11 ways to reward your best customers
Liz Barrett explains how to get creative and innovative with your pizzeria’s loyalty program.
Offering a loyalty reward program is one of the best ways to encourage repeat visits. It’s also one of the easiest ways to thank customers for choosing your restaurant over the competition. From grocery stores to airlines, every brand seems to have a reward program, but when it comes to pizzerias, we often see only the big chains taking part.
The good news for independent pizzerias? You can cater your rewards to be much more specialized and personal than the typical “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” program. Smaller doesn’t have to mean, well, smaller, according to Oliver Page, senior manager for New York City-based Deloitte Consulting. “A smaller customer base just means it’s easier to track,” he says. “[You can still] gather information about your customers and get them to spend more. By being smaller, you can deliver more personalized perks and apply your program to one store instead of many.”
For any rewards program, you will want to establish a required number of customer visits or a required amount of money spent before rewards start to accrue. But that should be merely a jumping-off point for inspiration. From there, you’ll need to learn what kind of rewards your customers will actually want and, whenever possible, think beyond the standard free appetizer or one-topping pizza. And while you can certainly run the loyalty program through an app, it’s just as easily tracked through a good POS system with which you can log customer information and points earned. It all depends on your budget and capabilities.
If you’re just starting out with a loyalty rewards program, try to keep things simple (think one point for every dollar spent). Then just determine how many points it takes to earn each reward. Meanwhile, here are some reward ideas to get your creative juices pumping:
1. The Customer’s Dream Pizza
Imagine how excited your customers would be to create their own specialty pizza, give it a name and have it featured on the menu for a week. Not only would this idea build excitement around your menu items and help increase visits—as customers strive for the chance to create their own dream pizza—you’d probably also get some coverage in the local press.
2. Lunch or dinner with the big cheese
As a pizzeria operator, you have limited time, which is why offering to Have lunch or dinner with one of your most loyal guests to talk about anything they like (pizza, fundraising for a local charity, cross-promotions, etc.) could be the ultimate prize for some patrons who are earning points in your program.
3. Tickets to big games or concerts
If you live close to a stadium or music venue, let customers earn points toward tickets and concerts. Who wouldn’t want a free afternoon or night out on the town just for ordering pizza?
4. Surprise instant win program
Michelle Tempesta, marketing director at Paytronix in Newton, Massachusetts, suggests a tactic that will keep patrons guessing about their reward. “Every 100th or 1,000th person to check out receives a predetermined reward,” she says. “The odds can be set any way the restaurant wants, and it keeps guests coming in for a chance to be the winner.”
5. Pizza party or free pizza for a year
Depending on your budget, let customers earn enough to win a pizza party for themselves and all of their friends, or a free pizza each week for a year. These are much bigger prizes to work toward than a free soda or free breadsticks.
6. Exclusive invites to pizza parties
Once every three to six months, why not throw a big party at the pizzeria where only top-tier guests are invited to attend? This would also be a great way to promote new menu items while making your customers feel special by giving them an exclusive first look during the event. Publicizing the parties afterward (i.e., through social media or e-newsletters) will encourage other customers to earn enough points so they’ll get invited to the next one.
7. Always free sodas for loyalty VIPs
How much does a fountain soda cost you? If any guest who maintained a certain number of points each month always received free soda with his order, that’s the kind of VIP perk that people pay attention to!
8. Free Delivery
Do you have guests who have ordered from you twice per week for the past five years and are still paying $2 for delivery? Do you think they’d add another day of delivery to the lineup—or dine in more often—if you offered them free delivery for being such a great customer?
9. Double Point Days
Want a quick tip for boosting your slowest day of the week? Offer double reward points for any customers who dine in or order delivery on that day.
10. Give out pizza flair
Promotional T-shirts, hats and pins are affordable and make great surprise gifts for your guests. Present a high-repeat guest with a great-looking shirt that says something like, “I’m a VIP at Manny’s Pizzeria!” If they wear it, they’ll also be helping you with your marketing.
11. Partner for Big Rewards
Looking to offer something larger, such as a weekend vacation to Napa Valley’s wine country or a week in Italy? Consider talking with one of your suppliers about a promotional partnership where they would receive credit for sponsoring the contest, suggests Tempesta.