Repeat customers are the bread-and-butter of most restaurants. Whether they’re local office workers showing up at lunchtime, or the couple who nab the same window table every Thursday night, your regulars are vital to making sure you consistently hit your bottom line.

And as well as bringing in their own cash, your regulars are also the ones mentioning you to their friends, and maybe even tagging you in their family snaps on social media. Plus, we all know that spontaneous, first-time diners are far more likely to be lured into a busy restaurant than an empty one, and your most loyal patrons are sure to be the ones filling those early-evening tables!

If you rely on your regulars to keep your restaurant’s finances in the black, then encourage them to keep up the habit with a tailored rewards scheme. Read our guide to get the most out of your restaurant’s loyalty program.

Choosing your loyalty scheme

Restaurant loyalty schemes can range from a simple punch card, to a sophisticated app- or chip card-based scheme. What is right for your restaurant will depend on everything from your product range to your budget.

The benefits of a punch card to are most suited to places selling a high volume of similarly priced items – think coffee shops, ice cream parlours and food trucks. The mechanism is simple: buy an item, get a stamp, and when you’ve collected enough stamps, get one item free. Cheap for the business, easy for customers to understand, and simple to administer.

Larger eateries with a more extensive menu, or multiple branches, might benefit from a card or app-based loyalty scheme, where customers collect points based on their spend. Although more work (and more expensive) to set up, this type of scheme offers insight into your customers’ spending habits, which could prove valuable to you down the line.

And, if neither of those options feels fitted to your restaurant, then a simple email newsletter sign-up scheme could be right for you. Although they don’t do as much as the other schemes to reward actual loyalty, you do get regular opportunities to engage with potential customers, and you get to change the perks you offer with every email, so you can focus on promoting new dishes, or on seasonally-targeted discounts.

Publicize your scheme!

Now that you know what sort of scheme you’re going to launch, you need to get your customers signed up.

This begins with publicizing it in-store with posters, and a note on your menus, for starters. Punch cards should be clearly displayed next to your tills, and remember to ask your front-of-house staff to mention the program to everyone who comes through the door!

Offering a sign-up incentive never hurts: this could be a one-time 10% discount, or possibly the promise of a future perk, like a birthday bonus. Bonus business-savvy points for offering a free dessert – this way they’ll have to buy dinner first!

You may even want to take your publicity a step further, enlisting a couple of local influencers to stop by and post about joining the scheme, or by holding a launch event, for which you could try to get a bit of PR attention from local media outlets.  

Get into your customers inboxes

Regardless of the type of loyalty scheme you set up, make sure to collect an email address as part of the sign-up process. You don’t have to email your customers very often for it to be effective, but make sure that every time you do, you make opening it worth their while.

Obviously, discounts are one way of doing this – and if you share your Nodat Hot Coupons in your email newsletter you’ll also be unlocking the power of FOMO marketing to encourage your customers to drop what they’re doing, and head straight over for a bite!

You could also consider producing some compelling content to enhance your brand profile. For example, you could share a story about the cultural context of the food you sell, or about your local area. Producing this kind of content will enhance the connection that you customers feel to your restaurant, and it will have the added bonus of generating interesting material for your social media feeds!

Spread the word!

Loyal customers are great, but brand ambassadors are even better! One of the best things about setting up a rewards program for your loyal customers is that you can also use it to find a whole new horde of regulars.

You could offer ‘refer a friend’ discounts in exchange for forwarding on your newsletter, or table-wide perks on certain nights of the week, exclusively for loyalty program members who’re dining with friends.

Competition entries in exchange for tagging their friends in your social media posts is another way to go. You can advertise these inside your restaurant, and in your email newsletter, and soon your social media reach will be taking care of itself!

If you’ve shared your Nodat Hot Coupon with your newsletter subscribers, it’s even easier for your customers to share your deals with the friends – they can share from within the app either to their social media channels, or directly with their friends.

So, what’re you waiting for? If your restaurant doesn’t already have a rewards program, get one started today. And while you’re at it, sign up for a 30-day Nodat trial, and combine the power of FOMO marketing with the other benefits of your loyalty scheme.

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