Building Customer Loyalty

In an last week’s blog post we spoke about the opportunity restaurants have to increase brand loyalty as a by-product of the implementation of sustainable practices within their operations, and while that is one avenue with myriad benefits which operators are exploring to capture and retain customer loyalty, it’s simply not enough in such a competitive market.

Over the last few years customer loyalty has been on the decline in full-service restaurants due primarily to the economic pressures consumers face, the breadth of choice available to them, and the cannibalization of full-service restaurant patrons by lower cost fast-casual restaurants. To retain customers, and build a consistently high level of brand loyalty in the market, operators therefore have to approach this issue from a number of different angles.

For consumers looking to watch what they spend, restaurants are seeing that carefully crafted loyalty programs can substantially increase customer retention and loyalty. And, with 59% of consumers taking the availability of a loyalty program within a restaurant as part of their decision making process when selecting which restaurants to dine in, it’s also a key factor in driving new, or lost, business.

In another approach, some operators are focusing on key consumer-led trends for the year ahead—such as the enduring demand for locally sourced products and produce, healthy yet craveable menu items, and healthful, innovative menus for children—to not only meet consumer demand, but increase their existing brand loyalty through targeted, location-specific menu innovation.

And yet others are turning to technology to help increase customer loyalty, by providing customers, new and returning, with technology which connects, educates, and rewards them. This is because customer loyalty starts with consumer engagement, and today, consumer engagement starts with the digital experience. It is only by engaging consumers at this first touchpoint, by providing mobile compatible restaurant websites, and even more importantly to consumers, mobile accessible, up-to-date menus, that restaurant brands can start to build consumer engagement which they can then capitalize on in-store through their loyalty programs.