Reaching and Keeping the New Generation of Diners with Effective Customer Loyalty

Time is money, and consumers representing the youngest two adult generations are in short supply of both. When it comes to having a side hustle, Gen Z and millennial consumers are outpacing Gen X, baby boomers and seniors. With not much time on their hands, the younger generations of adults don’t have much time to cook – with other sources of supplemental income keeping them busy 24/7.

Restaurants seeking to capture more Gen Z and millennial diners should support this fast-paced lifestyle with meaningful loyalty programs that save time and encourage return visits.

First, Segment Your Audience

Your guests want you to know their lifestyle and consumers often feel frustrated when the buying experience feels impersonal. To maximize consumer loyalty, divide diners into separate groups to help you speak to them directly.

Create personas to understand what younger diners are looking for, then send them timely and relevant messages and offers. Does your data show millennials work 9-5 jobs and are frequent visitors for lunch hours? Send them a personalized lunch special discount to fuel the rest of their workday, giving them the pick-me-up they were looking for.

Second, Drive Frequency of Visits

Reach younger consumers where they’re already spending most of their time: on their phones. Create an app to make it easy for Gen Z to place a mobile order, review their regular meals and stay up to date on seasonal specials and rewards. Knowing your guests’ preferences can help you make tailored messaging for their needs, and delivering the right messaging to the right customers will strengthen your restaurant’s marketing strategy – ultimately driving frequency of visits.

According to PYMNTS’ Connected Dining Report, 58 percent of diners have already made their meal choices before logging into an app. Keep your customers coming back for their favorites by saving their preferences and offering them to place those same orders again. Appeal to younger generations’ lack of time with incentives like guaranteeing meal readiness within a particular time frame or offering a discount for ordering directly through the app. 

In the first six months of McDonald’s US loyalty program, 30 million members enrolled and more than two-thirds were actively earning rewards – leading to a 10-percent increase in digital customer frequency since its launch. These kinds of loyalty programs also allow you to track information like what locations customers frequent and what time of day they visit. This data can be used to offer targeted promotions and rewards.

Third, Boost Spend

With dine-in restaurant traffic down compared to previous years, it’s critical to offer a loyalty program that can increase individual ticket check size.

When a customer loves your restaurant, the food, and the service, they’ll want to spend more. Offering deals that customers can’t refuse is what makes them go through with buying, but influencing loyalty isn’t a one-size-fits-all all approach – do what is best for your restaurant. 

For example, Rib & Chop House, an upscale restaurant with locations in Montana, Wyoming and Utah, has shifted away from a traditional model of offering a fixed number of loyalty points and opted for a subscription-based model. Guests pay $50 per month to be members and are immediately gifted a knife set. They also get to move to the top of waitlists and are rewarded with 10-percent meal discounts, gift cards, invitations to special dinners, wine tastings and more.

Finally, Create Brand Advocates

In addition to loyalty programs, restaurants are also teaming up with celebrities and influencers to reach younger audiences. McDonald’s has a lot of success with its “Famous Orders” campaign which includes different celebrities’ favorite menu items, all in one meal. The chain has partnered with Saweetie, BTS and others on unique, limited-time offers. 

With these factors combined, you can build a loyalty base. If the younger generations – with little time and money to spare – have a choice between a restaurant that gives them rewards and unique, custom experiences versus one that doesn’t, they will likely opt for the one that not only delivers on the food they love but rewards them for dining there too.