Restaurant Loyalty Programs: Are They Effective?

Restaurant owners have always known that if you reward loyal customers, those customers are more likely to stay loyal—and they might even bring more customers with them next time they visit. 

According to a Customer Engagement Technology Study conducted by Hospitality Tech, 45% of diners say that they’re more likely to select a restaurant if they belong to its loyalty program.

A Loyalogy study that featured 1,100 customers surveyed on restaurant loyalty cards found that customers would increase their business to a particular restaurant if they had “an appealing loyalty card program” by 35%, and 73% of customers would recommend a restaurant to friends if the business had an appealing program.

Here are just a few examples of what makes a great loyalty rewards program and how that program can boost your bottom line.

Information gathering

In order to best serve your customers, it’s vital to find out who those customers are, what they like, what they dislike, and a host of other strategic bits of information about their dining habits. Luckily, there’s a range of emerging technological tools to help you do just that. 

Contactless tech solutions like those offered by OneDine can gather all of the information you need to target your customers’ needs with pinpoint accuracy and raise their dining experience firmly beyond the boring status quo. 

With just a quick scan on a mobile device, your customers can check-in and are presented with a mobile digital menu from which they can order at their convenience. 

Guests can customize their OneDine profile to reflect their dietary and lifestyle preferences, including their favorite cuisines, dishes, spice levels, and much more. With repeat visits, each customer can get special offers personalized to their likes, dislikes, allergies, and other specialized menu preferences. 

What a great loyalty program looks like

Take Starbucks for example. Their loyalty rewards program, wrapped up in a convenient app, lets customers order and pay through their mobile device while receiving personalized special offers based on previous purchases and personal preferences. 

Customers earn stars for every dollar they spend, and when they earn a certain number of stars, they can redeem them for a free item. 

And the program works: In 2018, Starbucks increased its active rewards members by 14 percent to 16.3 million customers.


The best loyalty program in the world won’t do you a bit of good if it doesn’t have any members. So once you’ve worked out all the reward details, how do you get people to actually take advantage of them? 

First, you’ve got to tell them about it. 

  • Make sure all of your staff are up-to-date on the benefits and perks that customers can enjoy as part of your loyalty squad. Servers should be trained to concisely describe exactly how it works and the benefits that can be had, and allowed to give customers a discount on their current visit just for signing up.
  • Implement a referral reward that gives current members even more benefits when they refer a new person to your loyalty program.
  • Create table tents so guests can read the membership benefits while enjoying their pre-meal drink and waiting for their food to arrive.
  • Cross-promote your program with another local business or influencer.
  • Promote your program prominently on your website, to your email list, and most importantly on all of your social media. A few well-chosen pictures of exactly the kinds of treats your customers can receive as a member along with a prominently placed “enroll” button can be the quickest way to add loyalty members.

Keep it simple

For your customers, signing up for a loyalty program should be as simple as tapping “Sign up” on a mobile device or saving their information after ordering online. 

And it should be even easier to redeem their points. The more rules there are to follow or hoops to jump through, the more likely it will be that guests just skip the hassle altogether—which could mean choosing your competitor over you next time.

Great loyalty programs, combined with contactless payment solutions and digital menu browsing options, are an important step in building and keeping a loyal customer base.  They’re the ones who can give those customers a reason to keep coming back.