Restaurant Loyalty Programs | 3 mins read

Restaurant Loyalty Programs- 5 Tips and Real-Life Examples

restaurant loyalty programs 5 tips and real life examples
Chloe Henderson

By Chloe Henderson

Restaurant loyalty programs reward members for visiting and making purchases, improving customer engagement, foot traffic, and sales.

In order to grow the customer base, restaurants need to keep their loyal customers happy and interested. One way to keep guests returning is offering a loyalty program.

Restaurant loyalty programs offer incentives to members for making purchases. Loyal customers can redeem their earned points for monetary or personalized rewards.

5 Tips for Restaurant Loyalty Programs

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Retaining loyal customers is just as important as acquiring new ones, as regulars tend to spend more per order than first comers. Therefore, restaurants should incentivize repeat purchases to promote customer loyalty and advocacy.

With a restaurant loyalty program, guests are rewarded for patronizing their favorite businesses, driving more sales and new customers. However, a loyalty program must provide enough incentives to encourage guests to sign up. To provide the best reward system, restaurants should-

1. Count Every Visit

Studies show that 68% of consumers say that they are more likely to visit restaurants that offer a loyalty program over others that don't. This number grows for customers that are already enrolled in a business's loyalty program, as they seek to earn additional reward points.

To encourage repeat customers, restaurants should recognize every visit when rewarding customers. Members can accumulate points during each visit or receive a punch on their card.

However, it is vital to maintain a balance between work and reward. Visitors should not receive a physical reward for every visit, as frequently offering rewards can cost restaurants significant capital.

2. Establish a Simple System

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A study that polled customers on the importance of loyalty programs showed that 73% considered the points system to be either very or extremely important. Most consumers are already familiar with the concept of accumulating points to earn a reward, making it easy for restaurants to implement a loyalty program for immediate use.

Over half of the customers polled also said they prefer receiving gift cards as their reward. A gift certificate not only gives members the freedom to choose whatever dish they want, but it drives more traffic for the restaurant as well. It also does not limit the customers' reward to one visit, as they can split their store credit across multiple sittings.

3. Provide a Personalized Experience

Aside from monetary rewards, such as gift cards, loyalty members prefer personalized prizes. Restaurants can use customers' personal information and data to offer customized rewards, such as-

  • Free meal on birthdays
  • Discounts on favorite dishes (based on purchase history)
  • Extra points on holidays

By creating a personalized customer experience, members are more likely to engage with their loyalty program to access preferred rewards.

4. Establish a Digital and Mobile Platform

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Now more than ever, customers are on-the-go and require the tools to order and earn points from anywhere. By establishing digital and mobile platforms, restaurants can provide guests with convenient service and broaden their customer reach.

Having a digital presence enables restaurants to collect customer data from every order, regardless if it's in-person or online. By creating a mobile app, members can view their accounts, accumulated points, and personalized discounts with just a few clicks.

5. Train Staff on the Loyalty Program

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Employees located at the point-of-sale (POS) should be trained to offer and enroll guests in the loyalty program.

Signing up should be quick and straightforward to minimize wait times and keep customers interested. If enrolling in the program is too complex or requires extensive personal information, guests may become uncomfortable or disinterested. Some restaurants even offer new guests an additional 10% off their order to enroll.

Even if guests are already enrolled in the program, workers should stress the benefits of their membership to encourage more sales.

Employees should also be well-versed in-

  • The reward structure
  • Holiday and specialty promotions
  • Program functionality
  • How to persuade customers to enroll
  • Answering frequently asked questions

Real-Life Loyalty Program Examples

Nearly every popular restaurant chain has established their own unique reward system to keep members satisfied and acquire new customers. Startups and smaller restaurants should consider looking at successful loyalty program examples for inspiration-

  • Chipotle
The Chipotle rewards program grants members 10 points for every dollar they spend. Customers can redeem their points once they reach 1,250 for a free entree. However, the points expire after 60 days, creating a sense of urgency to accumulate and use points.

Chipotle occasionally offers bonus points on holidays, random days, and product launches to drive sales. This keeps members engaged with their loyalty account to ensure they don't miss out on a good deal.

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  • Dunkin Donuts
Dunkin Donuts gives loyalty members five points for every dollar spent but allows customers to collect their reward when they reach 200 points. Once they've reached this benchmark, members receive a free beverage of their choice.

Dunking Donuts is also partnered with Shell, allowing loyal customers to receive ten cents off a gallon for every five drinks they purchase.

  • Starbucks
When customers join the Starbucks loyalty program, they automatically receive a free coffee of their choice. Once a member, customers earn a certain number of stars for each purchase.

However, Starbucks uses a unique tier system to allocate points- 25 stars for additives, 50 stars for hot coffee, hot tea, and certain bakery items, 150 stars for specialty drinks and certain breakfast items, 200 stars for lunch meals, and 400 stars for certain merchandise and packaged coffee.


Restaurants can create a unique loyalty program that encourages members to make frequent purchases in order to earn rewards, driving customer satisfaction and engagement.