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Your guide to rewarding customers and boosting business 

Most of us have opened our wallets at some point to find a stack of old, long-forgotten punch cards taking up valuable space. Fortunately, restaurant loyalty apps are making it easier than ever to give your customers the perks they want–like that free cup of coffee–while also providing business owners with valuable information they need to succeed.   

These programs take obsolete punch-card systems to the next level with unbeatable convenience and personalized rewards. However, some restaurant owners might hesitate to implement these systems, especially if they’re uncertain about the payoff.   

Today, we’ll demystify the concept of restaurant loyalty programs and show you why they’re a wise investment for businesses of all sizes.  

We’ll cover: 

Loyalty Apps 101 – How do they work? 

Before committing to a restaurant loyalty app, you’ll want to understand how it works for both your business and your customers. Here’s a closer look at the details. 

On the business end 

Understanding how to start a restaurant loyalty program is the first step toward increased customer retention. The easiest way to implement these programs is to utilize a cloud-based POS system with built-in loyalty features. You can then offer a website or mobile app where customers can place orders, see point totals, and access special offers.   

Customers can opt in when they visit or place an online order. Then, you can use their contact information to send them marketing emails, special offers, and more. If they’d rather not provide an email address, guests can track points associated with their credit card or phone number.  

On the customer’s side 

Your restaurant loyalty app or website should be highly intuitive and easy to navigate. With the click of a button, they should be able to see their point totals, browse your menu, place mobile orders, and pay. Also, they should be able to save their favorite orders for easy access and store payment information so the barriers to order are as low as possible.  

Remember, even Grandma should be able to navigate the process with ease. There’s no need to overcomplicate it! Restaurant loyalty apps and guest portals are the modern-day punch card but with more perks.  

The power of loyalty: Benefits for your restaurant 

Restaurant loyalty programs offer a ton of perks to business owners. Here are a few of the advantages to look forward to.  

Repeat customers 

One of the most potent benefits of restaurant loyalty programs is right in the name. These programs offer incentives to keep your customers coming back–and they’re effective.   

According to the 2023 Paytronix Loyalty Report, full-service restaurant guests who provide their email addresses for rewards programs visit 25% more frequently than those who are not email-eligible.  

Not only do active members return more frequently, but they also spend more money than non-members. That same Paytronix Loyalty Report demonstrates that members spend an average of 5% over non-members.  

Customer insights 

Restaurant loyalty apps–especially those fully integrated with a POS system–can provide highly valuable data for business owners. When customers sign up for your program, they’ll give you access to their dining preferences and order history so you can put together a profile of your guests and effectively cater to their individual needs. 

However, you can reap even more benefits when you compile the information from all your customer rewards members. By studying customer analytics, you can visualize trends in your restaurant’s performance, understand the spending habits of your client base, and gain valuable insights into your sales patterns. All of this allows you to better anticipate the needs of your customers and your business.  

Direct marketing 

You’ll get access to more than your customers’ spending habits when they sign up for your loyalty program. You’ll also receive their contact information, which might be the most useful tool of all.  

Personalized communication and targeted campaigns are among the best ways to encourage engagement and customer retention. After all, they provide a direct line of communication with your customers. Whether marketing through email, text messages, or push notifications from your restaurant loyalty app, you can let your customers know about special rewards, limited-time offers, and exclusive deals they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  

What’s in it for the customer? 

Your customers will also benefit when they sign up for your restaurant loyalty program. Check out some of the perks you can offer to your repeat visitors.  

Rewards they’ll love 

Despite the fact that loyalty members spend more per check than their non-member counterparts, 96% of loyalty rewards participants agree that these programs provide “more bang for their buck.” It’s easy to see why!   

Restaurant loyalty apps can offer customer rewards in several ways. The most notable way is by allowing guests to accrue points based on their purchases. They can then redeem those points for discounts, free menu items, or exclusive deals.   

Another way they can benefit is by taking advantage of special offers. Your restaurant loyalty program might include a sign-up bonus for new members, a free birthday dessert, or a tiered system that lets your guests see how close they are to leveling up.  

Ease of use 

The best restaurant loyalty apps make it easy for customers to place orders, pay, and track their rewards progress. In fact, streamlining these processes is one of the top perks of these programs.  

Mobile ordering is more popular than ever and is only expected to increase in the future. According to Statista, the market for online ordering food delivery is slated to reach revenues reaching $1.8 trillion by 2028. If you haven’t already jumped on the bandwagon, it might be time to take the ride! 

Findings from PYMTS say about 92% of the highest-performing restaurants utilize mobile ordering, loyalty programs, or a combination of both. It makes sense that if you remove barriers to ordering, customers are more likely to make a move. Considering that many restaurant loyalty apps allow users to save their favorite orders as well as their payment methods, this seems like a no-brainer.  

Feeling special 

Your restaurant loyalty program can make your regulars feel like VIP members at an exclusive club. Of course, limited promotional offers and special discounts have that effect on people. However, the best restaurant loyalty apps also provide business owners with valuable customer data. In turn, you can use that information to ensure your guests have the ultimate experience every time they visit.   

This is especially true of loyalty programs that are fully integrated with your restaurant’s POS  and guest management system. They allow you to save information like your customers’ menu preferences, favorite tables, and even allergies. Then, you can treat them like royalty every time you see their name appear on your reservation list or mobile orders. 

Success example: Restaurants winning with loyalty apps 

Do restaurant loyalty programs really work? The short answer is yes! Restaurants of all sizes can reap the rewards of a great loyalty app. For a more in-depth answer, here are a couple of restaurant loyalty app examples that show how these programs can revolutionize businesses of any size.  

Big-name winner 

Customers love Chick-fil-A for their tender, succulent chicken and fantastic customer service. However, their restaurant loyalty app also draws guests back time and again.  

The Chick-fil-A One program is a tiered, point-based system where the point-per-dollar ratio increases as visitors accrue more.   

When customers reach 1,000 points, they become Silver Members and begin earning 11 points on the dollar and gain the ability to share points with friends. Red Tier Members get an additional point for each buck they spend and access to Backstage Tours at the Chick-fil-A Support Center. Finally, Signature Members can get VIP experiences and early access to new menu items and other insider content.   

In addition to all the perks of this program, it’s also incredibly intuitive and easy to use. It utilizes geofencing technology to tell the restaurant when you arrive so they can start making your order. It even includes delivery options.   

At one point, the Chick-fil-A mobile app was the #1 choice in the Apple iTunes app store. They must be doing something right! 

Is a loyalty app right for you? 

Loyalty apps offer many benefits for businesses and customers alike. However, they might not be the solution for every restaurant. If you’re on the fence, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.  

Potential challenges 

Of course, if you don’t already have a cloud-based POS system that incorporates a restaurant loyalty program, it might be time to consider upgrading. This can be a costly endeavor, but the return on investment is almost always worth it.  

Once your system is up and running, you’ll need to input customer information. If you’re already taking reservations with a pen and paper, your hosting staff will likely be delighted at the change. However, this can take some time. 

Finally, you’ll need to promote your loyalty program and give customers a good reason to join. Tell them about members-only deals, how they can spend their points, and how easy it is to order or make reservations through the app or website.  

When it makes sense 

Depending on the size of your business and your clientele, you might find that a web-based guest portal is better than a mobile app. This might be the case if most of your customers are older or show no interest in new technology. Or those who want to save app space on their phones.  

When in doubt, ask your customers what they think!  

Choosing your loyalty partner 

Before you settle on a restaurant loyalty program provider, you’ll want to ask all the right questions to ensure you’re making the best decision.  

Here are a few elements to look for when weighing your options.  

Key features 

  • Easy to use and sign up. 
  • Integrated with your cloud-based POS system. 
  • Allows customers to check rewards status, browse your menu, place orders, make reservations, and leave feedback. 
  • Provides valuable information you can use to enhance your business and craft the ultimate customer experience.  


Restaurant loyalty apps might have their roots in the punch cards of yesteryear, but they won’t be leaving us any time soon. In fact, you can expect even more establishments–both big and small–to utilize these programs in the future.   

After all, they’re not just great for customers who want a deal. They’re also an excellent way for restaurants to meet their guests’ ever-evolving needs and ensure a positive experience.   

CAKE’s restaurant POS includes a built-in customer loyalty program that makes implementing these programs easier than ever. If you’re ready to find out how we can revolutionize your business, contact us for a free demo! 

Learn more about loyalty and schedule a demo today!

Frequently asked questions 

What is a loyalty program, and how does it work? 

Restaurant loyalty programs are marketing strategies that incentivize customers to return to your establishment. They might work by using your guest’s contact information to offer special deals, limited-time offers, and other perks. Many include a website or mobile app where customers can see their point values, browse your menu, place orders, and more. 

These programs are great for customers–after all, who doesn’t love a good deal? However, they’re also incredibly valuable for restaurant owners who can use them to increase business and gather useful information about their customers’ preferences to craft the ultimate experience every time they visit.  

Why is restaurant loyalty important? 

Studies show that the vast majority of restaurant sales come from repeat customers. So, it’s essential to ensure visitors have a reason to return. Of course, your food is a big factor here, but there’s a lot you can do as a restaurant owner to incentivize their business. A restaurant loyalty program can give guests the extra boost they need to keep your establishment in mind when their stomachs begin to growl.  

Do customers have to pay for membership? 

Nope! Restaurant loyalty programs are completely free for customers. They can access them online or download a free mobile app. In exchange for a minor amount of data, they can receive discounts, rewards, and other perks just for signing up.  

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