According to Street Fight Magazine, "customer loyalty in the restaurant space has had it wrong for a long, long time." The article cites a recent study done by First Data, which found that "only four percent of rewards program members indicated that their membership influenced their decision of which restaurant to visit."
So, if you run one of these programs, maybe it's time to reboot. Or at least consider drastically rethinking yours and how it can better influence your customers.
Street Fight suggests four major ways you can do that. They range from sending customers texts or email messages automatically to wish them a happy birthday and invite them in with an incentive, or to similarly get in touch with an incentive if they haven't been in the restaurant in the last 30 days. You can also text them if your restaurant is having a slow night to come on in. Or, say you know which customers have bought baked bread from you in the last month – when you're making a fresh loaf in the morning, send them a message letting them know they can come get a loaf that day.
I don't know about you, but I personally hate hate hate when I get texts from anyone who isn't an actual human I talk to on a regular basis. Inevitably your phone number gets leaked onto a marketing list for this or for that, and you'll be offered a free iPad every now and then, but generally I find it extremely annoying. I also realize I might be in the minority and I also only own one loyalty card to a restaurant in town. It's a sushi place that's a bit of a best-kept secret in town and they just have a punch card. Spend a certain amount, and you'll get some free food eventually.
It's old-fashioned, but I don't see the reason to reinvent the wheel. If I want bread, I know where I can find bread. If I like a restaurant, I'll keep coming back because I like the restaurant. Not to be earning arbitrary points or because they texted me.
But, hey, that's just me. If you run a restaurant, both perspectives are something to consider. Give the Street Fight piece a read here – and you already know how I feel.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.