November 14, 2023

Top Winning Restaurant Loyalty Programs in the World

Riya Shah

In the highly competitive food and beverage industry, brands are constantly looking for innovative ways to attract and retain customers. One effective strategy that has gained significant traction is the implementation of restaurant loyalty programs. These programs not only provide customers with incentives to return but also foster a sense of loyalty and belonging to a particular brand. In this article, we will explore the key elements that make a winning restaurant loyalty program and examine inspiring examples from popular food chains.

The Power of Loyalty Programs in the Restaurant Industry

The restaurant industry is facing numerous challenges, including rising food costs and increasing competition. To overcome these hurdles and maintain customer retention, restaurant loyalty programs have emerged as a powerful tool. According to Antavo's Global Customer Loyalty Report 2023, 88.5% of respondents believe that loyalty programs can help overcome inflation and potential recession.

To truly succeed, restaurant loyalty programs need to focus on enhancing the customer experience and personalization. By utilizing gamification, experiential rewards, and app-based engagement, brands can create a program that resonates with their customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Boosting Engagement and Communication - QR Codes and Loyalty Apps

In today's digital age, smartphones play a crucial role in customer engagement. Restaurants can leverage QR codes and loyalty apps to create additional touchpoints and streamline interactions with customers. For instance, QR codes can be used to link patrons to menus, ordering, and payment systems, providing a seamless and convenient experience.

Reward systems are an effective way to encourage customers to engage with QR codes and loyalty apps. By offering points, badges, and other benefits, restaurants can incentivize customers to try out these digital solutions. Additionally, restaurants should focus on taking control of the customer relationship before and after the dining experience, fostering a sense of community and discovery.

The Best Features to Help Your Restaurant Loyalty Program Stand Out

When designing a restaurant loyalty program, it is essential to consider features that will set it apart from the competition. While traditional earn-and-burn programs are effective, there is room for experimentation and innovation. Here are some features and strategies to consider:

A) Tiers and Experiential Rewards: One way to enhance customer engagement is by implementing a tiered loyalty program. By offering different levels with increasing benefits, restaurants can motivate customers to reach higher tiers and enjoy greater rewards. Chick-fil-A's loyalty program, Chick-fil-A One, is a prime example of a tiered program that offers experiential rewards such as backstage tours and the ability to share rewards with friends and family.

B) Diverse Reward Offering: While freebies and discounts are popular rewards in loyalty programs, it is important to diversify the offerings. Chipotle Rewards, for instance, provides a range of rewards, including free orders and branded merchandise. By expanding the reward portfolio, restaurants can cater to different customer preferences and create a more exciting program.

C) Partnership Benefits: Collaborating with other brands can add value to a restaurant's loyalty program. Red Lobster's program, for example, offers partner benefits such as earning points for purchases at Shell gas stations. These cross-brand offers increase the overall value of the membership and provide additional incentives for customers to engage with the program.

7 Inspiring Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Now, let's dive into some inspiring examples of restaurant loyalty programs that have successfully captured customer loyalty and retention.

1. Dunkin' Donuts Rewards Program: Priority Service

Dunkin' Donuts' loyalty program, DD Perks, focuses on providing priority service to its members. Customers can place orders using the company's app, allowing them to claim their orders instantly upon arrival. The program also offers points for purchases, which can be redeemed for gift cards. By offering convenience and exclusive benefits, Dunkin' Donuts has created a program that keeps customers coming back for more.

2. Chipotle Rewards Program: A Diverse Reward Offering

Chipotle Rewards goes beyond traditional punch cards by offering a fully mobile experience. Customers earn points for every dollar spent and can redeem them for free Chipotle orders and merchandise. The program also incorporates gamification elements, such as badges and challenges, to increase customer engagement.

3. Famous Dave's Rewards Program: App-based Benefits

Famous Dave's loyalty program utilises a smartphone app to provide customers with a seamless experience. Members earn points for every dollar spent and can redeem them for discounts on future orders. The app also serves as a communication tool, allowing the brand to stay in touch with its members and provide personalised offers.

4. Chick-fil-A Rewards Program: Tiers & Experiential Rewards


Chick-fil-A One is a tiered loyalty program that offers increasing benefits as customers progress through the levels. Members earn points for their purchases and enjoy perks such as backstage tours and the ability to share rewards with friends and family. By combining tiers with experiential rewards, Chick-fil-A has created a program that keeps customers engaged and motivated.

5. La Cage Rewards Program: Rewarding Sports Fans

La Cage, a Canadian sports restaurant chain, revamped its Club Cage loyalty program to cater to sports fans. Members earn points for their purchases and can redeem them for rewards. The program also offers special promotions tied to sports events, such as free wings when the Montreal Canadiens score 5 goals. By aligning the program with customers' interests, La Cage has successfully built a loyal following.

6. KFC Rewards Arcade: A Truly Gamified Experience

KFC UK & Ireland introduced KFC Rewards Arcade, a gamified loyalty program that offers instant rewards through interactive mini-games. Customers receive an in-app invitation to play a game after making a purchase, with the chance to win freebies. By incorporating gamification elements, KFC has created a unique and engaging program that keeps customers excited and coming back for more.

7. Red Lobster Rewards Program: Partnership Benefits

Red Lobster's loyalty program offers a range of partner benefits to enhance the overall value for its members. Customers earn points for their purchases and can redeem them for rewards. Additionally, the program includes partnerships with other brands, such as earning points at Shell gas stations. These collaborations provide customers with additional incentives to engage with the program and increase their loyalty to Red Lobster.

The Last Bite

Restaurant loyalty programs have become essential tools for driving customer retention and engagement in the food and beverage industry. By focusing on personalization, convenience, and innovative features, brands can create programs that keep customers coming back for more. From priority service to gamified experiences, these programs offer a wide range of benefits and rewards to build loyalty and foster a sense of belonging. As the industry continues to evolve, restaurant loyalty programs will play an increasingly vital role in driving customer loyalty and retention. So, why wait? Start crafting your winning loyalty program today and watch your customer base grow!

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