How to Create an Effective Customer Loyalty Program for a Restaurant

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Last edited: May 30th, 2023

How to Create an Effective Customer Loyalty Program for a Restaurant

When it comes to opening and running a restaurant, owners have to look for all kinds of ways to boost their overall profitability and save money. Building brand loyalty is one of the best ways to do it.

A customer loyalty program is relatively common in the business trade, so let’s see how you can create your own program for your restaurant to improve profitability and customer retention.

Why Customer Loyalty Programs Matter to Restaurants

Whether it’s earned coupons or a punch card, even the simplest of things can encourage customers to return. The importance of customer loyalty programs lies in giving your customers what they want in order to provide them with incentives to come back.

These programs help turn occasional visitors into regular customers. Those who keep returning deserve some kind of reward for their loyalty.

Examples of Successful Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Many excellent examples of successful restaurant loyalty programs can serve as incredible inspiration for creating yours. The Promo Club at Carl’s Jr. offers coupons and news by email to its loyal customers.

Their coupons include free drinks and food with the purchase of a particular product. On the other hand, Chipotle allows customers to earn rewards points by placing advance orders via an app. Customers earn 10 points per dollar spent. Donkin Donuts’ DD Perks does pretty much the same, only they include a credit card and rewards tracking, including pre-ordering.

Go Digital

In the world of the internet, everything is digital. Your customers expect to be able to interact with your restaurant digitally. So, start building your loyalty program by going digital. We also recommend you don’t forget about mobile users too.

Having both a mobile and digital presence allows you to expand your consumer base beyond your local market and build customer loyalty that will eventually lead to an increased customer retention rate. Mobile rewards and coupons are incredibly trendy these days.

Stick to Tradition as Well

While promoting your loyalty program online has its benefits, you shouldn’t exclude the potential of tradition. Make an effort to promote your program everywhere you can to cover as much ground as possible.

Create table tents to allow your visitors to find out all about the membership benefits while waiting for their food. Implement a referral reward for all loyal customers who refer a new visitor to the loyalty program. Team up with other local businesses to cross-promote your program more effectively.

Make it Simple to use

Your customer loyalty program should be something simple to understand and use. The concept is already familiar, leaving you with providing your customers with simple and easy-to-use options that allow them to earn rewards for being loyal. Whether you decide to go with free meals, reward points, gift cards, coupons, or something else, keep it simple.

Include Personalization

Personalization is very important in delivering a top user experience today. While all customers adore savings and discounts, they’re going to love personalized rewards. If you allow your customers to receive preferential treatments on special occasions like receiving free meals at birthday parties, you have a chance to deliver real value.

More importantly, this will do wonders for your customer engagement and allow you to build a meaningful relationship with the existing customers that can serve as an example to all who visit your restaurant for the first time.

Create a Good Reward System

Monetary rewards are always a good start, but your customer loyalty program should go well beyond just that. As of late, gift cards are one of the most popular loyalty program rewards simply because they allow customers to choose their own specific rewards while saving in the process.

We recommend that you create a top-tier rewards system that gradually allows your customers to advance to higher levels and receive even more benefits.

Give Different Types of Rewards

There are many different types of rewards on offer. We’re going to mention seven types for your consideration:

  • Points programs – an excellent solution for attracting new customers and improving customer retention;
  • Cashback programs – similar to points programs, cash backs are easy to use and maintain;
  • Punch card programs – a cost-efficient way to improve your customer engagement and retention;
  • Tiered programs – when customers cross certain milestones, you reward them with a range of different rewards to deliver higher value to your customers;
  • Coalition programs – if you partner up with other restaurants, you can create a coalition program to provide your customers with additional benefits;
  • Fee-based or premium programs – while these are very popular among retailers, they can also be an excellent solution for engaging with premium customers;
  • Hybrid programs – include elements from several different programs to deliver more benefits to your customers.

Include Different Membership Tiers

The more a customer spends, the higher their earnings. Different membership tiers are an excellent way to increase customer engagement and make your loyalty program more exclusive. While points programs deliver the same value to each customer, tiered programs are more of a status statement. Each new membership tier comes with better benefits and more rewards.

Keep Your Staff Involved

Finally, your staff plays a crucial role in promoting your loyalty program. Give them incentives and encourage them to ask customers if they’re already a part of the existing program. Educate and train them to talk about the benefits of your loyalty program.

Aside from getting more restaurant customers into your loyalty fold, this will also help increase customer engagement. Your staff should be well informed on the type of rewards you offer and how to obtain them and how they benefit the customers. More importantly, ask your staff to get valuable customer loyalty quotes that you can use as social proof of how effective your program really is.


If you create a good customer loyalty program, you will get a chance to turn more visitors into regular customers. This will help you promote your business more effectively and establish a meaningful relationship with your guests – one which is built on trust.

These tips should help you nail your loyalty program like a serious business you are. Celebrate your customers and ensure long years of prosperity for your restaurant. In case you’re still not convinced that customer loyalty is “your thing”, check out these 19 quotes on customer loyalty.

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