Bringing them through the door – loyalty has its rewards

Bringing them through the door – loyalty has its rewards

Let’s assume you did have a firm grasp on your staffing needs for the year, and your labor costs reflected careful planning and management over all the seasonal transitions. That still doesn’t change the fact that most restaurants will still see a dramatic decrease in business as September rolls around. It also doesn’t change the fact that guest counts are going to remain low until at least Thanksgiving unless you do something to ease the drop in numbers.

What can you do to attract more people to your restaurant during this time? There are a number of ways that you can entice new clientele while at the same time rewarding your regulars; gift and loyalty cards are two great vehicles for maintaining and increasing traffic. Some numbers?

  • Forty-one percent of first time shoppers tried the business because they received a gift card to shop there.
  • Fifty-five percent of your guests will need to shop more than once to use the whole amount on the card.
  • Seventy percent of shoppers will spend more than the value of the gift card
  • Seventy percent of those shoppers will spend at least 20 percent more than the value of the gift card.

Elizabeth Kraus, marketing manager for DB Squared Inc., in Seattle says, “Many restaurant and retail marketers point to word of mouth as their best marketing when it comes to new customer referrals. Gift cards should be seen as the ultimate word of mouth referral, since customers are willing to back their recommendation with money from their own wallets!” Krauss cautions that, “Programs should be tied to specific, measurable goals that allow you to track return on investments such as the numbers of new customers generated, dollars spent above gift card value and overall purchase compared to average sales ticket.” As well, a little research goes a long way says Krauss, and she encourages owners to “rely on buyer profiles in order to build personalized marketing campaigns that reach the customers most likely to buy gift cards.”

Krauss says that gift card marketing strategies should be reflected “in campaigns targeted to the occasions, times of year and life-events most likely to result in sales of gift cards.” One notable Washington state high end restaurant operation hands out, at certain times of the year, a gift certificate at the end of each table’s dining experience that allows for $20 off of the bill, carte blanche, with only one caveat. You guessed it – they can only use it in September and October. They also send the gift certificate to targeted local markets that surround their stores. It works every time.

The effect every year is dramatic. During a season when most restaurants suffer through an intense decrease in business, this organization experiences lines out the door due to the perception that they are giving something away for free. In actuality, check averages at this store are usually around $80. By giving away a $20 value, they encourage patronage that generates at least three times the gratis amount, and often much more. Although they are not getting the full retail returns they experience during better times of the year, they are still putting guests in seats and capitalizing off of increased traffic.

People’s buying habits are strange. Sometimes people will spend $50 on gas to get to a place where they save $5 off the bill. The incentive to get something for “free” is a powerful motivator for many people to go somewhere. Loyalty cards are another way to encourage your guests to return. It tells them that you appreciate their choice to dine at your restaurant time and time again. In the same way that you keep your ”buy ten drinks and get one free” cards for your favorite coffee stands, your customers can enjoy small rewards for returning to your establishment. A “back to school blues” card that offers a free appetizer or drink special after a certain number of  visits can do wonders for traffic in September.

Lastly, the Washington Restaurant Association is a great conduit for engaging allied members who are experts at increasing traffic during slower months, developing loyalty programs and creating and managing gift card programs. They would all be delighted to hear your story, learn about the challenges you face in the fall, and have the opportunity to share their proven products and services with you. To find out more about gift and loyalty card programs offered by WRA allied members, visit the links below, and begin a conversation that may drastically change the way you do business after kids go back to casinoin school. If you do, get ready. September may be, despite the trends, your busiest month of the year.

To find out more about WRA Allied Member gift card and loyalty card expertise, visit:


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