5 Loyalty Program Best Practices for Quick Service Restaurants

November 9, 2017 Catherine Malone

The QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) industry is notoriously competitive and operates on extremely tight margins. More and more restaurants are investing in loyalty programs that go beyond a simple “points for spend” model to differentiate their business and to retain and attract customers. To build long term loyalty, QSRs need to develop programs that drive unique value, deliver convenience, and engage their customers when and where they spend their time. Here are some best practices to follow to ensure your restaurant chain’s loyalty program is delivering distinctive, exceptional experiences for your customers.

1. Build an emotional connection

The best loyalty programs in any industry go beyond offering discounts. They help nurture your relationship with your customers and focus on providing a better customer experience. Consider tapping into the values of your customers and finding ways to align with the causes they support, whether it’s how you source your ingredients or the charities your customers care about.

Profit margins are low in the restaurant industry, making discounts and free meals hard to provision as part of your loyalty offering. Another smart way to build loyalty with customers at low cost to your business is by offering exclusive experiences to your best customers such as member-only invitations to exclusive dining events or reservation guarantees.  These make the customer feel valued and appreciated and it helps reinforce an emotional bond between the customer and the brand.

The Chick-Fil-A List, Chick-Fil-A’s reward program offers its best customers invitations to exclusive experiences including private dinners and kitchen tours so customers can see how their food is being prepared. These experiences create transparency and build trust between the customer and brand.

2. Engage beyond the restaurant

Being present across channels beyond your physical restaurant is essential. Having a mobile and web presence where customers can review your menu, access their loyalty program dashboard, earn rewards and even order makes it easy for your customers to engage with your brand.

Quiznos’ Toasty Points rewards program app offers members multiple ways to engage and earn points with the brand beyond the restaurant.  Members can earn points through linking the app with Facebook accounts, social media sharing and referring a friend who downloads the app. In addition to rewards, Toasty Points also offers members exclusive insider news, special promotions and a location finder.

3. Provide convenience

Customers today expect flexibility with their ordering and dining options. Extend your POS across mobile, web and in-store to offer your customers easier ways to order, pay and dine. Your POS should integrate with your loyalty program so you’re able to collect transaction and ordering preference data and your customers are rewarded for every purchase they make, regardless of channel.

As part of their rewards offering, Subway has introduced touch-screen ordering kiosks and a new mobile app to make it easier for customers to order online, pay with their mobile wallet or in-store and pick-up or dine in-store. Members can earn points for purchase and redeem them for free food and beverages.

4. Leverage program data & personalize

The beauty of adopting a loyalty program for any business is the insight you can glean from the data customers provide. Once a customer signs up, you can collect data around who they are, how often they eat at your establishment, and what they order. Restaurants can then use this data to target customers with incentives that drive future orders.

For example, Panera Bread’s loyalty program tracks what each customer spends and offers them discounts on their favorite items to increase purchase frequency. This not only helps drive up sales, it also saves the customer money on their favorite purchases which increase customer satisfaction and drives loyalty.

5. Communicate the benefits

Your customers should see the value in signing up for your program. You must establish the unique benefits are you offering your customers, whether that’s a free treat at sign-up or opportunities to win an entire meal for four. The program should provide incentives and reward customers for dining at your restaurant and for sharing their dining experience with their friends and family. It should be easy for customers to sign-up and participate and members should be treated as high-value customers. Ensure that staff are trained to communicate the key selling points of the loyalty program and incentivize them to drive up registrations.

Multichannel, engagement-based loyalty programs create a personal relationship between a dining chain and its customers. These best practices help to improve customer satisfaction, increase repeat customers, acquire new customers, increase sales and give customers a more personalized experience.

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