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It’s competitive out there in the bar and restaurant biz. To earn the hearts of customers, it’s all about building loyalty. On December 13th, Buzztime hosted a webinar to share 18 ways to do just that: from reviewing 10 loyalty programs to sharing 5 simple ways to bond with customers. Missed the webinar? We got you. Here’s the play-by-play…

Why Focus on Loyalty Programs for Restaurants and Bars? 3 Reasons

Bigger Profits

Let’s start with the bottom-line benefits of loyalty programs. According to the Harvard Business Journal, improving guest retention rates by 5%, can increase profits by 25-95%.

Word of Mouth

Repeat customers are happy to spread the word about your business: 55% of loyal customers tell their friends and family about your business.

Easy Upsells

Loyalty is all about trust. Regular customers are more willing to take your suggestions. The probability of upselling to an existing customer is 60-70%, just 5-20% for new ones!

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5 Smart Ways to Build Loyalty

Yes, bar and restaurant loyalty programs are important. But there are other ways to strengthen relationships with customers. Seek out ways to foster loyalty through multiple touchpoints, like these 5 factors.

Embrace Personalization

Your chefs won’t like this…but you need to embrace the “custom” in customer. From gluten-free swaps to picky eaters who want to build out their meal ingredient-by-ingredient, it’s all about letting the customer call that shots.

Millennials are especially into personalization. If you let them create dishes and drinks unique to their tastes, 54% of millennials will be more loyal to you according to an Accenture Loyalty Study. They also love loyalty programs that provide customized rewards based on their preferences.

On the flip side, if you ignore these trends in customization, don’t expect customers to be feeling the love: 1 in 3 Americans wouldn’t return if they felt the waiter didn’t pay attention to their preferences. The same goes for your loyalty programs if rewards are tailored to the customer’s needs.

One of the best ways to make customization easy on your servers and kitchen staff is to use touchscreen menu tablets. In a few clicks, customers can build out their “dream meal” and send their order straight to the kitchen.

Safeguard Customer Data

Customers are seriously freaked out by the rise in data theft and credit card fraud. If you take steps to protect their financial data, 85% of customers will be more loyal to you according to the Accenture Loyalty Study mentioned earlier.

To ensure you’re keeping their data safe, contact a local IT company for a security audit. After all, restaurants and bars are prime targets for hackers.

The same menu tablets that can streamline custom orders (and integrate with your loyalty programs), can also keep customers safe from credit card fraud. With menu tablets, guests can review their bill and then pay right on the device using a “chip” card (EMV) or even mobile payments like Apple and Samsung pay. Their card never leaves the table…

“Surprise and Delight”

According to the Kano Model of Customer Needs “surprise and delight” is the holy grail in increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s something that guests didn’t know they wanted – but are truly delighted to receive. It could be “just because” rewards that are sent to the guest’s phone using mobile loyalty programs. Or, use these tips from SevenRooms on how to delight customers:

  • 35% want to be greeted by name
  • 35% would love a complimentary glass of wine
  • 50% say a complimentary birthday dessert wins them over (it’s easy to automatically generate that dessert using the latest loyalty programs for restaurants and bars)

Just Add Entertainment

Loyalty really is all fun and games. A Facebook Loyalty Study asked 14,000 adults to describe businesses they like best. The top word used was “quality” followed by “fun.”

When planning loyalty programs, don’t forget about the power of entertainment. But think beyond the band and look to interactive, social entertainment like these ideas:

  • Host chef or bartender demos and tastings. Many loyalty programs offer exclusive events like this as non-monetary rewards.
  • Run a DIY workshop like “plant night” or “paint night.”
  • Subscribe to the Buzztime trivia network: games run 7 days a week, 15 hours a day.
  • Bring in crowds for digital live trivia, it’s free to host as many events as you want with a Buzztime subscription.
  • Consider asking your bartenders and even servers to master a few “flair” tricks that add fun to every visit. For inspiration, turn to the Salt Bae.

Launch Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are a must for every bar and restaurant. Need proof? VISA and Bond Brand Loyalty surveyed thousands of customers to find out that 81% of members of loyalty programs will keep doing business with you – and 73% will recommend your business to others. Now, let’s look at how to launch the best loyalty program…

How to Launch Loyalty Programs in 3 Steps

Pick a Loyalty Program

Select how you’ll manage your loyalty program. Check with your POS provider: many offer digital loyalty programs and apps that interface with your POS system.

  • Paper Punch Card: The simplest method, but the easiest way for guests to “cheat” by creating their own holes in the card.
  • Plastic Card: Plastic loyalty cards are a step up from paper, but guests tend to lose them.
  • Email or Phone Number: Ask guests for their email or phone number each time they visit to track their loyalty.
  • Card Tracking: The customer’s credit card is used for tracking visits and spend.
  • Mobile Loyalty App: This is the best method today! In the VISA/Bond Brand Loyalty Study, 56% of guests surveyed said they prefer to download loyalty programs to their smartphone.

Determine How Guests Earn Rewards

It’s essential to be crystal-clear on how guests earn rewards through loyalty programs. The two most common methods are to either track guest spending or number of visits. Always set attainable reward milestones. Getting $100 after spending $1000 just sounds too daunting! Instead, administer a reward after $200 is spent or the guest has visited 8-10 times. Most loyalty programs also let you run limited-time promotions, like double rewards points (perfect for bringing guests in during slow months or midweek).

Don’t Forget “Non-Monetary” Rewards

When VISA and Bond Brand Loyalty surveyed 50,000 people in 2018, they discovered that 85% of today’s consumers find “alternative” currencies very valuable. No, we’re not talking about bitcoin loyalty programs. Alternative currencies mean rewards such as:

  • VIP access to events and exclusive tastings
  • “First to try” new menus or other sneak previews
  • Perks that give priority access, like the best seats for reservations
  • Branded merchandise from zip-up hoodies to pint glasses (featuring your logo)
  • A live trivia event just for members of restaurant loyalty programs

10 Best Loyalty Programs

There are dozens of bar and restaurant loyalty programs out there. How do you choose the right one for your business? Check out these unbiased reviews and price plans from the best restaurant loyalty programs. We’ve summarized a few below:


This is a great option if you’re seeking a branded mobile app, but still want the option to give customers key tags or plastic loyalty cards.


A leading POS system also excels in loyalty programs. Sign up is simple: guests text a unique word to a phone number given to them by the server, then sign up at the table on their phone.


Want to run your loyalty program on autopilot? Belly automatically emails an offer when a guest hasn’t been in lately.


Loyalty programs don’t have to cost a fortune. Starting at just $27/month, LoyalZoo integrates with Facebook’s check-in feature.


Beacon messaging sends guests offers to their smartphone when they are near your restaurant or bar.


Get set up in 30 minutes or less. Then, guests use their phone or a key tag to “check in” and earn rewards.

Buzztime Nation

Once guests sign up, they join 10 million other users who get alerts for sweepstakes and game competitions at your venue.

Loopy Loyalty

How convenient! It’s a digital punchcard that “lives” in the wallet of a user’s smartphone!


This is one of the top loyalty programs if you want to attract new customers, and send them ongoing offers to turn them into loyal customers.

Preferred Patron

One of the original loyalty programs, this one provides ultimate customization of how customers earn rewards.

Now that you’re empowered with 18 tips and resources, it’s time to launch a winning loyalty program at your business. Cheers to your success!