Restaurant Loyalty Programs: Do They Work?

Trust20 Contributors

January 28, 2021

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Restaurant operators are running their businesses in the midst of a massive economic and industry shift. We know that a restaurant’s brand, marketing, and digital communication are now critical to their success, but what does that look like in practice? There are marketing tools and digital marketing guides that can help a restaurant manage menu announcements and talk about their health and safety solutions - tools to draw in new diners. A major challenge operators face is ensuring diners return to their businesses without being able to provide the personal touch of an in-person dining experience. 

Enter the Restaurant Loyalty Program. If properly implemented, a restaurant rewards program will increase the frequency of your current diners and entice new guests in with the promise of earning points and products.

Matt Roberts of Restaurant Ninjas points out: 

A recent Gartner study finds that 80% of future sales come from current customers. That data suggests that a significant portion of your marketing income should be aimed at increasing the frequency of existing customers rather than acquiring new ones. Loyalty programs are the best way to increase the frequency of your current customer base (aside from delivering consistently excellent food and service, of course).

In general diners have always cared about supporting local restaurants and the industry has seen a wave of devotion to local businesses in the wake of the pandemic. World of Hyatt, the Hyatt Rewards Program offers a “Dine Local” bonus in their points system, as does Mariott Bonvoy with the hotel’s “Eat Around Town” program. Tutta Bella in Seattle has received so much love from their guests that the patrons of their Amici Club loyalty program each got two free pizzas added to their accounts last year.

You can see it in practice at almost every major franchise restaurant you can think of. Thrillist provides a list of 50 locations where diners receive a free item just for signing up and Eat This, Not That! compiled a list of 50 additional restaurant perks that have been implemented to reward the loyalty of their diners. 

A key element to every successful restaurant rewards program is simplicity and ease of use. Guests are guaranteed to lose interest if you make it difficult to sign up or engage with the program.  As you consider your options, investigate your point-of-sale (POS) system - many such as Square offer the infrastructure for a  loyalty program as a subscription add on.  A loyalty program will only be effective if you remain consistent in its structure, provide a valuable reward to your diners, and make sure that you have clear and transparent communication with your base. The missteps of businesses like Starbucks can be avoided with advance clarity and planning.

Does your restaurant have a loyalty program? Tell Trust20 about it! Tag us on social and let us know how you’re saying thank you to your diners. 


Trust20 is the new standard of restaurant safety and diner comfort, based on 20 tactics by health and safety experts. Supported by Gordon Food Service and General Mills, Trust20 provides an independently verified certification of restaurant practices, training, and other resources to help restaurants create safe, healthy, and welcome spaces for diners. www.trust20.co, @Trust20USA

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