Posts Tagged ‘coupons’

The Rewards of Offering Loyalty Rewards

June 29, 2012

From tiny cafes to nationwide chains, restaurants all over the country are increasingly recognizing the value of customer loyalty programs. New traffic is very important, but repeat customers are the heartbeat of any establishment. Regulars often bring in new customers as guests, and even work as free advertising when they tout their favorite restaurants. Restaurant owners realize that because consumers have so many different choices these days, it may take more than just great food to keep them coming back.

Whether they use rewards cards, email deals, or coupons, restaurant owners are going to great lengths to let their customers know that they value their repeat business.

Rewards Cards

One of the most popular ways to treat repeat customers is to offer a rewards card that allows customers to work toward a free item in the restaurant. Coffee shops may give a customer a free cup of coffee for every ten cups they order. A casual dining restaurant might offer a free appetizer or dessert after a customer has had a certain number of meals in that establishment.

Usually, this is a small, simple card that the server or hostess will stamp or hole-punch each time a customer visits the restaurant. (Some retail stores use similar rewards programs, offering a discount for each time that a customer spends a certain amount of money in the store.)

This type of program can be a great way to bring business back into the store without costing the restaurant very much money. While the patron sees the value of the reward as equal to what they would normally pay for it, the restaurant only pays about half that. The increased business that is created by a customer eager to fill his card can far outweigh the loss of profits from even a free entrée here and there.

However, because the reward is so delayed, many consumers forget about their rewards cards altogether, so that incentive is forgotten as well.

You’ve Got Deals

Another way that some restaurants are bringing people back to their tables is by using email to keep in touch with their customers. These restaurants will offer a quick registration card to diners, on which they will fill out their name, email address, and sometimes date of birth or other information. (This registration is by no means compulsory, so the option to receive these rewards is totally up to the customer). Once the registration is complete, customers can receive emails from the restaurant with deals, or to keep them updated on what’s new.

Many patrons appreciate this type of reward program because it doesn’t require active participation in looking for deals or remembering any special cards. Restaurants can send out e-flyers with weekly or monthly deals, so customers are constantly reminded, but the restaurant has spent virtually nothing on advertising.

They can also send out printable coupons, and some even send vouchers for free items, occasionally. However, even this technique can be flawed because some consumers do not appreciate receiving advertisements in their email, and so they view these deals as just another nuisance and classify them as junk mail or spam.

Put the Social Back Into Your Use of Social Networks

September 18, 2010

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and to a lesser extent LinkedIn are the new ways that restaurants are getting people to drop by and spend food dollars. Facebook allows restaurants to set up a “fan” page. This means that a customer can sign up and say they love your restaurant. The “mini-blog” site Twitter offers followers for you to send short messages to.

The Problem with Social Networks for Restaurants

However, too many restaurateurs are taking the easy way out – putting up a fan page and then doing one of two things. They either send out spam e-mails to anyone who signs up, telling them to come in for a night out right now, with nothing else to offer. Or, almost as bad, they simply let the fan page sit there, collecting virtual dust.

Twitter accounts are the same way – there is a right way to use them and a wrong way to use them. Even LinkedIn can be important if your restaurant sports a fair share of business meetings. Here’s what you need to know in order to make things happen with these important tools:

Customers Want a Relationship With You

Whether you simply ignore your Facebook fan page or you send out spam messages, you are making the same basic mistake: you are ignoring your customers and/or treating them as if they don’t matter.

Customers who become fans of the restaurant want to know if there is a special event going on. A special event by definition is special – it doesn’t happen every single day.  Daily emails aren’t usually such a great idea. However, when you add new menu items or have live performances, that would be a good time to send out a message.


The other use that people find for Facebook and Twitter accounts is offering loyalty coupons. Sending out a 10% off your first entree coupon can go a long way to making people think of your restaurant when they want to have a night out. Just make sure you really do offer some value for customers so that they have a reason to pay attention.

More on Breakfast Dining

September 6, 2010

We’ve written about the new breakfast craze before and now it’s time to revisit the subject. New information has emerged on exactly how some restaurateurs are pulling ahead of the competition in order to grab more of the breakfast eat out market.

Coupons and WiFi

We recently wrote about the question of Kindles and computers in restaurants. One thing that we didn’t mention in that article is that some restaurants are deliberately installing WiFi. They’re not just trying to attract customers, but also to keep people lingering in the hope that they will continue to order more food as they sit in front of their screens.

This is especially important in attracting the breakfast crowd as this group of people often drops by quickly and then races out the door. By allowing this market segment to get something done while they eat, these restaurants could be encouraging more customers who will stay longer (and hopefully eat more).

In addition to free WiFi services, many restaurateurs are tempting breakfast diners into their establishments by offering discounts and coupons. These coupons include those sent directly to cell phones or e-mail so as to grab customers’ attention quickly and early.

McDonald’s, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are Still the Favorites

A recent survey of consumers has shown however that smaller restaurateurs have an uphill battle ahead of them in getting people in the door. Fully 46% of those who said they had eaten out for breakfast mentioned McDonalds as their first choice, with Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks each tying for second with 19%. However, that doesn’t mean that smaller players can’t get in one the game, or that diners cannot be lured away from the more traditional breakfast venues.

What do all three of these heavy-hitting franchises offer that even the smallest independent can match? Free WiFi and occasional coupons that entice people to sit down and stay a while.