Back to All Posts
Cafes & Restaurants

The Restaurant's Guide To Loyalty Programs: Ideas, Tips & Examples

Written by 
Brad Davis
July 22, 2019

Are you looking for creative restaurant loyalty program ideas to keep your diners engaged and loyal to your brand?

Perhaps you’re having trouble deciding which type of loyalty program you should implement. Or maybe you already have one and while registrations started with a bang, now interest is tapering off.

Just the way your menu needs periodic updating to stay fresh and interesting, so too does your customer loyalty program.

We understand that coming up with new loyalty program ideas for restaurants can be tricky, so first let’s explore what your options are for a restaurant loyalty program.

Loyalty Program Ideas for Restaurants

group at a table in a restaurant
Customers at a restaurant

1.  Create A Loyalty App

Loyalty apps are incredibly convenient for both the restaurateur and the customer, and they are arguably one of the least invasive options.

All they require the customer to download an app, sign up with an account and start redeeming rewards through it each time they patron your restaurant.

Loyalty card apps have plenty of additional features that extend beyond the capabilities of traditional paper punch cards. You can read about the benefits of a digital loyalty app here.

You can also find more information on how to make the switch to a loyalty app here.

2. Integrate a loyalty program into your point of sale (POS)

reward system integrated into point of sale
Point of Sale

When you integrate your restaurant loyalty program into your POS system, you can bring up each customer’s membership immediately at the time of payment, simply by entering their phone number, full name or membership number into the system.

Points are accrued and rewards are redeemed directly through the POS system, and valuable customer data is captured with every transaction. For example how much they spent, what they ordered, how often they eat here, and so on.

However integrating a loyalty program into your POS can be complicated. You have to decide whether you choose a software plugin, compatible POS system or a proprietary module that was purpose-built by the same company that made your POS system.

3.     Print paper punch cards

wallet with starbucks giftcard
Starbucks Card

Paper punch cards are the original restaurant loyalty program. First-time customers receive a card with 10 squares on it, for example. Each time they buy something, they get a hole punched into one of the squares.

Upon the customer’s tenth visit to the restaurant, they enjoy a free meal or some other kind of reward. Then they get a new card and the whole process starts again.While the remarkable simplicity of this system worked so well for restaurants in the past, it is quickly becoming defunct. Read more about the pros and cons of paper punch cards here.

Do also keep in mind that this is not the most environmentally friendly option. Most consumers are very aware of a businesses Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives these days. Many may prefer to give their business to a competitor who has has a more eco-friendly approach to their restaurant rewards program.

Here's the nitty gritty of how corporate social responsibility can impact loyalty programs.

4.     Use receipts to your advantage

scanning QR code on receipt
Accumulate points by scanning a purchase receipt

Receipts are an excellent tool for marketing your restaurant loyalty program. By having links to special promotions on your website that only loyalty program members have access to, you’re creating hype around the program and encouraging one-time customers to sign up.

You can mention on the receipt that loyalty members receive discounts, rewards and prizes.

Better yet, some loyalty program apps, like ours, have a receipt scanning feature. Ask us how it works!

Restaurant Loyalty Program Tips

Customers being appreciated
Customers and a restaurant staff

1. Go Digital!

While we mentioned paper punch cards as a loyalty program option above, going digital is a much more effective way to engage your customers, tailor your offers to suit each customer’s specific needs, and keep your loyalty program fresh and interesting.

By digitalising your restaurant loyalty program, you can create a personal relationship with your customers that just isn’t possible with paper or plastic loyalty cards.

Stamp Me is ultimate loyalty app for Restaurants and Bars.

Cafe digital loyalty card on Stamp Me app
A cafe's digital loyalty app on Stamp Me app
  • Digital punch card
  • Retain customers
  • Boost sales
  • Set up a Birthday Club
  • Send Push Notifications & SMS
  • Access customer data & view activity
  • Stand out against your competitors
  • Plus Much More....

Learn more about Stamp Me

2. Keep it Simple!

These days, it’s all about convenience. According to the 2019 Bond Loyalty Report, 56% of customers will choose one loyalty program over another if it’s easier to use.

This means you could ultimately be losing more than half of your potential signups to a rival restaurant that has a simpler, more convenient loyalty program.

The trick is to keep your loyalty program as simple as possible – if it’s too complicated, you’ll lose them. Simple offers such as “Buy X, Get Y” or “Spend X, Get Y” are easy to understand and are the most effective.

3. Get Personal

Restaurant loyalty programs do more than just increase customer retention and boost sales. If used properly, they are the perfect tool for creating a personal relationship with your customers and making each of them feel special.

Send your new loyalty program member a welcome email when they sign up, and call them by their first name in the subject line. Offer them a free appetizer or discounted meal on their birthday.

Check in with them via SMS, email or push notification when they haven’t visited your restaurant for a while, and encourage them to pop back in by offering a spontaneous discount.

4.     Inject some fun into your program

Turn your restaurant loyalty program into a gaming app that customers enjoy engaging with.As an example, Stamp Me offers a Scratch & Win feature where customers run their fingers over their smartphone screens to reveal prizes.

These prizes can be redeemed in conjunction with their other accumulated rewards points.

As a restaurant owner/manager, you can choose how many Scratch & Win offers are winners (i.e. 1 in 3, 1 in 5, 1 in 10) and what the rewards are. Relax - it doesn’t have to be unlimited free meals for a year or anything extreme like that! Just a simple reward is enough to add a thrilling component to your loyalty program that keeps customers engaged and interested.

We also offer the capabilities for sending customers automated texts or push notifications. Their birthday is a great opportunity to offer a free or discounted product to make them feel valued by your restaurant.

These small displays of gratitude can make a world of difference to your customers, and help make your restaurant’s loyalty program stand out from the rest.

5.     Turn your staff into high-performing loyalty program advocates

At the risk of sounding “cheesy” (excuse the pun), your staff are on the front-line of the battle to win your customers over to the restaurant loyalty program. While taking customers’ orders, they should be asking, “Are you a member of our loyalty program?”

The more knowledgeable your staff are, the easier they’ll find the task of persuading customers to join. By knowing all the perks, all the features and all the terms and conditions, your staff can be enthusiastic about talking new customers through the process.

Why not motivate your employees to educate themselves on your loyalty program’s various features by offering them rewards for self-training, and quizzing them on different aspects of the program?

6.     Exercise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) through your loyalty program

Consumers are increasingly aware and passionate about giving their business to brands that exercise social responsibility and ethics. In fact, a 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study found that more than 90% of millennials say they would switch brands in order to give their business to a brand with good corporate citizenship.

A similar study by Nielsen found 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for a sustainable product.

And just the same way that you can use your loyalty program to attain new customers through peer endorsements, a well-structured loyalty program can also be used to promote and demonstrate your advocacy of social responsibility.

The food industry is under immense pressure when it comes to social responsibility, because of the impact food production has on the environment, the economy and society in general. This makes it important to show that you’re doing your bit.

Your restaurant loyalty program is an excellent tool for promoting your brand’s values and informing your customers of the efforts you are making to be socially responsible. Whether it’s using 100% biodegradable coffee cups, donating 10% of all profits to a charity, working exclusively with free range meat suppliers, or all of the above.

Here a few excellent restaurant loyalty program examples for some inspiration...


Popular UK chain Greggs has a remarkably simple loyalty program in which customers download the Greggs app, sign up, and scan a barcode on their phone at the counter with every purchase to accumulate and redeem rewards.

Greggs Rewards members enjoy every eighth coffee free, monthly prize draws for 50 pounds, and special treats on their birthdays, among other various promotions and limited-time offers.

greggs bakery shopfront
Greggs bakery shopfront

Nektar Juice Bar

Nekter Juice Bar is a Californian smoothie chain where customers who join the loyalty program can order and pay through the app, and skip the line when they show up to collect their order.

Restaurant Loyalty Program Examples
A loyalty app example - Image source: Nektar Juice Bar

Regardless of whether they pay in-store or through the app, customers receive a “fruit” for each purchase. They enjoy a free item off the menu once they’ve collected 10 fruits.

Members can also enjoy discounted drinks when they refer a friend to join the program, as well as receiving birthday rewards. The program is simple, rewarding and fun.

Kinjo Sushi

As another example, one of Stamp Me’s many clients is Kinjo Sushi & Grill. Kinjo customers simply download the Stamp Me app, where they immediately receive one stamp just for signing up.

From there, customers earn another stamp for every $20 spent at any Kinjo Sushi & Grill restaurant. Eventually they can redeem rewards like a $20 gift card for Kinjo, which can be used at any of the restaurant’s five locations across Canada. Here's more information about operating a loyalty program across multiple locations.

A digital loyalty card
A digital loyalty card on Stamp Me

Good Vibes Juice Co

Good Vibes Juice Co does a fantastic job of incorporating social responsibility into its customer loyalty strategies.

Good Vibes loyalty program members are encouraged to bring their used glass bottles back to the store in exchange for rewards points. These can be redeemed in the form of discounts on their next juice purchase and other prizes.

Restaurant Loyalty Program Examples
Restaurant Loyalty Program Examples

You can also earn yourself a spot on Good Vibes’ Instagram by reusing your old glass bottles in other creative ways around the house and sending your photo in.

While offering rewards for returning bottles is good corporate citizenship, this social media technique goes a step further and actually encourages customers to lead more socially responsible and environmentally friendly lifestyles.

Bravo, Good Vibes Juice Co!

The sky’s the limit!

We hope the information included here has helped you formulate some ideas on how to create a successful loyalty program for your restaurant that will keep your customers hooked and coming back for more!

When it comes to loyalty program ideas for restaurants, your imagination is your only limitation.

There will always be new and creative ways to improve your loyalty program and keep it up to date with the latest trends – the more effort you put into maintaining your loyalty program, the more effective it will be!

Stamp Me provides loyalty solutions to businesses large and small, from our own Stamp Me Loyalty App to fully customised loyalty and rewards programs for enterprises and brands.

Contact us if you would like to discuss a loyalty or rewards solution for your business or brand.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Keep up to date with the loyalty latest tips, trends & advice.

Thanks for subscribing! We'll be sure to keep you updated!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Email Course: 7 Days of Customer Loyalty

Sign up for our free, 7-day email course and become a customer loyalty expert!

We’ll also send you loyalty tips, trends and resources from time to time (which you can opt out of whenever you like).

Thanks! We've sent the course straight to your email!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.