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Loyalty Programs: The secret sauce for guest retention

Digital loyalty programs

For many restaurants, returning guests are their bread and butter. But with over 1 million restaurants in the U.S. (source: National Restaurant Association) and competition stronger than ever, how do you attract new diners and keep them coming back time and again?

Luckily, restaurants’ options for guest retention strategies have expanded greatly over the past couple of years. One easy and customizable way to bring in new diners to your restaurant while keeping current ones engaged is through digital loyalty programs. Through digital loyalty programs, restaurants can help increase their guest retention and, in turn, increase sales and tips (which in turn help increases employee retention).

Retaining guests through digital loyalty programs

Building relationships with guests is key to long-term success. When guests feel they are getting added value, they spend more, and the best guests are those who return to your business time after time.

To help foster these types of relationships, restaurants can implement a digital loyalty program. Digital loyalty programs that integrate with your restaurant’s point-of-sale (POS) system are one of the best ways to modernize your guest retention strategy without adding more hours to your workday.

Traditional loyalty programs – like punch cards – are inefficient, time consuming, waste resources and are easy to defraud. From printing and replacing lost cards to reminding guests to use them, the upkeep is difficult. Using a digital rewards and loyalty platform instead streamlines the process for you, your staff and your diners. A cloud-based system also lets you manage your program from either your POS or connected device - anywhere at any time.

For example, Clover, a leading POS and business management platform, provides restaurants with guest engagement tools that make it quick and easy to build and maintain marketing programs that bring new people through the door and keep businesses’ best guests coming back for more.

The best digital loyalty strategy for your restaurant

Two types of digital loyalty programs restaurants can deploy to keep guests engaged include the set-it-and-forget-it approach and the proactive, campaign-based approach.

The set-it-and-forget-it strategy is the digital version of that punch card you’ve probably had in your wallet for years. With this program, the business owner identifies a promotion that is compelling enough to make guests want to visit multiple times, while also making it easy for them to manage. When done right, it can be set up once and continuously run until you’re ready for a more hands-on plan of attack.

Alternatively, restaurateurs can implement an active guest retention strategy. While this option may require more planning than the set-it-and-forget-it tactic, its payoff can be huge. This strategy involves building a sophisticated loyalty program that offers personalized, timely rewards and promotions to your repeat diners. Larger restaurant chains may use this method more often, but it is also a great strategy for small restaurants to compete with big businesses.

Using data and customization to optimize your loyalty program

According to the National Restaurant Association, 50% of guests say the availability of a guest loyalty and rewards program would make them choose one restaurant over another.

Digital loyalty programs that consider the preferences and needs of your diners will make them feel valued and noticed. It creates the same feeling as being a “regular” when the manager at your favorite coffee shop not only remembers your order but also your name. This personal touch will set you apart from your competition.

Using Clover Customer app, you can keep track of guest preferences and really impress them by anticipating their needs. You can automatically send rewards to guests who haven’t visited for a while and entice them to return with a special offer. Most importantly, it’s easy to track your results and change things up to continually maximize your performance.

Driving loyalty through digital programs increases revenue (and tips) and reduces attrition - of both your guests and team members. By implementing a digital loyalty strategy in your restaurant, you will keep guests coming back for more and make a few new regulars along the way.

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