6 Suave Ways to Promote Your Restaurant Loyalty Program
“Would you like to join our loyalty program?” your staff member asks a customer, trying to promote your restaurant loyalty program. “You’ll get a free X after Y amount of purchases.”
Your customer looks up, wide-eyed. They stumble for an answer. “Um….” before trailing off.
The staff member stands by awkwardly while the customer feels put on the spot. “Um,” is bad for business. It’s single-syllable lingo for “No, but you caught me off guard.” Plus, who wants to add another loyalty program punch card to their already bloated wallet? The modern customer knows the intent behind every surprise loyalty program anyway: pushing sales. Like feeding vegetables to clever kiddies, restaurant owners need to focus on taking the “icky” out of that process with a spoonful of…well, you know.
Before you try to invite loyalty, you’ve got to make the signup process slicker than a tap-dancing waffle on a buttered skillet. Good restaurant-focused loyalty software can eliminate that barrier with an electronic punch card made for busybodies. These remove wallets, fussing, and forgetting from the equation.
If your restaurant management and customer service aren’t tip-top, you won’t get a second chance. A 2017 Deloitte report suggests that 60 percent of restaurant patrons will revisit an establishment only where they had a positive experience. Without establishing a premiere dining experience from the top, you can’t ensure any loyalty in the first place.
Once the signup is simple and the service is glowing, you can focus on omnichannel advertising tactics to snag your customers’ loyal hearts. Plopping one’s e-punch card on a desk, then merely announcing its existence, is not enough.
Get Them Back With a Knick-Knack
Remember when you signed up for a frozen yogurt email list, merely because their pen had a cute, mini yeti attached to the end?
Putting something tastefully cute or interesting next to your sign-up or advertising is a secret goldmine. These items appeal to your customer’s intrigue at various points. Take a few examples:
- Groovy bobbleheads at a surfer shop.
- Hand-shaped back-scratchers in a cup, with painted nails, at a salon.
- Branded coffee cups, overflowing with whole beans at a cafe.
- Green, fuzzy monsters in a bowl of fresh salad, titled “Greenvalanche.”
- an online meme made relevant to your restaurant, posted on the wall, “THERE IS SOUP FOR YOU.”
This list is certainly not definitive. Don’t forget your restaurant’s style guide and branding. You can easily combine this method with others on this list.
Waiting at the Pick-up Section
When a customer is waiting to receive their order, they’re on standby. The purchase is in the books, but they’re still giving your restaurant a small stream of subliminal attention while they wait.
This wait provides a robust platform to promote your restaurant loyalty program. The customer could notice a physical punch card, see your cute knick-knacks, catch your bright signage, or admire your restaurant’s chic layout.
Don’t abuse the pick-up section, though. Your customers want what they bought, and don’t want to feel a predatory upsell or an assault on the senses.
Appeal to Those in the Mid-line to Last-line.
The time immediately following a purchase is an excellent opportunity to promote your restaurant loyalty program. However, you might consider that fertile time when they’re in your restaurant and considering what to order.
Try to align with your customers’ thought process. Are they more likely to sign up with a kiosk in the middle of the line after making a decision, or at the start before they’ve invested the brainpower in choosing an entre?
The downside to the “mid-line to last-line” method is that customers vary in their behaviors here; There isn’t one universal solution.
Engaging Signage & Interactive Props
This method is similar to the “knick-knack” tactic above but expands beyond typical customer traffic locations.
To begin, a restaurant operator must brainstorm where their customers physically interact with the live location: e.g., the pump handle at the gas station, or the glass on a revolving door, or the condiment station at a restaurant. These arbitrary locations are secret plots of advertising real estate.
Remember to keep one’s copywriting exceptionally brief, clear, and convincing during these micro impressions. You’ve only got a few seconds to make your point, so explain the offer and benefits upfront! E.g., “Next Coffee’s on Us!”
Show Them, Don’t Tell Them
A customer’s interest in your loyalty program may seem dormant. There are myriad concerns that occupy the human mind! Still, your restaurant can break through that cloud of distractions when their employees directly pitch them to customers at the register. Think about it this way: if customers are willfully inside your restaurant, they’re leads.
Use inviting language, personalized to your customers, not a robotic request: “Would you like to join our loyalty program?” translates to, “Do you want one more thing preventing you from getting out of here with what you wanted?” Remember your value proposition, e.g., “We can save you the hassle of picking this up with free delivery in our app for new users.”
The pitch language must show the benefits, not drone a business scheme. Just as any writing coach will tell you: show, don’t tell. Real-time examples and benefits do much more than merely listing rote principles.
A Race to the Register Deal
At the Six Flags amusement park, the insurance company GEICO has put up signs for those in line for big roller coasters in a campaign proclaiming: “You’re just fifteen minutes away from the roller coaster. By that time, you could be saving 15% or more with GEICO.”
This method is a value proposition mixed with a call to action, spiced generously with urgency. This kind of passion is rocket fuel for conversion, and you can apply it to your restaurant loyalty program. If you have a reward to offer your customers by their sixth e-punchcard punch, consider bringing it forward as an initial offering that they can use in the same line.
Bonus: Passive Register Impressions are Not as Golden as You Think.
Many restaurants let their guard down when they advertise a loyalty program at the register using tablets or signage. Because the customer is front and center, so goes the logic, this property may be left alone to swing the proposition of loyalty for rewards.
Without any vocal cues from the employee at the reception, the human interaction will detract from the quiet loyalty interaction: The purchase at hand overrides the soft loyalty pitch.
To remedy this, consider relocating any advertising or interactive props to other locations, such as the customer pick-up section. Another solution is to have restaurant management educate register employees on how to incorporate the loyalty pitch into the checkout cycle naturally, as part of their employee handbook. Remember to show, not tell when you promote your restaurant loyalty program.
Don’t Let ‘Em Go!
A restaurant’s business with the customer does not end at the purchase. The entire context of the experience is a nonstop opportunity to turn customers into repeat customers. If you don’t display action, you shouldn’t expect any in return. Do customers love to give their information in exchange for random, hollow sales schemes? Probably not. Promote your restaurant loyalty program by putting time into making it worth their while.
Do you have any secrets in getting that elusive loyalty signup from customers? Let us know in the comments below.
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About the Author
Bob Bohemian AKA Mr. Bohemian , is a theater artist, critic, activist, novelist, and independent writer.