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Exploring Restaurant Loyalty Program Ideas: A Comprehensive Guide

Written by 
Brad Davis
July 22, 2019
Loyalty Programs

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

Maybe you’ve been thinking about implementing a loyalty program, but are uncertain about which would best suit your restaurant. 

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.

Considering that 90% of businesses have some sort of loyalty program, we decided to curate the different loyalty program options to find what’s best for you; so you can start building customer connections and fostering loyalty. 

Ideas for Implementing a Restaurant Loyalty Program

Group at a restaurant with staff member.
Image source: Canva

1. Introduce A Loyalty App

Loyalty apps, like Stamp Me, 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. This is a restaurant loyalty program idea that is worth looking into. 

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)

POS system.
Image source: Canva

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

Hands holding a physical punch card.
Image source: Canva

Paper punch cards are among the original restaurant loyalty program ideas. 

First-time customers receive a card with 10 squares on it, for example. Each time they buy something, they get a stamp or hole punched into one of the squares.

Upon the customer’s tenth visit to the restaurant, they get a reward like a free meal or 30% discount. 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, as digital loyalty technology can offer so much more benefits to both customers and restaurant owners alike. 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.

Restaurant Loyalty Program Tips

1. Go Digital!

Stamp Me interface on phone.

While we mentioned paper punch cards as a restaurant loyalty program idea option above, going digital is the more convenient, consumer and environmentally-friendly version. They are also easier to use, they allow for more customer engagement (through communications and campaigns) and lower costs for your restaurant. In fact, 75% of consumers say they would engage more with loyalty programs they can easily access from a smartphone. 

By digitizing 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. Our features include: 

  • A digital punch card system 
  • Enhanced customer retention 
  • Drive sales uplift 
  • Establish a Birthday Club to engage with customers on their special day 
  • Send personalized Push Notifications & SMS to communicate with customers and keep them up to date 
  • Access customer data & view stamp activity 
  • Stand out from competitors 
  • And much more…

Learn more about Stamp Me

2. Keep it Simple

When thinking of restaurant loyalty program ideas and eventually designing one, it’s worth starting simple, both with your structure and rewards. In fact, 53% of customers want a loyalty program that is easy to use and nearly 40% want them to be easy to understand

Your customers will be more inclined to join a loyalty program where they can see the immediate value from and understand the terms and conditions easily. 

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.

This style of loyalty program is wonderfully straightforward and effortless for customers to embrace. They can easily accumulate stamps from qualifying purchases or visits, and once they’ve collected enough, a well-deserved reward awaits them. Simple as that!

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. When brainstorming restaurant loyalty program ideas, this is a key factor to think about. How easy is it to personalize the loyalty experience?

Consider for instance, a birthday message accompanied by a special offer – gestures that not only celebrate your customer but also distinguish your restaurant loyalty program from competitors. 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

Graphic of 'Scratch & Win' with celebratory icons.

Transform your restaurant’s loyalty program into a thrilling experience with Stamp Me’s Scratch & Win feature. Rather than a mere points collection, immerse your customers in a fun game that they can play simply from the Stamp Me app. 

As the decision-maker in your restaurant, you have the flexibility to set the odds for the Scratch & Win – whether it’s 1 in 3, 1 in 5, or 1 in 10, and determine the nature of the rewards. Rest assured, 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. 

Stamp Me’s Scratch & Win feature enhances customer relationships with small tokens of appreciation, which truly resonates with customers and creates memorable experiences. 

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? When thinking of different restaurant loyalty program ideas, make sure to find a provider that gives you the resources to train your staff

6. Reward Sustainability  

Consumers, especially millennials, prioritize brands emphasizing social responsibility and ethics. 

Loyalty programs can be an effective platform to highlight sustainable practices in your restaurant. 

Reward customers who bring their own takeaway containers or engage in other eco-friendly practices. It’s a win-win – promoting sustainability and loyalty. This especially resonates with Millennials and Gen Z customers, considering 63% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Given the food industry’s significant impact on the environment and society, it’s crucial for restaurants to showcase their commitment. 

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

Motte’s Cafe Verde Real Mexican

Stamp Me interface on mobile phone.

A prime example of a restaurant loyalty program idea in action comes from Stamp Me’s Motte’s Cafe Verde Real Mexican.

Motte’s Cafe Verde customers simply download the Stamp Me app, where they immediately receive a sign up reward - a 10% discount voucher off their bill. 

From there, customers can receive stamps through a QR code provided at every purchase. As they accumulate these stamps, they’re entitled to interim rewards to keep the excitement high. Once they reach 12 stamps, the ultimate reward is a complimentary enchilada meal. This multi-tiered rewards system is purposefully crafted to consistently engage customers and foster their loyalty, rather than merely presenting a single incentive at the end. 

Motte’s Cafe Verde also takes advantage of some of Stamp Me’s special features, all managed from their Stamp Me Merchant Console. They utilize the Birthday Club, Push notifications, and Lapsed Customer messaging. All of these work to engage with Cafe Verde’s loyal customers and keep those relationships strong. 

With over 400 loyalty members and thousands of stamps and rewards issued to date, it’s clear that Motte’s Cafe Verde’s restaurant loyalty program is an asset to their business (and their customers are enjoying the perks too!) 

Subway Rewards

Screenshot of Subway Rewards.
Image source: Subway

Launched in 2018 and still going strong, the Subway MyWay Rewards offers a tailored loyalty program across its 28,000 participating outlets, making it one of the world’s largest restaurant loyalty programs. 

Its design stems from customer feedback gathered by Subway over two years, which is a great example of a business utilizing customer feedback to improve their experience. 

Emphasizing a seamless experience, the program gives customers four tokens for every dollar spent, with 200 tokens equating to a $2.00 voucher. Guests can also be surprised with extra tokens or rewards like sandwiches and drinks, which keep engagement up. Birthday treats are also provided, and with the Subway app, there’s no need for physical cards. 

In Conclusion: The sky’s the limit!

We hope the insights we’ve shared help you craft a top-notch loyalty program for your restaurant, keeping your customers eager and coming back often. 

When it comes to restaurant loyalty program ideas, 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 you fine-tune and stay current, the better results you’ll see!

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