5 Fun Ways to Encourage Diner Loyalty

Diner loyalty is more than a feeling. Not only does it guarantee repeat business, it also generates the positive word-of-mouth that drives new customers through your door.

An enticing menu and superior customer service are prerequisites for winning diners’ allegiance, but formal customer loyalty programs can help nurture those relationships for the long term. Research shows that diners who belong to a restaurant loyalty program are almost twice as likely as those who aren’t to serve as brand ambassadors.

Loyalty programs don’t have to follow the traditional punch-card or birthday freebie model. Here are five alternative ideas to keep diners coming back:

Smart partnerships

Loyalty program rewards don’t need to be limited to free meals or discounted takeout. Consider partnering with nearby (even non-restaurant) businesses to incentivize membership. For instance, is your restaurant down the street from a movie theater? Capitalize on that proximity with “dinner and a movie” rewards once diners rack up a certain number of points.

Menu passports

Encouraging diners to venture outside of their go-to dish is another way to drum up loyalty. By elevating the punch-card to a digital or paper-based menu passport, you can reward diners for diversifying their order habits – and give them a reason to visit more frequently.

Social scavenger hunts

If you operate multiple locations, use that geographic reach to make a game out of your loyalty program. Diners can receive points or unlock special promotions each time they stop by a different location and complete a special challenge – be it posting a picture of their order on Instagram or writing a review on Facebook.

Customized rewards

One of the top three “must-haves” consumers expect from any loyalty program is personalization. The last thing vegetarians want is a coupon for a free burger, and strictly tea-drinkers have little use for coffee perks. Take advantage of information your restaurant probably already has on hand (like order history and time-of-day buying patterns) to develop smart perks catered to diners’ individual eating habits.

Promote a good cause

Restaurant loyalty programs don’t only have to benefit your restaurant and customers. Giving diners the option to donate a percentage of their order, or cash in points they’ve earned over time, to a local food depository, community pantry or co-op fosters a sense of community beyond your business. A charitable option will also encourage customers to dine with your restaurant – while giving back to the community – time and time again.

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