Should Restaurants Serve Up or Skip Loyalty Programs? - eMarketer
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Should Restaurants Serve Up or Skip Loyalty Programs?

Restaurants report success with loyalty programs, but consumers say they have little influence

May 11, 2015 | Retail & Ecommerce

Restaurants offering loyalty programs report success, but conflicting research suggests the jury is still out when it comes to whether consumers are actually hungry for such options.

Extent to Which Loyalty Programs Influence Restaurant Selection Among US Internet Users, Feb 2015 (% of respondents)

A January 2015 study by LivingSocial polled 180 US restaurant owners and managers and found that one-third offered a loyalty program. Among that group, more than six in 10 said loyalty programs were successful to some extent, vs. fewer than three in 10 who said the opposite. One-third agreed that they were somewhat influential

And according to data released by Colloquy in February 2015, restaurant loyalty program memberships skyrocketed in the US between 2012 and 2014, rising 107% to 54.8 million. That puts the industry in first place for growth, well ahead of second-place drugstores (88%), but still in third-to-last place by actual number of members.

Other research suggests there’s disconnect in the industry, though, with consumer attitudes indicating that loyalty doesn’t typically come into play when it’s time to chow down. According to February 2015 polling by AlixPartners, just 12% of US adult internet users said loyalty programs influenced their restaurant selections, and more than three in 10 said they weren’t influential at all.

In all, the majority of respondents (55%) didn’t use any restaurant loyalty programs regularly, while about one-fifth used just one. Only 12% reported using two loyalty programs for dining frequently, and the remaining 12% three or more.

AlixPartners suggested that restaurants would be better off focusing on other efforts; however, if they’re not interested in abandoning their customers who are loyal, points-based programs could be the way to go, based on LivingSocial’s research.

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