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5 customer loyalty program ideas


You may believe that great menu items will automatically lead to a successful restaurant. Although that’s an important aspect of growing your business, building relationships with your customer base is a vital part of bringing diners back through your restaurant doors. It increases retention and gives people the opportunity to feel valued and appreciated. 

And just like with any relationship, forming and maintaining great ones take work. So how do you turn occasional diners into loyal regulars? By showing that you appreciate their business. Read on to learn more about why customer appreciation is important for your business and discover simple ways to show your customers just how much you care.

Why customer appreciation is important 

When it comes to customer appreciation, the definition is fairly vague. Essentially, it’s anything that a business does to express gratitude and thankfulness to customers for continuing to choose your business over the competition. And this aspect of your business success model is extremely important. In fact, 68% of customers will not return to a restaurant because of perceived indifference when it comes to customer service, according to Bloomtools. 

The restaurant business is extremely competitive — there are a lot of hungry people in the world! New restaurants may bring customers out of curiosity, but an inability to cultivate a relationship with those diners will result in those numbers phasing out. Essentially, customer experience is everything. People pay attention to how they feel while at your restaurant, and that is what they will most likely tell their friends when talking about your establishment. 

On top of giving your customers the best possible experience, good customer appreciation practices can increase sales. When diners have a positive time at your restaurant, they are more likely to come back, boosting sales in the process. 

If you’re stumped on what customer appreciation methods to implement, boost customer satisfaction and sales by trying out the following techniques. 

Customer appreciation ideas

As wonderful as customer appreciation is, it’s not always easy to come up with ways to show your loyal customers that you appreciate them. Your methods don’t have to break the bank or over complicate your restaurant operations — sometimes, the sweetest gestures are simple and meaningful. Here are some customer appreciation ideas to try out in your organization:

1. Offer a customer loyalty program

Even customers who love your restaurant sometimes need a little extra push, so offer diners an incentive to return. Consider employing a loyalty rewards program or customer loyalty program to encourage repeat visits with rewards like small gift baskets, 10% off, a free appetizer with their next purchase, a gift card, an appreciation gift or points that can be earned on every order and redeemed for specific prizes.

2. Make a personal connection

Do you know your customers’ birthdays and anniversaries? Remembering personal details about customers is one of the best ways to show you care. If you’re running email marketing, keep customers’ important dates on file and send them a special note — and better yet, extend a special discount or promotion to celebrate on their special day! 

3. Set up a referral program

Word of mouth travels fast. Customers are more likely to tell friends about your restaurant if you offer them an incentive for spreading the word. Give people a customer appreciation gift like discounts for posting about your restaurant on social media, forwarding your marketing emails to friends or even bringing them in person. What better way to gain new diners than to trust your already loyal fan base to deliver them to you?

4. Ask for customer feedback

Nothing shows customers you care more than being proactive about asking for their feedback. You can encourage feedback through a variety of channels – on your website, via phone or on a reviews site. Regularly monitor these channels and be prepared to handle any issues that arise immediately. If you receive a good tip or suggestion, then implement that change. This will show that you’re genuinely listening and have an interest in improving your restaurant — which could increase customer retention.

5. Remember the small details

It’s the little things. Every restaurant has those regular customers who come in like clockwork, ordering the same thing each time. Encourage your staff to remember these customers and even keep their information on file. Demonstrate your dedication to customer appreciation by recognizing these customers and ensuring they get the best service each and every time.

6. Send thank you notes

If you’re running an email campaign or have your customers’ email addresses, then send out an email thanking them for their business and telling them to return to your restaurant soon. This could also be a great place to give them additional information like upcoming specials or meal deals to pique their interest and ensure they stop by again. 

7. Feature your customers

As both a thank you to your customers and a great marketing tactic, feature loyal diners on your social media or blog to give them a moment to shine. For a personal touch, this could be a picture of them enjoying their favorite menu item with a quote about why they love your restaurant, a blog about how they found your business in the first place. The diner being highlighted will feel special, and this blog or social post could boost engagement with your organization. 

8. Set up a customer appreciation event

Whether you want to host an all-day celebration for all in-person guests or set up a pop-up party for a select audience, a customer appreciation event may be a special way to thank your diners. Try giving out free samples of various menu items or offering popular entrees for a certain percentage off — whatever you choose to implement during this customer appreciation day,  just ensure your customers feel valued. 

9. Give back to the community

To help your customers feel appreciated, pick a method to show your gratitude that will focus on giving back. Your loyal diners most likely have non-profit organizations or charities that they care deeply about. Instead of doing something that will directly benefit those customers, donate to one or more of those causes to help people benefit the community with their purchase. This can be a great way for your restaurant to not only connect with its consumers but an opportunity to demonstrate the positive impact that your company’s mission can have with help from your customers. 

This could look like donating a certain percentage of every purchase to a non-profit organization or organizing a food drive for your local homeless shelter. A small gesture could go a long way to help your diners understand that you care both about them as well as the less fortunate. 

10. Provide free delivery

Food delivery has been around for a long time but has risen in popularity over the last couple of years. Since many people love to take advantage of a restaurant’s delivery services, offering free food transportation can be another technique to show your customers appreciation. A positive delivery experience can boost customer loyalty and help ease the burden of having to drive and get a meal from a physical location off of your diner’s shoulders. 

Although free delivery can be a great offer for your customers, you should always strive for an impeccable delivery experience for each of your diners. Are you wondering how to do that? You’ve come to the right place.

How to offer a positive delivery experience

People generally appreciate efficiency and speed when it comes to food. That means if you want your customers to feel valued, then give them the best possible delivery experience. Delivering quality service can ensure your diners will feel satisfied and become repeat customers at your establishment. On the flip side, being unable to give people a good encounter with your restaurant through delivery can seriously damage your reputation. Here are some ways to level up your food delivery:

Deliver food on time

In the fast-paced world that we live in, it’s increasingly important that things happen in a timely manner. The same goes for delivery. When people order from your restaurant, they expect that the food will come quickly and within the estimated arrival time. Make sure that their hopes are met by having the products ready and dropped off in a timely manner. 

According to Capgemini, 55% of customers will even switch to a competitor if that business offers a faster delivery service. If your company says that the meal will be delivered by 12:15 p.m. but it actually isn’t delivered until 12:30 p.m., the customer could grow restless and irritated, making it less likely that they will order from your restaurant again. 

If your restaurant realizes that the delivery is going to be delayed for any reason, it’s important to let the customer know that their meal will be later than expected and why. Being open and transparent with your diners will let them know that you value their time and appreciate their business, which will increase brand loyalty. 

Use a route optimization tool 

One way to get your customers’ food into their hands as quickly as possible is to use a route optimization tool to make your deliveries more efficient and fast. This isn’t always necessary for destinations that are close to your restaurant, but it can help your delivery drivers avoid traffic or longer routes. Receive the most efficient directions and see that your customers get their food in a much shorter amount of time. 

Keep food in good condition

It might seem obvious, but when customers order from your restaurant, they assume that it’s going to show up exactly how they expected it to look. You’ve most likely experienced the sad instance when you order food and it’s dropped off on your doorstep in complete disarray — it’s definitely not the way you thought your mealtime would go. 

To avoid this happening to your customers, ensure that you have insulated and secured packages to transport your food in. On top of that, make sure that you train your delivery drivers with proper handling procedures and food best practices.

Provide real-time tracking 

Technology allows you to place orders through an app or website, but it shouldn’t stop there. Give your customers the best delivery experience by allowing them to track their food in real time. Delivery tracking reduces customer worry about where their entree is and when it will arrive, and allows them to be prepared for when the food is dropped off. 

Another way to keep customers informed about their delivery is to send out text messages from when the order is placed to when it’s finished being made and throughout the delivery process. It may seem unnecessary, but people generally appreciate being updated on their meals. 

Show proof of delivery

Food delivery is different from other types of delivery because the person will most likely be at the location where they are having the food delivered. But, it’s still important to verify and show proof that your delivery driver dropped off the meal at the specified location. 

This can help your restaurant ensure that each entree makes it to the correct destination, and it gives your customers a final update on their awaited package. Having evidence of delivery can also save your restaurant money on refunds or misplaced orders. Stick with your customers from start to finish by seeing that the meal has proof of delivery and gets into the diner’s hands. 

Good delivery practices directly correlate to customer appreciation because they boost satisfaction with your restaurant’s services. If your restaurant doesn’t have the bandwidth to ensure that your delivery drivers are meeting your diner’s expectations, our Grubhub delivery services can help. You can use your own drivers or tap into our professional driver fleet to give your customers the best possible experience. Grubhub delivery offers:

  • Real-time order tracking.
  • 24/7 customer care.
  • Simple driver management.

As you implement some of the above customer appreciation ideas or gift ideas, also consider taking advantage of our delivery services that are proven to increase takeout and delivery order volume.

Although it’s important to show your customers that you value them, there are some factors to avoid when trying out new customer appreciation tactics. 

Customer appreciation mistakes to avoid

Your customers deserve to feel recognized for their loyalty to your restaurant. But, what happens when your company chooses a customer appreciation method that doesn’t feel genuine or on brand? When you are conveying your admiration for your diners, it’s vital that you are genuine. Ingenuine interactions with people can leave a poor taste in customers’ mouths and give them no desire to return to your business. 

How to give genuine appreciation

Any and all customer acknowledgment methods are nice gestures and would most likely be appreciated by people. But, in order to give diners the best possible impression of your restaurant and to remain consistent with the way your brand sounds and interacts with customers, implement gratitude ideas that give your specific diners exactly what they want. That way, you differentiate yourself from other restaurants and grow your customer relationship by making them feel known and special. 

Here are tips to help you interact with your customers in the most effective and genuine way possible: 

Understand who your customers are 

All of your diners are unique — specific people are drawn to your restaurant for a reason. To genuinely reward your customers, get a better understanding of who they are. You can do this by accessing loyal customer data that will tell you who it is that you serve, what they order, what times they often visit your restaurant and what would motivate them to be a repeat diner. Once you understand who it is that you are rewarding, you can better learn the ways that these people will feel the most appreciated. 

Ask your customers about themselves

Who better to ask about customer satisfaction than the loyal customers themselves. Surveys can be an effective way to gather information directly from the source. You can ask diners about what they enjoy about your restaurant, what deals or appreciation tactics would motivate them to return and if they would be interested in a customer reward or loyalty program. 

After gaining this data, you can pick a customer appreciation method that people would truly enjoy and feel valued by. You can send this survey out through emails that you have access to, or put the URL or QR code of the survey on the back of printed or digital receipts. 

Stay on brand
Your brand is what makes your restaurant unique. Don’t simply jump onto a bandwagon of popular customer appreciation gifts or methods because you witness those tactics working for other businesses. Stay true to who your restaurant is and figure out what appreciation ideas work specifically for your customers. If you aren’t sure what your brand is, start with a mission statement and focus on what is important to your restaurant — then, build all messaging and outreach off of that copy. 

Use Grubhub services

Impress your customers with genuine interactions using Grubhub services and technology. We offer promotions and loyalty tools that can build your business, a commission-free branded online ordering website made specifically for your restaurant, delivery options that fit your needs and many other solutions for restaurant owners just like you. 

Through Grubhub, restaurants can connect with over 33+ million hungry diners looking for their next favorite restaurant — which could be your business! With customer appreciation ideas ready and waiting for you to implement with the help of Grubhub’s easily integrated services, you’re more than ready to help your customers feel valued and acknowledged. 

When you partner with us, you also gain access to:

  • Support from real people, including a dedicated account manager, free of charge.
  • Access to new diners that are ready to become loyal customers.
  • Additional revenue for your restaurant through delivery and takeout orders.
  • Increased awareness of who you serve and what they desire from your restaurant.
  • User-friendly marketing and promotional tools.
  • A professional photo shoot and menu consultation — completely free. 

Are you ready to reach new customers and help existing customers feel valued with a customer appreciation strategy? Sign up with Grubhub for Restaurants and your first 30 days are free! 



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