More Restaurant Owners Worldwide Roll Out Loyalty Programs - eMarketer
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More Restaurant Owners Worldwide Roll Out Loyalty Programs

Diners sign up in droves, but don’t use them

February 24, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

Restaurants, like other sectors, are investing in technology-driven innovations—some of which are in wide use, like takeout via mobile. One initiative that’s experiencing lots of innovation is the restaurant loyalty program, where a combination of changing consumer perceptions and new restaurant-focused IT efforts are helping more restaurant marketers warm to the idea. But such programs get mixed reviews from diners.

One sign of interest in restaurant-focused loyalty programs is the changing perception of such initiatives among diners worldwide.

According to a November 2016 survey by Oracle, a growing proportion of internet users are signing up for restaurant loyalty memberships. More than 65% of respondents in the US said they were members of a food service loyalty program.

Internet Users in Select Countries Who Are Members of Food Service* Loyalty Programs, Nov 2016 (% of respondents)

And worldwide, restaurant owners and marketers also appear to also be investing more money in loyalty-driven technology systems. According to a June 2016 Hospitality Technology survey, loyalty programs were the most popular customer experience tool mentioned by restaurant executives.

US Internet Users' Reasons for Being Loyal to vs. Making Repeat Purchases from a Brand, by Industry, March 2016 (% of respondents)

But loyalty programs have their challenges. The biggest one is just because consumers have a membership to a program, doesn’t mean they will actually use it.

A March 2016 survey of US internet users by Facebook IQ found most “brand loyalists” and repeat purchasers of restaurant fare make their decisions based on factors like taste, service and price—not because of loyalty initiatives.

Ambiguity about loyalty programs was also apparent in Oracle’s research, which polled 6,500 internet users in eight countries. When considering their reasons for not joining restaurant loyalty programs, many US respondents mentioned they don’t visit the same places enough to justify joining (46%). Others said the programs required too much personal information (40%) and that the rewards weren’t interesting (35%).

—Jeremy Kressmann

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