9 Ideas to Build a Successful Referral Program for Restaurants

by Ayushi Jain

referral program for restaurants

Want to attract mass visitors to your restaurant? Here's a quick read on building a successful referral program that will help you bring more people to the business!

Do you think customers visit your restaurant solely based on your social media promotions or interiors? No! While marketing and restaurant aesthetics are some of the ways to encourage customers to visit restaurants; one best way to attract a crowd is through referrals.

Will you visit a place based on a social media recommendation or a friend's recommendation? Obviously, the latter! People always love talking about good food places. When they share their experiences, it promotes word-of-mouth and increases awareness for your business.

But how can you make this happen? All you need to do is push your customers to bring in referrals in exchange for exciting rewards. A referral program for restaurants can work amazingly if you have the right strategies in place.

Even if you don’t have one, we’ve got you covered with some excellent ideas to build a successful referral program. Come, let’s look into these ideas!

9 Referral Program Ideas For Your Restaurant

1. Clear and attractive incentives

Customers like to take action when they have a clear and appealing reason to do so. Offering attractive incentives to both referrers and referred can motivate them to be a part of your referral program.

Attractive incentives can fuel word-of-mouth marketing. Customers are more likely to talk about your restaurant to others if they believe their referrals will result in significant benefits for both themselves and their friends.

Furthermore, these incentives build loyalty and trust once you start rewarding your existing customers for their efforts.

2. Social media engagement

Your customers are active on social media 24*7. So, why not use it to your advantage?

You can use social media to spread the word about your referral program or can create a targeted social media campaign. You can ask your customers to share a photo with the referral link and the interesting rewards that come with it. Their friends and family see it, get interested in rewards, make a purchase from the business, and both parties then get a unique reward. Thus, a referral program can be made a fun activity when you promote it via social media.

Leveraging social media platforms will not only boost engagement but also create awareness about your business. People trust recommendations from friends or family. When customers share their positive experiences with your restaurant or referral links with others, it can lead to increased brand exposure and visibility.

3. Tiered rewards

Tiered rewards are incentives that customers enjoy depending on their ranks or achievements within a loyalty program. These rewards consist of multiple levels or tiers, and each level has specific rewards. Customers must match a certain criteria to unlock a new level and the rewards associated with the same.

Incorporating tiered rewards with your referral program can offer several benefits that can enhance customer engagement and loyalty.

Tiered rewards build a sense of competitive spirit amongst the customers. As they start moving up the tiers, they will be more motivated to refer your restaurant to family and friends. It will encourage them to remain engaged with your brand for a longer time.

This improves your customer retention rate and increases the number of referrals and new customers for your restaurant.

Tiered rewards are a great way to create an engaging customer experience and encourage them to remain active.

ALSO READ: What is Referral Program and Why you Need One to Boost Restaurant Sales?

4. Leverage email and SMS marketing

Through emails and SMS, you can reach a broad audience, including the ones who are not active on social media platforms.

Once a customer leaves your restaurant, thank them by sending an email or an SMS. In the end, you can explain to them how they can send referral links or codes to their family and friends, and win exciting rewards.

Followed by the first email or SMS, you can send reminder messages to your customers about your referral program. Emails and SMS messages have a high opening rate compared to other channels. So, the chances of customers missing your message are low.

5. Personalised referral codes

Assign each customer a unique referral code that they can easily share. This adds a personal touch and can help track who referred whom.

Personalised referral codes provide a tailored experience for each customer. This makes them feel valued and acknowledged, increasing their loyalty to your restaurant. It also enables word-of-mouth marketing since customers are easily able to share the referral codes with their loved ones.

And the best part about leveraging these codes? You can accurately track which customers are referring to friends and monitor the success of their efforts. This data helps you gauge the impact of your referral program. Once you have understood the data and insights in-depth, you can make an informed decision to improve the success of your referral program.

6. Run a referral contest

If you want to build excitement for your referral program, try running a referral contest. For instance, in this contest, customers will be asked to refer to a specific number of people in a limited timeframe. And top 2 customers who win the contest can either receive gift vouchers or an X% discount on their next meal with your restaurant.

A referral contest provides an opportunity to get creative with their marketing strategies. They can design unique campaigns, messages, and graphics that resonate with their target audience.

Furthermore, through this contest, you can easily track the number of entries and the referrals the participants bring in. This allows you to measure the overall performance of the contest and make improvements accordingly.

Running a referral contest as part of a referral program can help restaurants tap into the power of customer advocacy, expand their customer base, and create a buzz around their brand. When executed thoughtfully, such contests can provide a win-win situation for both the restaurant and its customers.

7. Limited-time promotions

The impact of FOMO (Fear of missing out) is real. Create a sense of urgency and the feeling of FOMO by introducing limited-time promotions. For instance, offer double rewards for a specific period to encourage more participation.

This will encourage them to take immediate action and bring more referrals. The higher the referrals, the better. Because it will help in increasing your brand awareness and boosting sales.

8. Simple sharing mechanism

Picture this: You have a large customer base but you still fail to increase the impact of your referral program.

Why does this happen? It may happen because customers find it difficult to share their referral codes or links with their loved ones.

Make it easy for customers to share their referral links with friends and family. This could be through a mobile app, a QR code, or a unique referral URL that can be shared on social media or via email.

Complicating the process unnecessarily will take your customers away from you and negatively impact your customer retention rate.

9. Offer festive or holiday-themes incentives

Is it a holiday season? Or is it a season of festivals? Design your referral rewards around festivals or special holidays. These are special days and come with limited-time offers. So, it will encourage your customers to find referrals faster.

People are often looking for restaurants with exclusive deals and offers during festivals and holidays. And promoting referral rewards during these times can be advantageous for your restaurant.

Benefits of Restaurant Referral Programs

Running a referral program can be a strategic move for your restaurants to build loyalty and increase customer engagement. Here are some benefits of restaurant referral programs.

  • Referral programs are measurable and trackable. Restaurants can monitor the number of referrals, conversion rates, and the impact on revenue, allowing them to assess the program's effectiveness.
  • They are an excellent way to acquire new customers. Existing customers refer friends, family, and colleagues who are likely to share similar preferences, leading to higher-quality leads.
  • Referral programs can help restaurants increase their overall revenue with more customers coming as referrals. These new customers can turn into existing ones, boosting overall sales.

Final Thoughts

Leveraging a referral program for restaurants can do wonders for both customers and restaurant owners. It not only helps in retaining existing customers and acquiring new ones, but also helps in nurturing your relationship with them. Moreover, you need referral programs to boost sales. These referral program ideas can be a game changer for your restaurant if used wisely.

If you wish to create a successful referral program, try the Reelo Referral Feature for free.

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