A Restaurant’s Guide: Building a Customer Loyalty Program

A loyal customer base is the lifeblood of any business. Their love for your restaurant fosters a sense of familiarity and community that draws people in and keeps them rooting for your success. When it comes to building a repeat customer base, establishing a loyalty program can be a game-changer. It’s a rewarding endeavor that, if done with care, will keep your valued customers involved and excited about what you offer! 

Photo Credit: Fraser Cottrell —

Keep your customer base in mind 

Ultimately, the purpose of your loyalty program is to maintain the business of your desired custom base. In order to do so, you need to offer something that will capture their attention. Consider your ideal customer — what would they find intriguing? What are their spending habits with you and what is your desired outcome? Do you want to encourage them to visit once a month, once a day, only on special occasions? What are their values? Would they appreciate a consistent reward system? Do they prefer more interactive rewards like social media giveaways? 

Answering questions like this will guide you toward picking the right loyalty program for your business. It will also benefit you by bringing you closer to your customer base and what they’re looking for. A great way to start is directly asking customers what kind of program would entice them!

Types of loyalty programs

After you’ve touched base with your customers, it’s time to pick the right loyalty program for your desired outcome. Types of loyalty programs and corresponding goals you might consider include.

Incentivize customer reviews 

Websites like Yelp have taken hold in recent years, and for better or for worse, the customer experience is public knowledge. Reviews are a key way to capture the attention of new customers and act as social proof that your business is the place to be! In many cases, reviews are one of the first impressions your business makes, and can be the deciding factor for potential new customers.

Incentivising reviews in exchange for loyalty points is like killing two birds with one stone. You can solidify the great experience for your repeat customers while also attracting new ones! Software options like LoyaltyLion are a great, simple way to set up and track this type of loyalty program.

Incentivize referrals

Incentivizing referrals is a great option if you are a new business or just a business looking to bring in a surge of new customers. Referral programs are an effective tool because word-of-mouth customers are often high quality and willing to spend more time and money with your business. Loyal customers will often refer with no incentives, but offering a credit or company swag is a sure way to get new customers in the door. 

A formal referral program can be one-sided (reward only the person referring), or two-sided (reward the person referring and the referred). The latter motivates the new customer to actually try your products and hopefully return. Testing different promotions and programs to find what motivates your customers is a great place to start. For example, sending out an email or hand out for a give $10, get $10 promotion. 

Photo Credit: Patrick Tomasso —

Repeat purchase rewards  

Repeat purchase rewards are one of the most common and simple types of reward programs. These can take the form of anything from apps to punch cards. Each time a customer spends with you, they collect points which can later be redeemed for a value or product of your choice.

Punch cards are a simple way to trail run a system like this. If you find the system beneficial, you can consider technology that can take your system to the next level. POS systems like Toast allow you to customize your own point-based rewards system.

Hopefully one of these tips resonated with your vision and goals for your business. We look forward to dining at your restaurant soon to see what kind of loyalty program you’ve chosen!