You may not need one – yet. Without a doubt, nailing your loyalty program can pay off: Harvard Business Review reports that increasing your loyalty following by just 5 percent can drive profits up by between 25 and 95 percent. However, Fast Casual reports that although the average consumer belongs to 14.8 loyalty programs, they are active in only 6.7 of them. So while much has been said in recent months about how restaurants can use their loyalty program to set themselves apart and drive business at a highly competitive time, a loyalty program on its own can become simply a discount program – and no great help to you – if it’s not deployed properly. That means tying it to consumer buying behavior, driving more frequent visits, and then learning more from those repeat visits. Your existing guests are your most important ones to focus on here. Before you get to launching a loyalty program, start with maximizing your tech stack – specifically your customer relationship management and customer data platform (CRM/CDP) – to collect information about your existing guests, what they buy from you and when. Once you’re armed with those insights, you will have a clearer path to using that information to influence their future buying decisions (and making them truly loyal members of your loyalty program).
As much as we all hoped and expected this summer would represent a return to pre-pandemic gathering and eating out, the delta variant has had other plans in store for many parts of the country. Restaurant operators, again, have been put in the challenging position of having to be enforcers of ever-fluctuating state and local regulations – all while continuing to juggle ongoing labor and supply shortages. If you haven’t already, it’s a good time to take a look back at your early-pandemic playbook and identify income streams that might help you weather the current challenges. That could mean posting new products for sale on your website, offering cocktails to-go if allowed in your state, and promoting family-style meal packages for guests who crave your food but aren’t yet comfortable eating out. Consider how your restaurant might adapt to the current situation of local consumers – whether that be a continuation of working from home or the beginning of hybrid work. Try to create stability, wherever possible, for both guests and staff. That could involve sticking with delivery and takeout service only (at least for the time being) or operating on a limited but set schedule. While it may feel like you’re missing opportunities to generate sales, guests and employees alike are likely to value predictability. Your loyalty program may help you here too. Do you want to boost visits on particular days and times? Increase your carry-out business while dine-in business is uncertain? Consider how you can incentivize your most loyal guests to help you keep business humming.