Business and Operations
making dough with Diane: Six steps to customer loyalty programs that work
By Diane Chiasson
Statistics show that restaurants spend five to seven times more money on marketing to attract new customers than they do on keeping existing customers. What restaurant owners do not realize is that a regular customer is worth several times more! It might be time to focus your next marketing campaign on your existing clientele, and move away from spending all your time and money trying to win new customers.
Statistics show that restaurants spend five to seven times more money
on marketing to attract new customers than they do on keeping existing
customers. What restaurant owners do not realize is that a regular
customer is worth several times more! It might be time to focus your
next marketing campaign on your existing clientele, and move away from
spending all your time and money trying to win new customers.
A better strategy to restaurant marketing is to try to get your
first-time customers to become repeat customers. You do this by
building customer loyalty and establishing a relationship as soon as
your customer walks through the door. Here are a few key steps you need
to consider before you begin your customer loyalty program.
The very important database
In order to start building relationships with your customers, you must
somehow get their information into your database. Start with an offer
they can’t refuse – a free slice of pizza or a 50 per cent discount.
Make the offer worthwhile and generous. Although you may think it is
costly at the outset, it will pay off in the end, especially when the
customer keeps coming back for a second, third or fourth visit. You can
expect to lose money on your initial campaign, but if the campaign is a
success, you will see your profits
increase when your customer returns over and over again.
What’s in it for me?
The key to success for any customer loyalty program is getting your
customers to act on your offer. Customers want to know what they will
get, and they want to get it right away. Instant gratification must be
addressed. You need to make sure that your offer is something that can
be cashed in immediately. For example, if you decide to use a points
program, don’t make it so that you need to collect several thousands of
points before you get a reward. Give your customers enough points to
earn a reward instantly.
Allow your customers to apply some of the deals and incentives you are
offering immediately. It’s the same strategy that most large retail
stores take now, where if you sign up for the store credit card you
receive a 10 per cent discount on your purchases instantly. This will
show your customers that your rewards program works and that they can
receive the benefits right away.
There are several other incentives you can offer your customers as part
of your loyalty program, other than free food or discounts from the
menu. Customers who sign up for the loyalty program could also receive
VIP treatment including preferred seating, special parking spots,
separate pick-up lines or free upgrades.
Make sure you display your VIP areas prominently to entice newcomers to
your pizza operation to sign up for your customer loyalty program as
Advertise your customer loyalty program
Don’t rely on your staff to get customers to sign up to your loyalty program. Advertise the benefits of becoming
a loyal customer everywhere inside your operation including the
washrooms, the menu, tent cards on the table, signs in your entryway,
on the bottom of your receipts, flyers on the tops of the pizza boxes
and your menu boards. Give your customer loyalty program a name and
clearly stipulate the benefits your customers will receive when they
When to sign up
Don’t wait until you give your customers the cheque to get them to sign
up for your customer loyalty program. Have them sign up while they are
waiting for their food or even before they order. It is more likely
that your customers will take the time to fill out their personal
information while they are waiting for their food, than if they are
getting ready to leave after paying the bill.
Set up your website so that anyone can enrol in your customer loyalty
program online. Often, first-time customers will check your website to
view your menu, hours and location before their visit. Allow them the
opportunity to sign up before they even walk into your restaurant.
Entice them to come by offering a 10 per cent discount on their first
visit for signing up.
A customer loyalty program will help you make your first-time customers
your next-time customers. Try these tips and build up your repeat
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been
helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales
for over 25 years. She provides innovative food and retail
merchandising programs, interior design, marketing and promotional
campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at
1-888-926-6655 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit