- A majority (55%) of customers do not use restaurant loyalty programs, and only 35% said loyalty programs played a role in deciding which restaurants to visit, according to a William Blair customer engagement report published in January.
- More than a third of consumers (36%) said they were cutting back on restaurant spending relative to last year, with customers citing inflation and poor service as driving factors, per the report.
- The relatively high rate of customers who do not use loyalty programs could present an opportunity for restaurants to draw in new loyalty members through discounting or other offerings as customers seek value.
The study suggests there is a sizable reservoir of unengaged customers restaurants can target with rewards program offerings. There is also a demographic gap at play — 61% of customers over 60 aren’t linked to restaurant loyalty programs compared to 50% of consumers under 60.
Restaurants big and small have launched loyalty programs for the first time, or enhanced existing offerings, over the past year to capitalize on digital engagement and grow online sales. In 2022, P.F. Chang’s added a subscription tier to its rewards offering to deepen loyalty, and Tim Hortons added a “scan and pay” functionality to its loyalty app to boost ease of use. Dunkin’ also changed the point value of its rewards offerings, allowing diners to earn points faster but raising the cost of some items, to mixed consumer reviews.
Competitive loyalty offerings, such as programs that offer opportunities for personalization and discounting, can help restaurants capture valuable customer data and encourage frequency even as inflation shrinks discretionary spending.
According to the study, food cost was a major concern among customers who entirely forgo restaurants or dine out only rarely. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said groceries were still cheaper than restaurants. While the food-away-from-home inflation rate is below the food-at-home rate year-over-year, that gap has narrowed in recent months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Prices are climbing like crazy so some value is being looked for when making decisions,” one customer wrote, per the study.
Eighty-six percent of diners are interested in joining a restaurant rewards program if it offers discounts or coupons, according to a TouchBistro report released in September. But that report also finds a gap between interest and membership, finding that only 36% of Americans are enrolled in a restaurant loyalty program.