Implement these best practices in your dining loyalty program and watch it grow

Implement these best practices in your dining loyalty program and watch it grow
Jun 12, 2019

Highlights from the Humanizing Loyalty report

Standout loyalty programs and customer experiences in the casual dining, quick service, and fast casual dining categories meet two main expectations: they cater to the wants and needs of their customers, and they adapt to ever-evolving technology innovations.

As competition continues to grow in this space, it’s crucial that a restaurant brand’s loyalty program makes the necessary changes to stay on top.

Through our research and trends analysis, Humanizing Loyalty, we examined what successful dining brands are doing to achieve success in these areas and where they could improve.

Customers have many expectations when it comes to dining loyalty programs. These include:

  • Trust and dependability: The ability to depend upon and trust a brand are the top stated ideal personality traits for a brand’s loyalty program to have; in many ways, these traits match how consumers want to see themselves.
  • Consistency and excellent customer service: These factors are key when selecting an establishment to frequent as well as a loyalty program in which to participate.
  • Rewards: Cost-savings (and other reward-focused criteria) also drive loyalty, while the program’s ease of use and reasonably attainable rewards are must-haves.

Like other loyalty program categories, different groups of people want different things from their dining loyalty program. For example,

  • Baby Boomers have more expectations when deciding on a loyalty program. They tend to seek value, information security, customer service, attainable rewards, dependability and lots of points.
  • High-income earners welcome surprises and public recognition.

Overall, casual dining restaurant loyalty members are looking for enhanced experiences, similar to the travel industry. Like travel, diningparticularly casual diningis perceived as a special event, and may lend itself to more experiential rewards or extras, as well as smaller, more frequent rewards to encourage frequent visits.

But the biggest way we are seeing dining loyalty programs and brands add to the customer experience is through technological innovations. Applebee’s has implemented tablets at their tables with opportunities to not only keep children entertained while they wait for their food, but also make ordering and paying extremely convenient. To better suit guests, Applebee’s uses diner data to create and change the dining experience. Similarly, third-party companies like Open Table and GrubHub are serving actionable insights to restaurants that drive return visits. Upon gaining this data, restaurants can better drive efficiency, conversion, and an improved diner experience.

Through our research, we found that:

  • 65 percent of diners would be willing to download a restaurant app if promised exclusive offers and deals from time to time.
  • 80 percent would return to take advantage of offers.

We also found that diners’ preferred method of tracking and redeeming loyalty rewards is through a mobile app. These apps can be personalized and customized for specific customers, and functions like push notifications can show reward status and alert members of their rewards. This is a great way to inform and remind them of your brand’s value.

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Let’s get personal – heartfelt stories straight from the source

Our research revealed that loyalty programs can help people be heroes to their children, spouse, family or friends.

"One customer told us about a time he felt especially appreciated by a loyalty program. The customer took his kids out to dinner at TGI Friday’s. Upon being seated and telling their server that the customer was a member of their program, the family received free chips and salsa. Surprised but delighted, the family looked around and noticed other tables around them had not been served the chips and salsa. The customer’s kids thought it was pretty cool that their dad was able to get them special treatment, and the dad was happy that he got recognized for his loyalty."

- Humanizing Loyalty Survey Respondent

Despite the opportunities technology lends to these dining loyalty programs, there are still areas where these programs fall short:

  • Customers believe that these programs could offer more points, money-savings, and differentiated benefits over competitors.
  • Dining businesses underperform against stated expectations, especially for providing great value and making customers feel appreciated.

To address these shortcomings, the main takeaway from our research is casual dining loyalty members want to feel appreciated, and they want to know what sets your program apart from your competitor’s. Ultimately, your members want a consistent program that they can rely on and trust to help them earn meaningful points.

To learn more about customer loyalty and the key drivers that help brands develop true emotional loyalty at scale, check out our complete Humanizing Loyalty report.

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