Loyalty Programs: What are Leading Restaurants Doing?

Jan 25, 2023

Gone are the days of punch cards and membership programs for restaurants. It’s the dawn of a new era of dining that includes extras, games, and loyalty. We’re not going to say it isn’t worth eating out if you don’t belong to a loyalty program, but we are saying it makes it more enticing and fun.


Rewards through apps have been a mainstay for a few years now. Some big players include McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Starbucks. Most recently, though, bigger and smaller chains have been upping their rewards programs, says Nation’s Restaurant News, with nearly 60% of all restaurants utilizing one.


The importance of having a loyalty program for a restaurant boils down to repeat customers, says Restaurant News. It’s fantastic to get new customers but to keep them coming back and choosing your place to eat is what makes the programs so valuable. In this digital age, if a customer doesn’t choose you, they’re going to choose from a third party, says the article, because it’s just easy. Since the pandemic began, loyalty programs have been gaining popularity, and the good news is that it isn’t just for the big guys. Small businesses can also gain revenue from these programs and at a relatively small cost, says Restaurant News.


One of the smaller chains taking hold of the loyalty opportunity is a New York-based tea concept called Cha Cha Matcha, says NRN. Teaming up with the membership platform, Hang, the tea restaurant is traveling into the metaverse through subscriptions and point systems. Both in-person and online customers can gain rewards for free or access a paid subscription. Customers can unlock rewards like exclusive menu items, raffles, events, and early access to new products in the paid subscription. Cha Cha Match is the first brand to “officially launch a successful Web3-powered loyalty program,” said NRN.


Upping their Restaurant Loyalty Perks


Upping their loyalty game, literally, is Jimmy John’s, by ‘gamifying’ their rewards, says NACS. In their new app, customers can earn badges to earn food and products from the company. Customers need to purchase 25 Jimmy John’s core menu sandwiches in the latest challenge by March 15th to earn their “Gauntlet Badge.” Earning this will give you a Jimmy Chips beanbag chair. The company, throughout the year, will be releasing new and secret badges to entice customers, says the article, although they may not all be as big as “The Gauntlet.”

restaurant rewards


Chipotle has also joined the ranks of launching a new loyalty program called “Freepotle,” says Chewboom. This reward program offers customers up to ten free “food drops” throughout the year. Customers who are already Chipotle Rewards members will be automatically enrolled in Freepotle and get their first food drop which is either a topping of guacamole or a free side. Those who are not can join by March 6th and get their food drop too. Those free ten food drops throughout the year include (more) free guac, Queso Blanco, chips, drinks, and double protein.


Choosing where to dine out these days is about more than just food. It’s about what else you can get for free. With all the competition surrounding loyalty programs and rewards, it’s about enjoying the food you love and earning points to get more of it.