How to Create a Restaurant Loyalty Program (10+ Examples and Tools)

How to Create a Restaurant Loyalty Program (10+ Examples and Tools)
November 25, 2019 Levi Olmstead

As a restaurant owner, you know how important it is to keep customers walking through your doors. What you might be wondering, is how to make sure they come back again and again.

When opening a new restaurant, building brand loyalty can save you money and boost your overall profitability. Management consulting firm, Bain & Company, published a report on cost-cutting measures for businesses and found, “A five percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent.”

One way to encourage your diners to make your business their go-to spot is to instate a customer loyalty program for your restaurant.

What is a Restaurant Loyalty Program?

A loyalty program can come in a number of different forms, but at its most basic level, it’s a restaurant marketing strategy a business uses to encourage customers to return. This can be something simple like a punch card or earned coupons, but it can also be a fully-functional app or a store credit card. 

What matters is that you create a program that really makes sense for your restaurant and your customers. This will require you to do some serious thinking about the experience your restaurant provides to its customers and the tendencies of your customer base. 

The most crucial aspect here is to give the people what they want! If your restaurant serves fantastic food and provides diners with a memorable (in a good way) overall experience – from the food to the restaurant’s customer service – you’re more than likely to already have some regulars.

Try to get to know who they are. Take note of what they order, how they order, their favorite days to come in. Maybe give them a special gift, something ‘on the house’ in exchange for the chance to pick their brains.

Tips for Creating a Loyalty Rewards Program for Your Restaurant

Building out a new customer loyalty program needs to be planned and well built out. Here are a few tips for creating your first restaurant loyalty program:

1. The Loyalty Program Must Be Easy to Use For Your Customers

No matter which format you choose, it should be easily adopted by your customers and your employees. This makes a digitally-based solution ideal for many businesses. Some added bonuses of digital loyalty programs are that they eliminate the need for things like physical punch cards which can get lost, or worse, thrown away.

They also allow you to gain insights about your customers based on their purchases and other data they can elect to provide by participating or scale the program up to include additional program components like surveys or sale alerts.

2. Make Earning Rewards Exciting

Depending on which loyalty program software you choose, you’ll have varying amounts of control over how your program’s rewards will be structured. Try out different types of promotions and throw in some additional goodies for program members. What’ll be really important is to keep track of the data you 

3. Promote the Loyalty Program

Promote your program! Social media and traditional advertising can be key. You’ll want to make sure your program is mentioned in your marketing materials and that your employees are encouraging customers to join by reminding them of the benefits. The more happy customers who know about your customer loyalty program, the more will be likely to sign up. Get the word out by tabling at local events, cross-promoting with other, relevant brands, and talking your loyalty program up on social media. And be sure that your restaurant’s loyalty program is accessible through your restaurant’s website.

Grow your restaurant’s online orders by joining the 2ndKitchen Restaurant Network – 100% free to join!

10 Examples of Great Loyalty Programs


1. Carl’s Jr. 

The Promo Club at Carl’s Jr. offers news and coupons by email to its members. Their sign-up thank you is a coupon for a free small fry and drink with the purchase of their Western Bacon Cheeseburger. You can sign up for Carl’s Jr. Rewards here.


2. Chipotle

Chipotle Rewards allows members to use an app to place advance orders and earn rewards points. Members earn 10 points for every dollar spent – for every 1250 points earned, members receive a free entree. Chipotle keeps members engaged with extra point days and bonus points for trying new menu items.


3. Denny’s

Signing up for Denny’s Rewards program will get customers exclusive news emails and first word about special deals as well as 20% off their first visit after signing up. Customers also get a birthday gift!


4. Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts’ DD Perks lets customers earn 5 points for every dollar spent. They also have a Dunkin Donuts credit card and a handy app which allows for pre-ordering and rewards tracking.


5. MOD Pizza

The rewards program at MOD Pizza is managed in an app and gives members a point for each dollar spent. Members get 75 points free upon sign-up and can get a free menu item once they earn 150 points.


6. Olive Garden

The rewards program at Olive Garden runs on a points system, so customers receive one point per dollar spent and can cash them in for select menu items. Points can be redeemed at the table or ahead of time and expire if a customer makes no purchases in a 120 day period.


7. Panera Bread

MyPanera members receive a reward card to be presented at every visit so they can earn points toward customized rewards. They also give members a special birthday reward.


8. Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Potbelly Perks give members points in the form of “smiles” for every $2 spent. Rewards are managed with their app or online. Members receive different perks based on status level and sometimes get surprise, personalized perks.


9. Rainforest Cafe

Rainforest Cafe’s Select Club program rewards its members with priority seating, a $25 welcome reward in addition to $25 for every $250 spent. Members also get points on retail purchases and special member-only offers.


10. TGI Friday’s

Fridays Rewards gives members a point for every dollar spent on qualifying menu items at participating locations. They can redeem their saved points for a variety of menu items. Members receive a free appetizer or dessert on sign-up and exclusive access to offers, events, and even parties.

Grow your restaurant’s online orders by joining the 2ndKitchen Restaurant Network – 100% free to join!

5 Best Customer Loyalty Program Software for Restaurants

For restaurants serious about starting a loyalty program, there are plenty of SaaS tools to help build, launch, and manage the program, including stand-alone tools and POS systems with loyalty reward features. Using review ratings from, here are the five best customer loyalty tools for restaurants in 2019.


1. Lightspeed

Review rating: 4.5/5

Lightspeed is a cloud-based POS with software features catering specifically to restaurants and bakeries. Their customer loyalty features include a rewards program, marketing tool, and customer insights.

According to its website, Lightspeed’s most popular loyalty package costs $59 per month with a yearly subscription to Lightspeed Restaurant POS.


2. Toast

Review rating: 4.4/5

Toast is a point of sale and overall management system for restaurants. The Guest Facing Technology portion of their features cover customer loyalty tools. Also using an iPad, customers can opt-in at the time of purchase to begin earning rewards points. Features also include loyalty reporting so you can keep track of exactly what your customers want. 

Toast Core Software starts at $79 and the Loyalty Program can be added as an additional software module to its overall restaurant POS system.


3. Upserve

Review rating: 4.0/5

One great software for managing your restaurant’s marketing and customer interactions is Upserve. Customers can sign up to earn rewards by registering their credit card number via text. This software includes a digital POS system and inventory management tools in addition to the loyalty program component. 

Its starter package is set at $59.


4. Preferred Patron

Review rating: 4.0/5

Preferred Patron is a digital restaurant loyalty program that gives users a ton of control. You can dictate how rewards are earned and customize your app so your customers have no idea that it’s run through a third-party service. You can also take advantage of the included email automation tools. 

Their Small Biz package starts at about $99, but you’ll need to call for a custom quote.


5. Belly

Review rating: 3.7/5

Another more inclusive solution is Belly, which covers customer loyalty programs as well as digital marketing. Customers use an iPad to sign up at and then begin to earn points at each visit.

Packages start at $129 per month – you can request your free demo here.

You’re ready to launch a restaurant loyalty rewards program!

A successful loyalty program can also mean success for your business, so we suggest you do some deep thinking about your restaurant’s needs and choose the software that’s the best fit.

And remember, this is for your most loyal customers, so keep them at the forefront when building and launching a new program.


Join the 2ndKitchen Restaurant Network & Multiply Your Online Orders Today!

2ndKitchen partners restaurants with local bars, breweries, hotels, and high-rise buildings to serve your restaurant’s food to those businesses’ customers. And it’s 100% free!

Learn how to
Create virtual brands for your restaurant in 2021.