Establish Loyalty With The Right Promos

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According to research firm Mintel, 29.2 million Americans have posted a food or drink picture at a restaurant in the past month. A full 14% of these folks have posted a positive comment on a restaurant’s social media page in the same period. But despite all the rave reviews, only 17% of those polled were influenced by a positive review to eat at a certain establishment, possibly due to the right promos.

So how can restaurants enhance the customer experience and establish loyalty in the always competitive and sometimes fickle world of dining out? Mintel’s research suggests that combining traditional loyalty programs with technology may be the best bet. Respondents (69%) prefer loyalty programs that issue points toward future purchases, but 42% say those that track their ordering habits make them feel like they’re being watched.

“Brands must walk the fine line of providing enough value to customers in exchange for their information,” says Bethany Wall, foodservice analyst at Mintel. “Mobile apps and other technologies by operators and third parties have made it easier than ever for consumers to find information such as nutrition and locations, make reservations, order, pay, leave reviews and feedback, and participate in loyalty programs. In return for these conveniences, restaurants can use these apps to collect great amounts of information that can be mined in order to determine the best way to reach and communicate with consumers.”

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Buy-one-get-one-free deals are still the most preferred promotion (46%), followed by value meals/dollar menus (33%). Men are more swayed than women by free wi-fi (31% to 27%) and a big screen TV (20% to 15%), whereas women are fans of loyalty cards (42% to 31%) and an at-table tablet to ask for food, refills and extra napkins (21% to 19%).

“Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the restaurant space,” continues Bethany. “With recent advances, restaurants can create a unique, fully customizable experience for consumers, as well as provide faster speed and improved convenience. The key is to be unique, responsive and creative and to provide a benefit that exceeds the hesitation of the customer. Getting them in the door is just first step, but keeping them coming back is the real key.”