Over half of Millennials would like to use restaurant loyalty apps on their mobile devices. At first glance, this appears to be an amazing opportunity for anyone in the food industry. It’s so easy to connect with guests over the phones; why not tap into this valuable market?

For many restaurants, building loyalty among guests is indeed that simple. However, you should be prepared for the high standards Millennials have set for any app they’re willing to use. Use this list of pros and cons to decide whether a loyalty app is the right tool for your restaurant.


Pro: Connect to a Younger Audience

Most of your guests own smartphones – but Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to use them to connect with your restaurant. Tapping into this market will give you a boost on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and encourage these younger guests to spread the word among their friends. Reaching out to these generations is an easy way for restaurants to build a loyal base through organic growth.


Con: Transparency is Key

Every new generation of customers is even more interested in transparency. This is especially true with Generation Z, although it applies to Millennials as well. These young diners want to know about every ingredient, every calorie, and every employee benefit. If you use an app to connect with them, be prepared to share many details about the inner workings of your kitchen. This marketing strategy may help you appeal to guests who follow a particular diet. For instance, if keto items are half-priced on Tuesdays, anyone watching their carb intake will get excited about your menu.


Pro: Automatic Upselling

A well-designed loyalty app will do your upselling for you. For example, you might offer a free appetizer for every 10th visit. This gives guests the opportunity to sample different menu items and choose their favorite. Eventually, you’ll have loyal customers ordering the spring rolls with every meal, even if they’re not served for free.


Con: The Soft Sell

Upselling is important, but it can’t be the main focus of your app. In April of this year, Starbucks learned this the hard way. A revised version of their app seemed to place more emphasis on the amount of money spent than it did on the number of times customers came in. This made a lot of guests angry, and caused an outcry on social media. Messaging is more than important: it’s the key to success.


Pro: Data Talks…

Loyalty apps empower restaurants to collect important information about their guests. When they sign up, you can ask questions that may indicate their regular buying habits. How old are they? What zip code do they live in? Do they prefer to dine in or order delivery? Use this information to build a dynamic marketing strategy that meets the needs of your most loyal customers.


Con: …If You Know How to Listen

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data collected through an app. If you’re going to use this information as a marketing tool, make sure you have the right technology to review it carefully. Cloud-based reporting is a must. Compare the activity on your loyalty app with your daily and weekly sales reports to see how effective the app really is.

If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, loyalty apps are an extremely valuable tool. Before you invest in the process of building one, make sure you’ve done appropriate research. As with any new marketing strategy, it’s essential to have clear, trackable goals. With patience and dedication, a loyalty app could boost your business for many years to come.