend more than non-loyalty members,” he says. “On average, our heavy loyalty guests visit a Moe’s restaurant seven times more than a non-loyal guest. Loyalty transaction as a percent of total sales are in the double digits for Moe’s.”
Sarah Beddoe, chief marketing officer of the Farmers Branch, Texas-based Taco Bueno, says loyalty is an indication of restaurant success. Taco Bueno’s most loyal customers are even involved in product innovation, testing and brand voice and advertising.
“Currently, we have a first-look/insiders look program, which is our email program. The members are self-proclaimed Buenoheads,” Beddoe says. “Our regular emails feature new menu items, fun things the brand is up to and special offers. We are also actively building and testing our mobile program, which will enable us to have a very personal relationship with each customer to ensure we can meet individual needs. This will debut early fall 2018.”
Debbie Roxarzade, CEO and founder of Rachel’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, says loyalty needs to be acknowledged at each guest touchpoint.
“As traditional marketing has proven for decades, the cost of acquiring a new customer is much higher than retaining an existing customer,” she says. “In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the cost of losing a customer is extremely high and proper management of a guest’s loyalty is the way to keep customers coming back.”
Rachel’s Kitchen offers a Preferred Guest program through which members receive exclusive specials and offers, and earn points when spending money at any of its restaurant. After 50 points, a customer can receive a cookie, muffin, dessert bar or medium drink; after 100 points, they receive a medium juice or smoothie; and after 1,000 points, they receive a catering order for five to seven people.
“At Rachel’s Kitchen, about 25 percent of our overall revenues are tracked through our Preferred Guest program,” Roxarzade says. “Preferred Guests spend more on average than a non-Preferred Guest. An example of a specific spend pattern is for guests who have purchased a kid’s meal: The average ticket for these guests is slightly lower than the average preferred guest ticket, but the frequency of visits is much higher.”