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Unclear on the concept

Ever noticed those subscription cards in magazines? The ones that offer new customers great subscription deals? I always wonder about that kind of logic. Why ask loyal subscribers to renew their magazine subscription at $24/year, and then put cards in the next issue bragging about the $18/year offer for new customers?

Magazines aren't the only offenders. Banks are notorious for dangling free checking and low interest rates in front of strangers while ignoring the loyal schmo who's been banking there for 15 years.

Why should restaurants and other foodservice operations blindly follow suit? It's time to rebel. Take care of the people who know and love you best — your regular, loyal customers.

My Suggestion
Here's a Trade Secret on how to accomplish that — and boost employee morale and tips, too. Who knows your regular, loyal customers best? Your wait staff of course. So put them in charge of this loyalty program.

Let each server offer a free dessert to a favorite, loyal customer during each shift. Oh, I can hear those mental calculators whirling now. "Good grief man, that's 5 servers x 2 shifts x 6 days x 52 weeks — that's 3,120 free desserts!" At about 80¢ per dessert, we're only talking about $2,500 a year. Even if you offer more expensive desserts, do the math. That's $8 - $10 a day! Not bad for an effective, year-long marketing program.

What's it worth to have 20 or more people walk out of your restaurant every day as your number-one fan — a newly anointed word-of-mouth ambassador?

And think about what it means to give your wait staff control over a small piece of their world. They get the tips, but they take the heat too. This is their chance to thank the truly beautiful people — the loyal, understanding customer who cuts you slack when the soup is cold...who waits for their entree when everyone else has been served... who brings Aunt Millie every time she visits.

Four More Things:

  1. Get a couple of your best servers together and bounce this idea off them. Get their feedback and input. Remember you're a leader, not a dictator.
  2. We set our POS system to indicate this freebie as "Dessert on the Sandpiper," and charge $0.00 in the price column. Do something similar, or enter it by hand.
  3. Yes, some employees will abuse this program. That's life. But they'll be gone soon enough. This kind of employee rarely sticks around.
  4. Download our protocol sheet to use at your next pre-shift briefing. It contains a brief summary of the intent of the program, the guidelines and a script on how to offer the free dessert to your most valuable asset — your regular, loyal customers.

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