People eat out a lot these days. And a lot of these people who end up eating out are millennials, ranging from around 20 to 35 years of age.
There seems to be a myriad of reasons behind this phenomenon, but the fact of the matter is millennials are choosing to eat out more than previous generations and are the biggest client base for restaurants.
Millennials spend 44% of their food dollars (versus 40% of baby boomers) on dining out, according to the Food Institute’s analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data.
The amount of food dollars spent on restaurants and takeaway has steadily increased over the years, from 34% in 1974 to 50% in 2014, the analysis showed.
But here’s the thing about millennials. They are very different from those that came before them. They are tech-savvy, demand instant gratification and are considered “loyalty lite.”
So how do you get millennials to stay loyal to your restaurant?
Traditional methods of loyalty punch cards will bore millennials – you need to keep up with the times and infuse technology into your loyalty programmes.
Here are seven tips for a successful loyalty programme that will keep Millennials coming back to your restaurant, over and over again!
Millennials tend to drop out from loyalty programmes if the rewards aren’t valuable enough. Gone are the days when people keep on being your loyal customer for an extra cup of coffee after 10 visits. If you have a loyalty programme, make it worth your customers’ while! The old, punch-card approach of “spend and get” won’t be enough to keep your customers coming back. Think creatively and, when in doubt, ask your customers! Millennials are opinionated and will be happy to share their thoughts.
Don’t expect your customers to stick to your loyalty programme if the discounts you offer aren’t significant. There are plenty of restaurants that offer substantial discounts to attract regular custom, so make your discounts “real” to keep your diners coming back.
The first thing you do when you get a loyalty card, is to check how many visits/points you need under your belt to get a reward. If your client thinks it’ll take too long, they’ll just bin the card and abandon your loyalty programme. Think like a consumer and consider how long you’d wait to get rewards at a restaurant. You’ll be off to a reasonable start! A good way to win loyalty from the get-go might be to offer an initial reward for enrolling in the programme and/or for the first visit as a loyalty member.
A lot of restaurants make it absolutely boring and unattractive to be a part of loyalty programmes by offering one type of reward (for example a free beverage or a standard discount). Offer a range of interesting rewards if you want to keep your customers loyal. Soft actions such as posting on social media or writing a review warrant rewards, too, so bear that in mind when you plan your loyalty programme. And don’t forget to reward people for referring friends!
Some loyalty programmes are so complicated they require a manual. There’s nothing more off putting than a complicated loyalty scheme, as they make customers feel like the whole thing is too much work or, worse yet, you’re not really willing to part with anything for their repeated custom.
A big no-no is clogging customers’ phones or email accounts with annoying messages. No one wants to receive an update two, three times a week from a restaurant. Think about how many messages you, as a consumer, would find acceptable and pear down how much content you push out to your customers. If you send one too many messages, you’ll end up losing your clients for good.
This can’t be highlighted enough. Millennials are all about the tech, be it on their mobiles, tablets or laptops. You need to keep up with the times and make your loyalty programme compatible and available via any device. Invest in the right technology to make it easy for your customers to access your loyalty programme and they’ll stick around. (Read 5 Technologies that will change restaurant business in 2017)
At the end of the day, restaurant loyalty, when it comes to millennials, it is all about engagement. And to engage with millennials, you need to talk their language. And that is technology. In many ways, it may seem rather tedious but, if you have the right systems in place, you may actually yourself well rewarded.
And there is so much technology out there to help you achievement engagement. Be proactive and explore all the marvels that modern-day technology has to offer to boost your business.
For instance, many POS (point of sale) systems out there will help analyse and automate a lot of marketing work on your behalf. Some even offer marketing tools that help you to send targeted email campaigns and surveys to loyalty members.
Given millennials are all about online chatting, you could also consider introducing a chatbot – robots that can talk to you like a human being via a chat platform such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. These are all the rage nowadays and, in the age of 24/7 customer service, it’s an awesome and cost-effective way to provide excellent customer service without breaking the bank by taking on more staff.
The thing to remember is that restaurant loyalty is never going to come free. You can’t expect something for nothing. And winning long-term engagement and restaurant loyalty from customers is going to take more than an offer of a free meal or a discount.
Do your research before deciding on which loyalty program is best for you. The key is to stay fluid, flexible and creative with your rewards so that your customers stay loyal without squeezing your margins.
Use technology to help manage, collect and analyse customer data so that you can serve your customers better. Great customer experience is THE best way to have a successful restaurant and the easiest way to keep your customers loyal!
Photo Credits: Nick Webb