Restaurant Loyalty: Turn Guests into Fans

by Rohan Ahire |

Restaurant Loyalty: Turn Guests into Fans

When you think of restaurant loyalty, what comes to mind?

The card you’d carry in your wallet. You’d pull it out each time you bought a sub, waiting for the card to fill up, for the reward of a free lunch.

Probably not. Today some of the best loyalty programs are being run by restaurants.

When asked about “your” favorite loyalty program, the two that repeatedly make the top 5 are Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. Guests of these QSRs are huge fans of these brands.

What is it about these programs that make them stand out over all other programs in the market today? They practice the (new) KISSS –

Keep it,  Simple. Seamless. Satisfying.

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Keeping it simple is far more difficult than it sounds. As marketers, we work to please a lot of people: our boss, the CFO, the CIO, CEO, our team members, and our guests. A few years back I was involved in an RFP for a QSR that had a remarkably complex loyalty program vision. The program had multiple steps to earning and burning, multiple values to the rewards, and a requirement to use the app only. The program spec was documented in over 100 pages. Thankfully, for the guests and the marketers, the program was never launched.

Simplicity is key to the success of a restaurant loyalty program. We’d like to think that our guests think about our brand all the time. The reality is that they will not take the time to read rules nor learn the ins and outs of program earnings. It’s just not going to happen. Especially when the potential value of that time spent is a brownie (even though they are delicious!).


Over the last week, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with analysts focused on customer experience. Each discussion narrowed to friction as one of the biggest challenges of delivering positive customer experiences. (Not to confuse friction with effort, as some effort is good – it creates a commitment between the brand and the customer.)  Making a guests’ loyalty experience with you seamless delights the guest. Not only do they come back more frequently, but they also become advocates for your restaurant.

Starbucks loyals love the seamless experience the Starbuck app awards them from ordering to payment to rewards and reward redemption. All are just a few clicks away.


Another area that becomes complex or challenging for marketers is creating a program that has a value that’s exciting to members. When actually, guests will be happy with the opportunity to get a better experience and a few perks along the way. If you actually look at the value of the Starbucks program (sorry Starbucks) the value isn’t really that great or valuable. It’s the fact that as a Starbucks guest, I’m recognized for my patronage. They recognize me and make me feel appreciated. Plus, as a bonus, I get a free coffee or meal along the way.  Satisfying!

To deliver on a KISSS strategy, you’ll want to incorporate the following:

  • Simple program structure. Create a structure that is easy for people to understand how to earn and redeem.  Also, ensure it’s easy for a guest to understand what they get if they increase their frequency and spend.
  • Seamless omnichannel experience. This is delivered by ensuring your loyalty technology is embedded as the heart of your tech stack. You’ll integrate with all data sources including but not limited to CRM, ecomm, mobile well as POS, and order systems. This will ensure that guest data is used the same way across all channels, including in restaurants.
  • Satisfying. Your program will have a core value proposition. You’ll be able to augment that with relevant messaging (based on the data collected). Plus you’ll be able to add in promotions or loyalty gamification to recognize and engage guests that will increase satisfaction.

Following a KISSS approach will ensure you build a program that will engage your guests and keep them coming back. Contact the experts at Annex Cloud for guidance as you build out your KISSS loyalty strategy.

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