Hey Brooklyn! Get started with $20 off your first subscription of $40 or more.

8 Best Restaurant Loyalty Program Examples to Increase Customer Retention

8 Best Restaurant Loyalty Program Examples to Increase Customer Retention

TLDR

You know the old saying - if you want loyalty, get a dog. But for your restaurant, gaining customer loyalty requires more than puppy dog eyes. Implementing an effective loyalty program through a custom mobile app is essential for retaining patrons and driving repeat business in today's digital age.

As a restaurateur, you need solutions that speak to modern diners. Per Diem’s white-label, mobile order solutions integrate seamlessly with loyalty programs on Square to provide the tech-enabled experiences customers crave. Exciting loyalty features such as points-based rewards, referral bonuses, and special offers create lasting connections with your clientele.

Innovators in the restaurant space are already seeing results from well-designed loyalty programs. Take Primal Bowls, for example, whose app gives 50 loyalty points just for downloading and another 50 for a first order. Coffee Dose takes a playful approach, enticing customers with “anti-bitch” branding and 150-point new user bonuses. And Lucky Coffee Roasters saw app downloads skyrocket during a 1.5x points early bird special.

The success stories show that loyalty done right means more customer visits, higher per-transaction spending, and invaluable brand evangelism. By implementing the right loyalty technology, you can focus on delighting patrons rather than worrying about retention. This is how you build a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.

Incentivize Referrals for Even More Downloads

To maximize the number of downloads and new users, restaurants and coffee shops should implement a referral program within their loyalty app. A referral program rewards existing customers for referring friends and family to the business. For successful referrals, guests can receive perks such as free drinks or early access to special promotions.

Primal Bowls offers 50 referral points to both the referring customer and the new user who signs up. This incentivizes current users to spread the word about the app to their network in exchange for reward points they can redeem for discounts and freebies.

Similarly, Coffee Dose named their app “The Anti-Bitch App” and offers 150 bonus points just for signing up in addition to 1 point per dollar spent. Once customers accumulate enough points, they can redeem them for free drinks, snacks, merchandise or other offers. This creativity and generosity has likely contributed to the app’s success and popularity.

Restaurants using a white-label mobile ordering solution can easily enable a referral program within their app. They simply need to determine the reward for referrals, such as points or dollars that can be redeemed for menu items. The key is to make the incentive compelling enough that current customers will promote the app to new potential users. With an effective referral program in place, restaurants and coffee shops can significantly boost app downloads and gain new loyal customers.

Offer Rewards for Downloading Your Restaurant App

To increase customer retention and boost app downloads, restaurants should consider offering incentives and rewards. According to studies, app downloads increase by 25% when rewards are offered, and 60% of customers prefer using loyalty apps that provide rewards.

Early Adopter Promotions

Running a limited-time promotion aimed at early adopters is an effective strategy. For example, offering 1.5 times the normal amount of reward points for a limited period incentivizes more orders and downloads. Lucky Coffee Roasters ran such a campaign and witnessed a 200+ increase in app downloads within the first week.

Birthday Rewards

Offering a free item, discount, or bonus points on a customer's birthday is a personal way to show appreciation and encourage re-engagement with your app. The French bakery Choc o Pain gives $5 birthday coupons to redeem in their app.

Rewards and incentives are key to the success of any restaurant loyalty program. By offering promotions aimed at early adopters, free items, birthday rewards, and referral programs, restaurants can significantly boost app downloads, drive adoption, and increase customer retention. An effective loyalty strategy built into a custom mobile app is essential for restaurant growth and long-term success.

Give Customers Special Perks on Their Birthday

Offer Free Food or Discounts

Many restaurants find success in offering free food or discounts to customers on their birthdays. Providing a free appetizer, dessert or entrée is an easy way to make guests feel appreciated on their special day. Discounts like 20% off the bill or a free drink with an entrée purchase are other simple options. These types of birthday rewards foster an emotional connection with customers that keeps them coming back time and again.

Drive Traffic and Sales

Birthday perks also incentivize guests to visit the restaurant around their birthday. Knowing they will receive something free or discounted, customers will make a point to stop in, often bringing friends and family along. This boost in traffic and sales around guests’ birthdays can positively impact the bottom line. The additional visits from new customers exposed to the restaurant on these occasions may also turn into repeat business.

Build Loyalty

Special birthday offers to build tremendous loyalty among customers. Receiving a thoughtful gift from a restaurant on their birthday makes guests feel appreciated and valued. This goodwill resonates with customers and strengthens their connection to the brand. The loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing generated from these types of programs has significant long-term benefits for restaurants.

While the specific offer and mechanics may differ for each restaurant, providing free or discounted perks to guests on their birthday is a win-win. Customers get to celebrate with a treat from their favorite spot and restaurants drive key business metrics and build lasting loyalty. With a little creativity, any restaurant can craft a birthday program suited to their concept and budget. The returns from these efforts make it well worth the investment.

Allow Customers to Skip Lines and Order Ahead

With the growing popularity of mobile apps, many restaurants are adopting mobile ordering to provide convenience to their customers. Mobile ordering apps allow customers to place orders in advance, pay electronically, and skip waiting in line. Groovy Goose also offers orders ahead through their mobile app, allowing customers to place their orders and skip the line when they arrive. This convenient feature helps improve the customer experience and increase loyalty to the restaurant.

Pre-Order Meals to Avoid Queues

By allowing customers to place orders ahead of time through a mobile app, restaurants can eliminate long queues and waiting times. Customers appreciate the ability to order at their own convenience and pick up meals without delay. With pre-ordering, guests can place orders before arriving at the restaurant or while en route. Their food will be ready for pickup as soon as they enter the establishment, allowing them to avoid waiting in line.

Streamlined Pickup for Pre-Paid Meals

In addition to skipping lines, mobile ordering allows customers to pay in advance for their meals through the app. By pre-paying, guests can simply pick up their food when they arrive with no need to wait for a bill or make a payment. This streamlined experience provides additional convenience for customers. Many find that paying through an app is quicker and easier than paying at a cash register or waiting for a server to bring the bill.

Focus on Dine-In Customers

While mobile ordering provides benefits for customers, it also helps restaurants focus their in-store staff on dine-in guests. With fewer people waiting in line or paying at registers, servers, and staff have more time to provide high-quality service to guests eating in the restaurant. Efficient mobile pickup areas also minimize disruptions for dine-in diners. Overall, mobile ordering helps create an improved experience for all customers whether dining in or taking out.

Provide Loyalty Points and Coupons for Purchases

Creating a loyalty program that provides points and rewards for customer purchases is an effective way to increase retention.

Points-based Programs

With points-based programs, customers earn points for each dollar spent which can then be redeemed for rewards like discounts or free items. For example, diners could earn one point for each dollar spent and redeem those points for a discount on a future purchase. Points-based programs allow customers to accumulate rewards over time through repeat visits.

Visit-based Programs

Some programs provide rewards based on the number of visits instead of dollars spent. For example, MyPanera Rewards provides a free item after every nine visits. Visit-based programs encourage repeat customers by providing rewards simply for choosing to dine at the establishment.

Redemption Options

The rewards offered for point redemption should match your brand and customer base. Options include:

  • Discounts on future purchases, like $5 off a $25 purchase.
  • Free menu items like a free coffee, snack, or appetizer.
  • Non-food rewards like merchandise, gift cards, or experiences.
  • Early access to new menu items or events.

Coupon codes

Coupon codes and discount offers are a great way to attract new customers and reward loyal ones. For first-time customers, a coupon code can reduce the perceived risk and make them more likely to try your restaurant. For loyal customers, coupons provide an incentive to continue coming back. The Masala Wok coupon program offers new customers $5 OFF their first order of $20 or more.

Loadable Store Credit for Future Purchases (Like Starbucks)

Allow Customers to Load Balances for Later Use

Ethereal Cafe's loyalty program allows customers to load monetary balances onto the Starbucks app for future purchases, similar to a gift card. This functions similarly to storing credit on the app, where balances are held for later use at the customer’s discretion. Customers appreciate the convenience of having funds ready for their next coffee or snack without having to reload a new gift card or pay each time with a credit card.

Offer Bonuses for Loading Higher Balances

To encourage customers to load larger balances, Ethereal provides bonus stars (their reward currency) when a certain threshold is met. For example, when a customer loads $100 onto the app, they receive $10 bonus points. When $300 is loaded, the bonus increases to $330 points worth $30. This incentivizes customers to load larger amounts by providing additional rewards and value.

Provide Exclusive Promotions for App Users

To drive app adoption and continued use, Ethereal Cafe frequently offers promotions exclusively through the mobile app like free or discounted items, bonus star offers, and sweepstakes. App users often receive early access to promotions before the general public. Exclusive access to deals and rewards encourages app use and loading of balances.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to increasing customer retention and driving repeat business, implementing a robust loyalty program is one of the most effective strategies a restaurant can employ. As the examples above demonstrate, there are many creative ways to structure rewards to incentivize downloads, first-time orders, referrals, and ongoing engagement with your brand’s mobile app. Whether you offer points, discounts, store credit, or exclusive perks, a well-designed loyalty program integrated with your app ordering experience provides a major competitive advantage. With the right mix of signup bonuses, birthday freebies, and incentives to keep customers coming back, you’ll be well on your way to boosting retention and creating brand evangelists. At the end of the day, it’s about understanding your customers and offering meaningful rewards that resonate. By focusing on driving app adoption and maximizing loyalty engagement, you can increase visits, average spending, and customer lifetime value over the long term.

TLDR

You know the old saying - if you want loyalty, get a dog. But for your restaurant, gaining customer loyalty requires more than puppy dog eyes. Implementing an effective loyalty program through a custom mobile app is essential for retaining patrons and driving repeat business in today's digital age.

As a restaurateur, you need solutions that speak to modern diners. Per Diem’s white-label, mobile order solutions integrate seamlessly with loyalty programs on Square to provide the tech-enabled experiences customers crave. Exciting loyalty features such as points-based rewards, referral bonuses, and special offers create lasting connections with your clientele.

Innovators in the restaurant space are already seeing results from well-designed loyalty programs. Take Primal Bowls, for example, whose app gives 50 loyalty points just for downloading and another 50 for a first order. Coffee Dose takes a playful approach, enticing customers with “anti-bitch” branding and 150-point new user bonuses. And Lucky Coffee Roasters saw app downloads skyrocket during a 1.5x points early bird special.

The success stories show that loyalty done right means more customer visits, higher per-transaction spending, and invaluable brand evangelism. By implementing the right loyalty technology, you can focus on delighting patrons rather than worrying about retention. This is how you build a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.

Incentivize Referrals for Even More Downloads

To maximize the number of downloads and new users, restaurants and coffee shops should implement a referral program within their loyalty app. A referral program rewards existing customers for referring friends and family to the business. For successful referrals, guests can receive perks such as free drinks or early access to special promotions.

Primal Bowls offers 50 referral points to both the referring customer and the new user who signs up. This incentivizes current users to spread the word about the app to their network in exchange for reward points they can redeem for discounts and freebies.

Similarly, Coffee Dose named their app “The Anti-Bitch App” and offers 150 bonus points just for signing up in addition to 1 point per dollar spent. Once customers accumulate enough points, they can redeem them for free drinks, snacks, merchandise or other offers. This creativity and generosity has likely contributed to the app’s success and popularity.

Restaurants using a white-label mobile ordering solution can easily enable a referral program within their app. They simply need to determine the reward for referrals, such as points or dollars that can be redeemed for menu items. The key is to make the incentive compelling enough that current customers will promote the app to new potential users. With an effective referral program in place, restaurants and coffee shops can significantly boost app downloads and gain new loyal customers.

Offer Rewards for Downloading Your Restaurant App

To increase customer retention and boost app downloads, restaurants should consider offering incentives and rewards. According to studies, app downloads increase by 25% when rewards are offered, and 60% of customers prefer using loyalty apps that provide rewards.

Early Adopter Promotions

Running a limited-time promotion aimed at early adopters is an effective strategy. For example, offering 1.5 times the normal amount of reward points for a limited period incentivizes more orders and downloads. Lucky Coffee Roasters ran such a campaign and witnessed a 200+ increase in app downloads within the first week.

Birthday Rewards

Offering a free item, discount, or bonus points on a customer's birthday is a personal way to show appreciation and encourage re-engagement with your app. The French bakery Choc o Pain gives $5 birthday coupons to redeem in their app.

Rewards and incentives are key to the success of any restaurant loyalty program. By offering promotions aimed at early adopters, free items, birthday rewards, and referral programs, restaurants can significantly boost app downloads, drive adoption, and increase customer retention. An effective loyalty strategy built into a custom mobile app is essential for restaurant growth and long-term success.

Give Customers Special Perks on Their Birthday

Offer Free Food or Discounts

Many restaurants find success in offering free food or discounts to customers on their birthdays. Providing a free appetizer, dessert or entrée is an easy way to make guests feel appreciated on their special day. Discounts like 20% off the bill or a free drink with an entrée purchase are other simple options. These types of birthday rewards foster an emotional connection with customers that keeps them coming back time and again.

Drive Traffic and Sales

Birthday perks also incentivize guests to visit the restaurant around their birthday. Knowing they will receive something free or discounted, customers will make a point to stop in, often bringing friends and family along. This boost in traffic and sales around guests’ birthdays can positively impact the bottom line. The additional visits from new customers exposed to the restaurant on these occasions may also turn into repeat business.

Build Loyalty

Special birthday offers to build tremendous loyalty among customers. Receiving a thoughtful gift from a restaurant on their birthday makes guests feel appreciated and valued. This goodwill resonates with customers and strengthens their connection to the brand. The loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing generated from these types of programs has significant long-term benefits for restaurants.

While the specific offer and mechanics may differ for each restaurant, providing free or discounted perks to guests on their birthday is a win-win. Customers get to celebrate with a treat from their favorite spot and restaurants drive key business metrics and build lasting loyalty. With a little creativity, any restaurant can craft a birthday program suited to their concept and budget. The returns from these efforts make it well worth the investment.

Allow Customers to Skip Lines and Order Ahead

With the growing popularity of mobile apps, many restaurants are adopting mobile ordering to provide convenience to their customers. Mobile ordering apps allow customers to place orders in advance, pay electronically, and skip waiting in line. Groovy Goose also offers orders ahead through their mobile app, allowing customers to place their orders and skip the line when they arrive. This convenient feature helps improve the customer experience and increase loyalty to the restaurant.

Pre-Order Meals to Avoid Queues

By allowing customers to place orders ahead of time through a mobile app, restaurants can eliminate long queues and waiting times. Customers appreciate the ability to order at their own convenience and pick up meals without delay. With pre-ordering, guests can place orders before arriving at the restaurant or while en route. Their food will be ready for pickup as soon as they enter the establishment, allowing them to avoid waiting in line.

Streamlined Pickup for Pre-Paid Meals

In addition to skipping lines, mobile ordering allows customers to pay in advance for their meals through the app. By pre-paying, guests can simply pick up their food when they arrive with no need to wait for a bill or make a payment. This streamlined experience provides additional convenience for customers. Many find that paying through an app is quicker and easier than paying at a cash register or waiting for a server to bring the bill.

Focus on Dine-In Customers

While mobile ordering provides benefits for customers, it also helps restaurants focus their in-store staff on dine-in guests. With fewer people waiting in line or paying at registers, servers, and staff have more time to provide high-quality service to guests eating in the restaurant. Efficient mobile pickup areas also minimize disruptions for dine-in diners. Overall, mobile ordering helps create an improved experience for all customers whether dining in or taking out.

Provide Loyalty Points and Coupons for Purchases

Creating a loyalty program that provides points and rewards for customer purchases is an effective way to increase retention.

Points-based Programs

With points-based programs, customers earn points for each dollar spent which can then be redeemed for rewards like discounts or free items. For example, diners could earn one point for each dollar spent and redeem those points for a discount on a future purchase. Points-based programs allow customers to accumulate rewards over time through repeat visits.

Visit-based Programs

Some programs provide rewards based on the number of visits instead of dollars spent. For example, MyPanera Rewards provides a free item after every nine visits. Visit-based programs encourage repeat customers by providing rewards simply for choosing to dine at the establishment.

Redemption Options

The rewards offered for point redemption should match your brand and customer base. Options include:

  • Discounts on future purchases, like $5 off a $25 purchase.
  • Free menu items like a free coffee, snack, or appetizer.
  • Non-food rewards like merchandise, gift cards, or experiences.
  • Early access to new menu items or events.

Coupon codes

Coupon codes and discount offers are a great way to attract new customers and reward loyal ones. For first-time customers, a coupon code can reduce the perceived risk and make them more likely to try your restaurant. For loyal customers, coupons provide an incentive to continue coming back. The Masala Wok coupon program offers new customers $5 OFF their first order of $20 or more.

Loadable Store Credit for Future Purchases (Like Starbucks)

Allow Customers to Load Balances for Later Use

Ethereal Cafe's loyalty program allows customers to load monetary balances onto the Starbucks app for future purchases, similar to a gift card. This functions similarly to storing credit on the app, where balances are held for later use at the customer’s discretion. Customers appreciate the convenience of having funds ready for their next coffee or snack without having to reload a new gift card or pay each time with a credit card.

Offer Bonuses for Loading Higher Balances

To encourage customers to load larger balances, Ethereal provides bonus stars (their reward currency) when a certain threshold is met. For example, when a customer loads $100 onto the app, they receive $10 bonus points. When $300 is loaded, the bonus increases to $330 points worth $30. This incentivizes customers to load larger amounts by providing additional rewards and value.

Provide Exclusive Promotions for App Users

To drive app adoption and continued use, Ethereal Cafe frequently offers promotions exclusively through the mobile app like free or discounted items, bonus star offers, and sweepstakes. App users often receive early access to promotions before the general public. Exclusive access to deals and rewards encourages app use and loading of balances.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to increasing customer retention and driving repeat business, implementing a robust loyalty program is one of the most effective strategies a restaurant can employ. As the examples above demonstrate, there are many creative ways to structure rewards to incentivize downloads, first-time orders, referrals, and ongoing engagement with your brand’s mobile app. Whether you offer points, discounts, store credit, or exclusive perks, a well-designed loyalty program integrated with your app ordering experience provides a major competitive advantage. With the right mix of signup bonuses, birthday freebies, and incentives to keep customers coming back, you’ll be well on your way to boosting retention and creating brand evangelists. At the end of the day, it’s about understanding your customers and offering meaningful rewards that resonate. By focusing on driving app adoption and maximizing loyalty engagement, you can increase visits, average spending, and customer lifetime value over the long term.

Doron Segal
Doron Segal

Hey I'm Doron, the co-founder & CTO of Per Diem — a mobile app platform for restaurants. I'm also a dad and a husband. I love to travel and meet new people.I love creating things, and see people using the stuff I built.Prior to Per Diem I worked at Saildrone, OpenTable, Apple, Beats Music, Siemens.

Tomer Molovinsky
Tomer Molovinsky

A second time founder with a passion for building products at the intersection of hospitality and technology. I've had the pleasure of launching reservation systems, mobile payment solutions, and loyalty programs at OpenTable and Resy, and witnessed how operators were losing a direct connection with their customers online. We built Per Diem to strengthen the relationships that businesses have with those customers, and to ensure that local businesses can thrive in today's economy.

Ashley Rodriguez
Ashley Rodriguez

Ashley is a freelance writer and podcast producer based in Madison, Wisconsin. She hosts a podcast called Boss Barista and writes an accompanying newsletter with full transcripts of each episode and articles about coffee and restaurant work. You can check out her work here (ashleyrodriguez.work/).

Explore featured restaurants and cafes

How Bakeries Like Chip City Use Referral Programs to Increase Customer Counts
How Bakeries Like Chip City Use Referral Programs to Increase Customer Counts
Read Case study
Skip the Line: How Groovy Goose Coffee Streamlined Orders With a Mobile App
Skip the Line: How Groovy Goose Coffee Streamlined Orders With a Mobile App
Read Case study
How Boba Bliss Drove Sales Through Mobile App Coupons
How Boba Bliss Drove Sales Through Mobile App Coupons
Read Case study
What Makes Iron Paffles & Coffee Stand Out in Charlottesville
What Makes Iron Paffles & Coffee Stand Out in Charlottesville
Read Case study
How Kona Coffee Roasters Transformed NYC’s Commuter Coffee Culture with Per Diem
How Kona Coffee Roasters Transformed NYC’s Commuter Coffee Culture with Per Diem
Read Case study
How Kimchi Box Became Michigan's Favorite Restaurant With Mobile Ordering
How Kimchi Box Became Michigan's Favorite Restaurant With Mobile Ordering
Read Case study
How Arkansas' the Busy Bean Tops Charts on Google Play With a Custom Mobile App
How Arkansas' the Busy Bean Tops Charts on Google Play With a Custom Mobile App
Read Case study
How Crema Coffee & Soda is Satisfying Customers in Utah With a Soda Pop App
How Crema Coffee & Soda is Satisfying Customers in Utah With a Soda Pop App
Read Case study
How Lucky Coffee Boosts Mobile App Adoption Through Email Campaigns
How Lucky Coffee Boosts Mobile App Adoption Through Email Campaigns
Read Case study
How Per Diem Helps Oaks Coffee House Give Back to The Chattanooga Community
How Per Diem Helps Oaks Coffee House Give Back to The Chattanooga Community
Read Case study
Run Your Cafe Like a Bank: How Ethereal Cafe Created a Starbucks-Style Mobile App
Run Your Cafe Like a Bank: How Ethereal Cafe Created a Starbucks-Style Mobile App
Read Case study
From One-Timers To Regulars: How Empire Tea and Coffee Transformed Customer Loyalty with Per Diem
From One-Timers To Regulars: How Empire Tea and Coffee Transformed Customer Loyalty with Per Diem
Read Case study
How Cosmic Coffeehouse Teamed Up with Per Diem and Square for an Out-of-This-World Grand Opening
How Cosmic Coffeehouse Teamed Up with Per Diem and Square for an Out-of-This-World Grand Opening
Read Case study
How Kino's Coffee and Others Have Boosted Their Sales with Push Notifications
How Kino's Coffee and Others Have Boosted Their Sales with Push Notifications
Read Case study
Coupon Codes That Work: Chip City's Free Cookie Strategy for Customer Acquisition
Coupon Codes That Work: Chip City's Free Cookie Strategy for Customer Acquisition
Read Case study
From Local Comfort Food to High Tech: How Joanie’s Modernized Operations
From Local Comfort Food to High Tech: How Joanie’s Modernized Operations
Read Case study
Rebranding a Bubble Tea Brand: How Niko Niko Boba Expanded Beyond Chatime
Rebranding a Bubble Tea Brand: How Niko Niko Boba Expanded Beyond Chatime
Read Case study
How Plomo Quesadillas Won Over Gen-Z With Square Loyalty
How Plomo Quesadillas Won Over Gen-Z With Square Loyalty
Read Case study
The Perfect Blend: How Coffee Dose Boosted Brand Loyalty with Per Diem
The Perfect Blend: How Coffee Dose Boosted Brand Loyalty with Per Diem
Read Case study
Ambee Coffee's Rebrand and Per Diem: A Match Made for Expansion
Ambee Coffee's Rebrand and Per Diem: A Match Made for Expansion
Read Case study
Why Kino's Coffee Switched Mobile Apps: A Case Study in Improving the Customer Experience
Why Kino's Coffee Switched Mobile Apps: A Case Study in Improving the Customer Experience
Read Case study
How DoorDash Drive and Per Diem Fueled Masala Wok and Tikka Shack's Delivery Dreams
How DoorDash Drive and Per Diem Fueled Masala Wok and Tikka Shack's Delivery Dreams
Read Case study
Per Diem's Square Integration: How Island Flavor Streamlined Operations
Per Diem's Square Integration: How Island Flavor Streamlined Operations
Read Case study
Hidden Grounds Case Study: When Apps Meet Customer Loyalty, Magic Happens
Hidden Grounds Case Study: When Apps Meet Customer Loyalty, Magic Happens
Read Case study
Scan for a Free Cookie: How Chip City's QR Codes Drove App Adoption
Scan for a Free Cookie: How Chip City's QR Codes Drove App Adoption
Read Case study
Close Line
Try Per Diem
Sign up for our monthly newsletter for all the latest in local restaurant trends, industry insights, and Per Diem product updates.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Close Line

Unlock new insights and trends by
downloading Ultimate Guide for Launching a Mobile Ordering App.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Close Line