Restuarant Loyalty Cards

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Today I’m writing to restaurant owners, specifically restaurants that have loyalty programs. Who doesn’t want to encourage and reward your most loyal customers? It’s not exactly a new concept, it just bugs me to see you spending money on junk like this…

These are all the loyalty cards in my wallet today. I probably could have more if I wished. Notice that I have two cards from Qdoba plus a key chain card. Allow me to make an example out of them. Keep in mind that I kinda like Qdoba. I eat there maybe once a month.

On my second to last visit to Qdoba, the manager gave me my first card. He explained that I can earn points of some kind. On certain days I can earn double points. Sounds complicated. I didn’t think much of it and put the card in my wallet. I don’t really have the time to figure out their system and I probably don’t visit often enough to make it worth my effort.

Fast forward to this week when I was there with my wife for lunch. I pulled out my trusty Qdoba card to earn a few more “valuable” points, right? I was told that there was a new card and system. I could simply go online and transfer my points from one to another using the code on the back. Fail!

I suppose Qdoba’s system is a little more high-tech than a stamp or punch card system that restaurants have used for decades. I just cringe to think of the costs involved to implement something like this. I also don’t like these cards taking up space in my wallet; space that I could fill with maxed out credit cards. How can we fix this problem?

Here’s your loyalty program! Yep, the trusty smart phone. Sure, not everyone has one, but if you’re running a restaurant in Alpharetta then most of your customers have smart phones. This is especially true if your customers are cubicle dwellers.

Before I begin let me say that I’m not a social networking expert. I’m just a fella who observes. Here are some programs I think work and cost next to nothing.

Location-Aware Apps

Fourquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Yelp, etc. They all give business owners the opportunity to market to customers based on real-time location. In the case of Foursquare, they don’t charge businesses at this point. Yet from what I’ve read it may take forever to get a check-in program created or updated. But once set up, a Foursquare offer can do everything a physical loyalty card can do, and a lot more.

Show Us Your Tweets

Let’s make another example out of a local business. This time it is Element Coffee in Crabapple. I’ve never been to this coffee shop but I follow them on twitter. Check out this promotion:

Funny innuendo aside, I love this promotion. First, it is completely free to pull off make this happen. It only takes a twitter account. Second, when customers take advantage of this, they tell their followers on twitter. I didn’t tell any friends I was at Qdoba using their loyalty program. Third, it gives Element a way to track customers. They can circle back on twitter and count all the retweets or mentions. They could follow-up with customers on twitter to see if they enjoyed their experience. They could also maintain a list of customers on twitter that have used their specials. In short, it provides analytics and a means to communicate directly with customers. It costs absolutely nothing. And you can say “show your tweets” and giggle like a school boy.

Build Your Own App

There’s some price associated with this approach. How about develop your own iPhone or Android app for your store? If you want to cook a complicated points system into your loyalty program while maintaining smart phone coolness, then this is the way to go. You’re gonna have to find a smart phone developer and pay him handsomely. It’s an approach that’s not for the faint at heart, but could rank high on the awesomeness scale if pulled off the right way.

So to all you restaurant owners… understand that I have a loyalty program already in my pocket. It is just sitting there waiting for you to entice me. It’s also a tool I might use to give you free publicity. Use it!

Photo Credit: Jorge Quinteros

4 Responses to “Restuarant Loyalty Cards”

  1. Ed Selby February 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    You haven’t been to Element Coffee?? Shame on you! It is simply the best coffee in Alpharetta!

  2. Lee February 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    I don’t get to Crabapple all that often. I need to try them though.

  3. Travis Allen February 7, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Ed, it would be the best coffee in Alpharetta, if it were in Alpharetta…but it’s probably the best coffee in Milton, althought I admit I’m not a coffee drinker.

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  1. Roots in Alpharetta » MyFavEats – A Review - July 29, 2011

    [...] registering your visit and marking off another notch on your virtual loyalty card. Much like physical card-based system, a certain number of visits earns you a free meal or a discount depending on the restaurant [...]

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