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AI: Coming to a Loyalty Program Near You

AI: Coming to a Loyalty Program Near You

by David Klemt

In a logical step forward, artificial intelligence is now coming to restaurant loyalty programs to enhance personalization and encourage engagement.

Proponents say that AI is in a position to learn about program members and make recommendations. Most importantly, they claim that such technology learns to present offers that will motivate guests to make a purchase.

At the end of the day, that is the reason loyalty programs exist.

One international chain embracing AI tech to enhance their program is Wendy’s. As one would expect, they’re using AI to study an individual’s preferences, visit frequency, purchase history, and more.

Should this investment in AI prove successful, the Wendy’s loyalty program will further establish itself as one of the best in the industry. In addition to enhancing the gamification aspect of the app, offer uptake should increase.

It’s no secret that consumers want personalized offers. However, that doesn’t mean a marketing email with their first name in the greeting. A truly personalized offer is one that shows the company extending it understands the recipient.

For a surface-level example, let’s say a loyalty program user’s purchase history makes it clear they’re exclusively vegetarian or vegan. It’s incredibly likely that offering this person a deal on a double cheeseburger will fail. Over time, after receiving enough offers that don’t resonate, that user may decrease visits and even exit the loyalty program.

Toward the end of last year, Wendy’s said they expected sales driven by digital opportunities to reach nearly $2 billion. A key driver is, of course, their loyalty program.

It makes sense, therefore, for the QSR giant to invest in AI to enhance loyalty.

Punchh It

Wendy’s is partnering with PAR Tech to enhance their loyalty program via artificial intelligence.

In 2021, PAR Tech acquired a loyalty and guest engagement solutions provider called Punchh for $500 million. Now called PAR Punchh, the aim is to make it simpler for restaurants to leverage loyalty.

“With the Punchh acquisition, we are building a platform that enables restaurants to scale quickly, own their path to innovation, and take back their guest relationship. This eliminates the need for juggling disjointed vendors, developing cumbersome point-to-point integrations, and relying on 3rd party dependencies. At the same time, Punchh advances our ability to provide customers with an end-to-end solution, from guest-to-kitchen, through one unified data source,” said PAR Tech CEO and president Savneet Singh back in 2021.

Per PAR Tech, there are more than 200 enterprise-level restaurant chains using Punchh currently. It stands to reason that number will grow if partnering with the platform proves lucrative for brands like Wendy’s.

Further, as AI tech reaches ubiquity and delivers more desirable results, it should become more affordable for regional chains and independents to leverage it as well.

Operators of all sizes who offer loyalty programs should keep an eye on AI-enhanced programs and the opportunities they present.

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SevenRooms Unveils 3 Powerful New Tools

SevenRooms Unveils Three Powerful New Tools

by David Klemt

Booth seating inside a restaurant or bar

SevenRooms clients will have access to three new tools that will further enhance guest engagement, increase loyalty, and boost relationships with VIPs.

Each of these consumer-facing solutions is launching in time for the holiday season.

First up, 7R Priority Alerts. This tool helps operators manage their waitlists and generate revenue. We all know that even restaurants that require reservation fees end up with no-shows. Some platforms are capable of attempting to fill those available reservation slots. However, there’s not normally much control over who receives availability alerts.

Now, operators will have the power to target specific guests through automated reservation notifications. As 7R explains this tool, operators will be able to identify, label, and reward their most-valuable guests. These guests will feel like VIPs, increasing their loyalty, visits, and spends.

Then there’s Private Line. This is my favorite of the three new tools. Operators who implement this tool will be able to share an exclusive messaging line. So, a VIP such as a big spender, frequent diner, a member of the press, or an influencer can reach out to the team directly.

With Private Line, a VIP can inquire about a last-second reservation or make a special request. Again, this is the type of feature that increases loyalty and visit frequency.

Most people find new restaurants through friend, family, or coworker referrals. That got the 7R team thinking: How can restaurants reward people who refer new guests?

Enter: Word-of-Mouth Referrals, the third new tool on this list.

Pushed to guests via automated email marketing campaigns and post-visit surveys, a custom referral link is created for every diner. The guests then share that link, new guests make reservations, and the cycle continues. Operators, of course, reward guests for these referrals through any number of means, such as redeemable loyalty program points, comped F&B items, etc.

To learn more, please read the 7R press release about Priority Alerts, Private Line, and Word-of-Mouth Referrals below.


Priority Alerts, Private Line, and Word-of-Mouth Referrals redefine guest engagement and communication between restaurants and their most important guests

NEW YORK – SevenRooms, a guest experience and retention platform for the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of Priority Alerts, Private Line, and Word-of-Mouth Referrals, three new consumer-facing features that help operators connect with and reward their most loyal guests. With guests expecting more from their dining experiences than ever before, these solutions were purpose-built to solve real pain points for hospitality operators. These include alerting a specific diner about reservation availability, providing new ways for guests to get in touch and making it easier for guests to recommend their favorite restaurants to friends and family.

Priority Alerts helps operators control who they send automated reservation availability notifications to so they can prioritize their most valuable guests. In comparison to other reservation notification systems, restaurants choose who receives a Priority Alert first, not just deciding between a blast to their entire waitlist or to an exclusive subset of credit card holders. Instead, they can prioritize the guests that matter most to their business – whether that’s a VIP, loyalty member, frequent or recent diner, local, high spender, or someone else. This helps restaurants reward their most valuable guests to get them through their doors more often.

Private Line was created to give important guests an easier, faster way to get in touch with their favorite restaurants. With Private Line, restaurants can now offer their high-value guests – like VIPs, press, frequent diners and top spenders – an exclusive messaging line that can be used to instantly get in touch with their team. Whether a guest is looking for a last-minute reservation, has a special request, needs to add a friend to a booking or another ask, restaurants no longer miss out on opportunities to wow the guests that matter most. All conversations are centralized within the SevenRooms mobile app, making it easy for staff to book a table, add in requests or make other changes with just a few clicks.

Word-of-Mouth Referrals, the third consumer-facing feature launching with our fall release, gives restaurants the ability to motivate, track and reward loyal guests for referring new diners. According to recent data, 61 percent of diners discover new restaurants from friends, family and co-workers. Yet, without an easy way to capture this untapped demand, restaurants have historically left dollars on the table. Word-of-Mouth Referrals automatically creates personal referral links for every diner – shared through post-meal surveys and automated email campaigns – making it simple for guests to share with their networks and be rewarded with perks they’ll want to earn and use. Restaurants can tap into this high-value marketing channel for their business, rewarding loyalty and ensuring exceptional experiences for newcomers and regulars that translate into more sales and profits.

“At SevenRooms, our focus from day one has been on building innovations that help operators increase profitability, drive sales and improve the experiences of their guests. These three new features, all integrated into the SevenRooms platform, give operators new ways to connect and communicate with their guests – helping them evolve to meet the needs of guests who know what they want, how they want it, when they want it,” said Angela DeFranco, VP of Product at SevenRooms. “In an increasingly competitive landscape where consumers have more choice than ever before in where they choose to take their business, we’re dedicated to finding new ways for restaurants to connect and market more effectively to their guests with tools that not only make them more money, but help them execute on experiences that guests remember and recommend. Restaurant marketing is no longer one-size-fits-all, and we are redefining the role that technology can play in creating truly personalized guest engagement and marketing touchpoints at every stage of the guest journey.”

“The plan was to always move to SevenRooms because the technology was far superior, the potential for integration with our point of sale system was a lot stronger and owning the data was a huge deal,” said Kim McDiarmid, Partner at Liquid and Larder. “SevenRooms’ Priority Alerts has been a dream for us. Compared to our previous platform, it’s a lot more customizable and fully automated so it does the heavy lifting for us. We’re going to use it to give priority to guests who match criteria such as those who dine with us regularly, and with that, it will work even harder for us.”

For more details on SevenRooms’ newest innovations, please visit sevenrooms.com/new.

About SevenRooms

SevenRooms is a guest experience and retention platform that helps hospitality operators create exceptional experiences that drive revenue and repeat business. Trusted by thousands of hospitality operators around the world, SevenRooms powers tens of millions of guest experiences each month across both on- and off-premises. From neighborhood restaurants and bars to international, multi-concept hospitality groups, SevenRooms is transforming the industry by empowering operators to take back control of their businesses to build direct guest relationships, deliver exceptional experiences and drive more visits and orders, more often. The full suite of products includes reservation, waitlist and table management, online ordering, mobile order & pay, review aggregation, email marketing and marketing automation. Founded in 2011 and venture-backed by Amazon, Comcast Ventures, PSG and Highgate Ventures, SevenRooms has dining, hotel F&B, nightlife and entertainment clients globally, including: Marriott International, MGM Resorts International, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Wynn Resorts, Jumeirah Group, Hard Rock Hotels & Resorts, Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Bloomin’ Brands, José Andrés Group, Union Square Hospitality Group, Australian Venue Company, The Wolseley Hospitality Group, Dishoom, Live Nation and Topgolf. www.sevenrooms.com

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Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

by David Klemt

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries

Not for the first time, Taco Bell is showing the industry the power of offering fan-favorite limited-time offers and leveraging subscriptions.

These days, everything seems to be subscription-based. We stream shows and movies via subscriptions. We can have food, clothing, gadgets, collectibles, and knick-knacks delivered to us by subcription.

Car features like heated seats, remote engine start, and self-driving? Subscriptions. Want to use software we used to buy once and install? Now we’re paying monthly to use it (or up front for a “discounted” yearly fee).

So, why should people find it odd to subscribe to one of their favorite restaurants? If the value is there for a consumer it’s no different than paying a monthly fee for other products and services to which they subscribe.

Clearly, Taco Bell has an acute understanding of people’s comfort with subscriptions. For many consumers, they’re the norm, just part of their daily routine.

As evidence, I introduce Exibit A, the Taco Lover’s Pass.

What makes this subscription noteworthy is the fact that it’s only a few years old, and it’s not even a permanent subscription. As Taco Bell Rewards members know all too well, only they can cop a Taco Lover’s Pass, and it only comes available every so often.

Most times, members have just one day to grab a pass. However, people had two whole days to decide the last time it became available.

And now, Exhibit B, the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass.

An LTO Subscription and Item

Look, tens of millions of people love tacos. So, it’s logical that the Taco Lover’s Pass is so successful.

And if the past several years have shown us anything, millions of people also love Nacho Fries. The LTO menu item first appeared in Taco Bell restaurants in 2018. A few years later, in 2021, the Taco Lover’s Pass was tested in Arizona.

Why wouldn’t we eventually see a Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass, given the hype that follows every reintroduction of this popular item? Taco Bell has mastered the art of the LTO and the subscription. More specifically, they’ve mastered the recurring subscription. Remember, their passes aren’t permanent offerings.

Further, the iconic QSR also understands the power of the “drop.” At this point, it seems as though Taco Bell has noticed the rabid stir a limited-edition shoe or clothing drop can create for the fashion industry, studied it, and adapted it to foodservice.

With that said, the last Taco Lover’s Pass was accompanied by a menu item drop: the Toasted Breakfast Taco. If you think the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass also ushered in an LTO, you’re correct.

The first-ever Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass comes along with the limited-time-only offer of Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries.

Take the Nacho Fries, slather them in a sauce of melted mozzarella, monterey pepper jack, and cheddar cheeses, add Taco Bell nacho cheese and chipotle sauce, and toss on some marinated steak. There you go—Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries. They’re just $4.99 while supplies last, and there’s a spicy version made with jalapeños.

It’s no surprise that Taco Bell BrandVue’s most-loved Mexican restaurant brand, and number eight on their overall list of most-loved restaurant brands.


Loyalty and rewards programs, subscription services, hyped LTO menu drops… These aren’t the exclusive domain of global chain restaurants.

Independent operators can absolutely leverage LTOs and subscriptions. Moreover, indies can do so with as much—if not more—specificity. Independent and regional chain operators tend to be far more nimble than their large chain counterparts.

After all, it’s much easier to implement change in one or a handful of restaurants than it is hundreds or thousands of locations. In theory, single-unit operators also know their loyal guests on a more intimate level. Where that’s the case, they should know what levers to pull to generate interest and encourage repeat visits.

It’s no small task to create a subscription program, let alone a free-to-use-but-engaging, branded rewards program. And that’s to say nothing of coming up with menu item so powerful that taking it away for months at a time is a feasible, profitable thing to do. Although, if you’ve shrunk your menu and eliminated a decent food or drink performer, you may have somewhere to start.

With time and thoughtful consideration, independent and regional operators can absolutely nail rewards, subscriptions, and LTOs.

Image: Taco Bell

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Taco Bell Racking Up Rewards Program Wins

Taco Bell Racking Up Rewards Program Wins

by David Klemt

"Say yes to tacos" graffiti

Taco Bell, masters of the limited-time offer and loyalty program, continue to rack up wins with the return of a fan-favorite promotion, and more.

The fast-food giant operates more than 7,800 restaurants in the US alone. However, the company understands that sheer numbers aren’t enough to turn a profit.

Rather, Taco Bell continually proves they understand the power of promotions, loyalty, and LTOs.

The QSR routinely releases specialty items, then packs them away to generate buzz and traffic by making them available once again—for a limited time. Compellingly, Taco Bell also ties their LTOs to their loyalty program. Often times, the only way for guests to enjoy special perks and items is to be a Taco Bell Rewards member.

Not only does this help to engage existing members, this approach drives new program signups.

Case in point: the Taco Lover’s Pass.

National Taco Day Promotion

If you’re industry or a fan of Taco Bell, you should be aware of the Taco Lover’s Pass by now.

Tracing its genesis to 2021 in Arizona, the LTO pops up every now and then. In exchange for $10, those who grab a pass can get one free taco each day for 30 consecutive days.

Oh, and the pass is now only available via the Taco Bell app, and to members of the Taco Bell Rewards program. Again, this is an excellent way to boost engagement. Do guests want to take advantage of this LTO? Great—they’ll need to exchange their info and provide access to themselves to do so.

Normally, the Taco Lover’s Pass is available for purchase for just one day. However, this time around Taco Bell gave rewards members two days to snag one. This is likely due to a new menu item drop coming tomorrow.

For quite some time now, Taco Bell has been hinting that they’ll be making breakfast easier and better. And now we know how they plan to accomplish that goal.

Joining the Seasoned Beef Crunchy Taco, Seasoned Beef Crunchy Taco Supreme, Seasoned Beef Soft Taco, Seasoned Beef Soft Taco Supreme, Spicy Potato Soft Taco, Seasoned Beef Doritos® Locos Tacos, and Seasoned Beef Doritos® Locos Tacos Supreme on the Taco Lover’s Pass is the new Toasted Breakfast Taco.

Today, October 12 (a Taco Tuesday!), Taco Bell drops the Toasted Breakfast Taco, and holders of their coveted pass can grab one for free.

Clearly, Tuesdays are important to Taco Bell. Let’s not forget that they very publicly challenged the “Taco Tuesday” trademark, and very publicly celebrated its cancellation. So, launching an all-new item that will drive traffic to Taco Bell during the breakfast daypart makes perfect sense. The drop also further solidifies their branding and marketing.

Steal a Base…

…Steal a Taco. Not only is the Taco Lover’s Pass back, so is Taco Bell’s Major League Baseball promotion.

And, once again, it’s available only via the Taco Bell app, and only to Taco Bell Rewards members.

Focusing on the Fall Classic, “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” is a collaboration between Taco Bell, the MLB, and Topps.

Starting October 27 (not a Tuesday), the first player to steal a base will earn the title Taco Hero. That player will also earn free Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Tacos for Taco Bell Rewards members.

Taking things further, however, is Topps. The iconic trading card brand has put a limited run of Topps TacoFractor cards into circulation. People who hold the card of the first player to steal a base during the 2023 World Series could win Taco Bell for life. For this promotion, that comes in the form of a digital $15,000 Taco Bell gift card.

Alternatively, the holders of Topps TacoFractor Wild Cards could win the big prize.

On October 10 (a Tuesday!), Taco Bell Rewards members will have the chance to score free Topps Chrome or Cosmic Chrome packs. This limited Tuesday Drop could lead to a Taco Hero card, which in turn can lead to winning Taco Bell for life.


Unquestionably, Taco Bell understands the power of marketing messaging, branding, promotions, and the LTO.

However, they also understand the need for loyalty and rewards programs to do more than just offer discounts and free menu items. A great loyalty program needs to be big, bold, and encourage constant engagement.

With that in mind, it’s more than likely time for most operators, regardless of size, to review and rethink their programs.

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Time to Rethink Your Loyalty Program?

Is it Time to Rethink Your Loyalty Program?

by David Klemt

Two pepperoni pizzas in open boxes

So, you have a loyalty program in place. That’s great, but is it time to review its performance and implement meaningful changes to improve engagement?

I know, I know—that feeling of “if it ain’t one thing, it’s another” never seems to go away. That’s part of operator life.

The good news is that, if you have a loyalty or rewards program and it has been working, you’re a step ahead of many other operators. In that way, it’s similar to implementing an actual onboarding process and including an employee manual.

But what should you do if you notice engagement dropping? Well, it may indicate that while there’s interest in your program, it’s getting stale. Or, perhaps people don’t like the rewards or think they’re earning rewards quickly enough.

If engagement isn’t at the levels you want or is noticeably declining, it’s time to review your program with a critical eye.

In fact, it’s a great idea to ask your team for their feedback regarding loyalty. After all, your team hears guest feedback in real time. Also, they likely have some ideas of their own that can help refresh the program. After all, some people on your team may be members of loyalty programs themselves and have some thoughts.

Engagement via Gamification

The word “gamification,” much like “pivot,” may be a word that annoys you. That doesn’t make it any less relevant.

Millions of people are on their phones nearly every waking moment of the day. And millions among those millions engage with brands and apps via games or game-like features. It keeps these people coming back for more.

One restaurant chain that understands the power of gamification is Jimmy John’s.

First, the brand’s loyalty and rewards program has an interesting name: Freaky Fast Rewards. Second, they issue challenges that drive member engagement.

For example, for Q1 2023, Jimmy John’s threw down the Gauntlet via the Freaky Fast Rewards program. Members had until the middle of March to purchase every sandwich on the menu. The reward? A branded beanbag chair that looks like a bag of Jimmy Chips.

Of course, the program engages its members in other gamified ways. There are achievement badges to earn, for instance. And there have been challenges that were narrowed down to daypart to drive traffic and engagement.

Free food and merchandise are common rewards, but there are also surprises that members can earn to keep things fresh.

Program Updates

Another brand giving their loyalty program a refresh is Domino’s.

Rather than do what some other companies have done, the pizza giant is lowering the threshold to earn rewards.

Around a year ago, Chipotle experienced significant backlash from loyalty program members when they went the other direction. In response, one would think, to rising costs, the brand increased the amount its members had to spend to earn rewards.

That went about as well with many of their customers as you’d expect, of course. Loyalty and rewards programs are meant to increase traffic and spend per guest, not alienate them and drive them away.

Enter: The Domino’s Rewards refresh.

“We are thrilled to give the brand’s loyal customers additional ways to earn free Domino’s items more often,” said Mark Messing, Domino’s vice president of digital experience and loyalty, via press release. “At a time when most brands are scaling back their loyalty programs and making it more difficult to earn and redeem points, Domino’s is doing the opposite. We want to make it easier to reward our customers and give them more options so they can get rewarded faster.”

Members can not only earn points more quickly (every $5 spent equals 10 rewards points), they can redeem more quickly as well. For example, a 16-piece Parmesan bread bites is just 20 points. Free stuffed cheesy bread is only 40 points now. And that’s to say nothing of offers that are exclusive to members.


Only you, of course, can know how to adjust your loyalty program. You need to look at your data to understand the best solution for waning engagement.

The last thing you should do is lower points thresholds without knowing your numbers. And if you’re considering gamifying your program, you need to know if that’s an approach your guests will actually like.

In other words, don’t rush to upgrade or update your loyalty program. Take time, collect relevant data, engage your team, and move forward with any changes with strategic clarity.

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The Art of the Preparation

The Art of the Preparation

by David Klemt

Overhead view of chef slicing and chopping ingredients

Chef Brian Duffy‘s take on preparation and its overall impact on the guest experience extends to every aspect of operations.

In one sentence during his 2023 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago cooking demo, Chef Duffy sums up the power of the proper mindset.

“The art of the preparation creates the experience,” says Chef Duffy.

Now, he was preparing plant-based shrimp from New Wave Foods at the time. After preparing a pan, the revered chef was readying a pound of FABI Award-winning New Wave Shrimp for Duffified Shrimp Fried Rice.


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A post shared by Chef Brian Duffy (@chefbriduff)

When making this dish, Chef Duffy chops roughly half the New Wave Shrimp in half. He does so to enhance the dish’s texture, and therefore the guest experience. Additionally, Chef Duffy likes to toast basmati rice before adding it to the pan with the shrimp and vegetables.

Again, Chef Duffy shared his view on the guest experience when cutting animal-alternative shrimp (the product is made with sustainable seaweed and mung bean).


Okay, so what does slicing or chopping shrimp have to do with the guest experience? It’s the attention to what others may consider a tiny detail. In fact, some may deem important details “optional.”

Whether front-of-house, back-of-house, or back office, everyone’s mindset matters. How one views their role and how they approach their responsibilities impacts every element of a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or hotel’s success.

Choosing to halve half the shrimp because it will deliver a better experience speaks volumes. It’s a commitment to perfect the “small” details so every guest walks away wanting to return.

If an operator wants to know if they have a chef or an executive chef, this is one way to tell. Is the chef teaching their brigade? Guiding them? Implementing policies around preparation? Or are they just punching the clock, making sure the rest of the team shows up, and sending out food that’s “good enough”?

Operators can apply versions of those questions to every role in the house, including their own. Is their pride in preparing every element of service and operation? Or is the team just muddling through each shift?

There are no Small Details

Interestingly, most guests likely won’t ever be aware of every detail operators and their teams get right. However, they will feel every choice each team member makes. They may not know precisely what goes right, but they take home with them that their visit was exceptional.

Pulling the threads tighter separates operators and their brands from one another. Guests can get a bite and a drink anywhere. They reward outstanding service and experiences with their time and money.

It’s a simple equation to understand: Operators want to create an army of loyal guests, guests expect exceptional experiences. The operators who deliver on guest expectations are rewarded with loyalty.

Chef Duffy isn’t “just” slicing shrimp. He’s not “just” toasting rice. Chef’s not “just” making “the world’s most perfect dippy egg.” In reality, he’s ensuring every decision he, his teams, and his clients make enhance the guest experience exponentially.

There are no small details. There are no small decisions. The art of the preparation, as Chef Duffy says, creates the experience. Indeed, preparation also separates the mediocre from the exceptional.

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3 Ways to Build Revenue on Mother’s Day

3 Ways Restaurants Can Build Revenue This Mother’s Day

by Austen Asadorian

Tattoo-style rose with "Mom" ribbon

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, there’s no doubt that operators across the country are preparing for the celebratory—yet extremely busy—day.

During their preparations, it’s important that operators find and incorporate new tools and innovative marketing tactics. Doing so will not only fill seats, it will ensure they capitalize on a key opportunity to drive incredible revenue.

Below are three simple but powerful ways operators can generate revenue and loyalty on—and beyond—this Mother’s Day.

Encourage Reservations & Offer Upgrades

An easy way to make this busy day seamless for guests—and, ultimately, staff—is to encourage and allow guests to make a reservation before they arrive. Reservations give operators insight into who will be dining with them, help optimize seatings and covers, and provide a idea of how much to order to eliminate food waste if a special menu is being offered.

Using a reservation system also provides operators with the opportunity to offer diners upgrades during the booking process, even including prepayment should they want to go that route. This not only allows operators to earn additional revenue before a guest even visits, but also a convenient way to offer guests peace of mind knowing they’ve handled that “something special” for Mom way before the big day.

These upgrades don’t have to be anything crazy or extreme (although that’s always an option). In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, consumers want special touches and discounts over everything else. So, an upgrade can be something as simple as a beautiful flower arrangement waiting on the table to a special off-menu dessert brought out at the end of the meal.

Use Email & Social Media to Your Advantage

Properly promoting Mother’s Day offerings to guests is extremely important because if no one knows about it, who will come?

Operators should utilize tools like email marketing to send personalized communications to their guest database promoting the venue’s Mother’s Day reservation availability or special offerings. Better yet, these tools can be used to offer loyal guests reservations before they open to the general public, further creating a special experience for those faithful diners.

In the same vein, operators should harness the power of social media, too. Operators can target paid marketing efforts on social channels like Facebook and Instagram to drive even more awareness and revenue for their restaurant by creating an event, including the details of the activities, specials, or Mother’s Day promotions, and exporting the names of top guests and email data.

Surprise Them with a Second Visit

While Mother’s Day is the focus right now, it doesn’t stop there for operators. To drive the revenue they need, it’s important to turn these celebratory diners into repeat guests.

To do so, operators should consider offering Mother’s Day diners complimentary gift cards or discounts (even via email post-visit) to bring them back. This could be for an upcoming graduation, Father’s Day (so Dad can also get the love), or even for a future birthday.

This “surprise and delight” factor is one of the easiest strategies to capitalize on holiday traffic and get diners to return to a restaurant once again as a loyal guests.

Here’s to You, Mom

Moms should be celebrated every day, but especially on Mother’s Day, and it’s important to make sure they have the best experience when dining out.

By incorporating simple tactics like offering reservations and custom upgrades or even a special surprise at the end of the meal, operators not only succeed in making the day memorable, but create a guest who will return over and over again.

About Austen Asadorian

Austen Asadorian is the Vice President of Sales at SevenRooms, where he is tasked with supporting SevenRooms’ global expansion efforts and accelerating the company’s goal of being the best-in-class solution for hospitality operators globally. Prior to joining SevenRooms, Austen was Peloton’s Director of Sales, leading the company’s go-to-market strategy for retail growth and expansion. He started his career at Hillstone Restaurant Group where he cut his teeth learning how to run efficient and profitable restaurants at scale. Austen was ultimately promoted into an executive role where he oversaw the company’s Manager in Training Program and Back of House Operations. Austen graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

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Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

by David Klemt

McDonald's French fries close up in package

It’s increasingly important to stay top of mind with your guests. Now more than ever, that means finding yourself on their screens.

For likely the one-billionth time, allow me to point out something we should all know by now: We’re all on our phones and tablets all the time.

From texts and emails to app notifications and social scrolling, there’s always a reason to check screens.

So, how can operators invade people’s devices? By collecting guest data via a loyalty program.

Fluctuating Support

Not so long ago, industry experts bristled against the mention of rewards and discounts.

Guests, the thought was, had zero interest in signing up for loyalty programs. People would soon frantically seek out “unsubscribe” links after receiving one too many marketing emails.

However, people are quickly thawing, warming to the idea of loyalty programs. Once thought of as too invasive, now marketing experts believe “too intrusive” doesn’t exist.

After all, businesses need to ensure they’re highly visible. Operators must meet guests where they are. Where are they? Their devices.

Rewarding Loyalty

Your staff aren’t the only people engaging with the incentive economy.

Today, it appears that a guest liking your brand isn’t good enough to ensure their loyalty. They want rewards beyond experience, consistency, and delicious food and beverage.

With so many brands competing for your guests’ dollars, you have to stand out to keep them coming back.

Now, there are still industry experts and operators who will tell you to avoid discounting at all costs. Offering a discount, they argue, starts you down the road of devaluing your brand.

Well, the great news is that when creating your own loyalty program, you can offer whatever you see fit. If you fall into the Never Discount camp, none of your rewards have to be discounts.

Free is Better than a Discount

So, let’s remain in the Never Discount realm. What else will encourage guests to sign up for your loyalty program—and actually engage with it?

We can use the loyalty program launched in July by a global fast-food juggernaut as a great example.

Over the summer, McDonald’s launched MyMcDonald’s Rewards. How successful was the launch? More than 12 million people opted into the program.

In exchange for signing up, agreeing to receive alerts, and handing over their data, guests received a free medium French fry.

McDonald’s selected 66 loyalty program members to receive one million MyMcDonald’s Rewards points. One lucky member also received free French fries for life.

Create Your Program

“But David,” I hear some of you arguing, “isn’t free even worse than a discount?”

The short answer is no. A discount can devalue a brand because guests get used to paying less for select items or entire visits. Over time, they perceive the lower price as the standard price. Soon, they’ll wonder when the next discount is coming. You’ll have to either further discount your food and beverage or work harder to re-engage your guests some other way.

If a rewards program is structured correctly, members will have paid for any free item they earn several times over. Most commonly, guests receive points in exchange for dollars spent. They can then exchange those points for a free menu item. This doesn’t devalue the brand, it incentivizes program members to become loyal, repeat guests.

Operators not quite ready to build their own apps can utilize text messages and emails. Of course, the former is the most intrusive (in a good way). Texts can inform members of promotions and encourage them to visit or place an order online. Emails can let members know their current balance and what incentive their close to earning.

Additionally, be generous. Don’t exclude your guests’ favorite items from the program. Why would a loyalty program member remain loyal if they can’t exchange their points for “the good stuff”?

Structure your program correctly and you’ll increase visits per guest and spends per visit. Couple your guest data collection with a platform like SevenRooms and you’ll truly supercharge your revenue.

Image: Brett Jordan on Unsplash