Survey: Loyalty programs helped restaurants weather recession

Facing a tough economy, restaurant operators have ramped up their value offerings to draw in cash-strapped consumers. Guest loyalty programs have long been a strong driver of repeat traffic. New research from the National Restaurant Association finds that such programs also helped during the recession.
Our just-released survey on customer loyalty programs shows that more than three in four restaurant operators who responded to the survey say guest loyalty programs helped them grow business during the economic downturn.
”Repeat customers are an important demographic for restaurant operators. Loyalty programs can provide strong incentive to increase visits from those individuals,” said Hudson Riehle, the Association’s senior vice president of research and knowledge.
Ninety percent of operators who responded to the survey say loyalty programs give them a competitive advantage. The vast majority plan to invest more in loyalty programs because the programs drive growth.
The research found that:
* Seventy-seven percent of respondents said loyalty programs helped drive business during the economic downturn.
* Nine in 10 respondents said loyalty programs give them a competitive advantage.
* Of the operators who currently operate a guest loyalty program, 84 percent plan to maintain or increase their program investment in 2010.
* More than four in 10 respondents (41 percent) currently operate a loyalty program. Nearly half (47 percent) are planning to launch one.
* About three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) use social media to support their loyalty program. Facebook was the most common social networking site used (65 percent), followed by Twitter (40 percent), and blogging (17 percent).
“This new research clearly shows the value of operating guest loyalty programs, and offers great insight into loyalty strategies,” Riehle added.
The Association partnered with Loyalty 360 – The Loyalty Marketer’s Association and rDialogue to conduct the survey of 1,300 of our restaurant-operator members earlier this year. The survey aims to investigate the level of penetration of loyalty programs in the restaurant industry; identify the types of loyalty practices being utilized; collect the metrics being used to measure performance; and determine the level of dedicated resources supporting strategy, implementation, and management of the programs.
“These findings clearly show that dining loyalty programs continue to grow because they work to accomplish strategic business objectives,” says Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty 360.

From the National Restaurant Association

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