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Keeping Customers Hungry for Loyalty Programs

Keeping Customers Hungry for Loyalty Programs

Most restaurants offer them, but are they being used to their full potential? Experts offer tips on how to best engage guests.

For decades, loyalty programs have played an integral and rewarding role in the ordering experience for customers at pizza restaurants across the country. As technology has increasingly changed the way in which customers place orders, how have these programs kept up with the times? And better yet, what can restaurants do in order to satisfactorily implement and execute their chosen loyalty program?

Matt Zibell, CEO of guest retention platform TableUp, is quick to state that “everything’s digital” now, while discussing trends and techniques associated with loyalty programs. Now more than ever, loyalty programs are becoming digitized. And at a time when a zero-waste philosophy is quickly taking charge, the digitization of loyalty programs over plastic and paper cards couldn’t come at a better time.

“I think making sure that it's digitized and connected to the point-of-sales system is really important,” advises Zibell. “Otherwise, it becomes very clunky.

“Cards and pieces of paper are really outdated, and operationally inefficient. So, I think that's a big part of it. But also making sure that it's kind of tied to a solid marketing program, as well. Because that's really where you get the ROI from. You want to kind of drive guests into the restaurant through these types of programs, but then leverage marketing to get them to come back and revisit.”

At Slim & Husky’s, a Nashville-based pizza chain, customers receive a free pizza for every $100 they spend. And another rewards program here not only welcomes new customers, but also supports the community.

"We have established a unique rewards program that is designed to educate and reward elementary kids in our communities,” says Slim & Husky’s co-founder Clint Gray.

“This rewards program is called The PREAM Book Club,” he explains. “Elementary schools near our restaurants are able to include this program into their classroom curriculums. We reward grade students for every 25 books they read with free cinnamon rolls and pizza. As a result, both parties (students and Slim & Husky's) benefit. We are able to work towards our mission of educating our communities, while also introducing our restaurant to new customers.”

Kate Atty, vice president of marketing at customer-data-and-marketing platform Clutch, offers the reminder that simplicity will get you far, even when it concerns loyalty programs. She explains that when a restaurant’s marketing team is small or nearly non-existent, a loyalty program with automated engagement is vital.

“For implementation, automating simple processes like welcome emails or messages, birthday rewards and reminders about points expiration or available rewards are really important, both for the business and the customers,” says Atty.

“Most restaurants have small marketing teams and limited resources, so a platform that can support automated engagement and the ability to set up everything at the start with minimal ongoing support takes a big burden off of those teams' team.”

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