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How to increase loyalty for your restaurant brand? 

In an increasingly competitive restaurant market, where margins are under pressure, it’s key to build a strong restaurant brand. Building a strong restaurant brand leads to more loyal and more profitable guests. How to build and maintain a strong restaurant brand?

It starts with being a loveable

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your first impression is what sticks with your guests, but what makes a brand truly loveable? Loveable brands have a number of clear characteristics in common. 

First, it’s about having a clear purpose. Because restaurant brands with a strong and clear purpose are easier to relate to for guests. A very good local example is McDonalds in the Netherlands with the Ronald McDonalds childfund. The Ronald McDonalds childfund is a charity fund that builds houses for parents of children that are sick. By building these houses, parents can stay with their children. It’s a purpose that people can connect with and very well known in the Netherlands.

Another characteristic of a loveable brand is being unique. In this competitive crowd, you need to stand out of the crowd. Guests want to get a good sense of a brand’s authenticity. A recent study performed by Blis shows brands that are perceived to be authentic about who they are and what they do, stand out and win the hearts of guests. 

Loveable brands also understand their audience. What is that moves them? And what is the role of the restaurant brand in their lives? It required data, lots of data, to build that understanding. Therefore it’s key to collect data about your guests and analyze it. One of the risks of being dependent on 3rd party delivery platforms is the inability to collect data about your guests. Loveable brands will measure their success based on data, to understand whether they’re on track or not with building the restaurant brand. One easy metrics to track whether your restaurant brand is lovable is the Net Promotor Score (NPS).

Investing in your relationships with guests drives loyalty 

Once you’ve established your loveable brand, you need to invest in the relationships with your guests. Investing in a relationship can be done via a loyalty programme. Here you need to think upfront what it is that you’re going to offer in return for loyalty. A basic loyalty program is based on two components, an earnings side and a redemption side.How loyalty is earned can be done in multiple ways, depending on your goals:

  • Through purchases: Rewarding on number of orders, e.g. at your 5th order you will get X. Or rewaring on value, e.g. if you order more than 100 euros you will get Y. 
  • Through activities: Things like referring to new guests, writing a review or trying a new burger or drink.
Restaurant loyalty

In almost any case, you can tie the earnings part to a timeframe. E.g. If you order more than 100 euros this month you will get Y. Adding a timeframe brings a sense of urgency but don’t overdo it. Another part of the earnings side to think about is an expiration date. Are the earnings valid for a certain amount of time? Sometimes you see that if you keep earning, your earnings will remain valid. You see this often happening in airlines where you need to keep flying to not lose your earnings.

Now let’s move to the redemption side. What is it that you’re offering as a return for loyalty? A restaurant can offer multiple perks if it comes down to loyalty. 

  • Free products
  • Discount on products
  • Free delivery (if applicable)
  • Exclusive access to e.g a newly launched hamburger
  • First getting served (works in store, takeout and for delivery)
  • Celebrations (Birthday, Christmas)

Key here to be creative and to understand the needs of your audience. But if a loyalty scheme is designed well, it can be very powerful.

Maintaining your relationships is key

Every relationship needs maintenance, also a restaurant brand’s relationship with it’s guests. Here it’s all about communication, preferable in a 1-1 and personalized way. Many restaurant brands launched an app to establish a direct, 1-1 communication channel with guests. Unfortunately, apps started working less and less. Guests don’t want to download an app for each brand they (want to) love. 

At Table Duck we’ve built a chatbot to solve that issue. By using existing messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, a chatbot can help you communicate with guests in a 1-1 manner. Our chatbot for example can take orders and handle payments and can be connected to a loyalty programme. Building direct channels helps you build your restaurant brand and to interact with your guests. 

So to wrap it up, life in the restaurant business didn’t get easier. Guests are more demanding and less loyal. It’s key to stand out of the crowd and build a relationship in return of loyalty from guests. Let technology help you like a well designed loyalty programme or a chatbot for communication.

Robbert Bregman – Co-Founder of Table Duck | Digitizing hospitality by building chatbots that improve guest experience.

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