5 Ways Gamification & Loyalty Program can Boost Your Restaurant App Engagement

5 Ways Gamification & Loyalty Program can Boost Your Restaurant App Engagement

People – especially the millennials and Gen Zers –  love good food and they love games. What they love even more is ‘WINNING’. 

Nothing hits their sweet spot like a good combo of games and food. It’s a core reason why gamification in a combo with a loyalty program works so well for restaurants. It’s a hot combo and a win-win for all. Allowing your potential customers to win rewards – may be free food – will win your restaurant more customers, and will help retain more customers, jacking up your sales. Many brands like Starbucks are using gamified loyalty programs to attract more customers, keep them engaged, and loyal – you know keeping them coming back for more! 

In fact, Starbucks’ gamified loyalty program is still going strong. The chain’s Q1 fiscal 2021 results show their loyalty app usage was up 15 percent year over year, and rewards customers contributed 50 percent of US company-operated sales. (source: pymnts )


Recap — Gamification is adding gameplay elements to non-gaming apps. It’s a user-centric approach to retaining customers and attracting potential ones. Read an in-depth intro to the gamification of mobile apps and all the different elements here. 


Still on a fence about this? Let’s convince you with some hot and rewarding numbers.

  • A recent Paytronix study has revealed that an average restaurant customer who used rewards programs of any sort spent 92% more than those who did not. (source: restaurantbusinessonline)
  • Domino’s Piece of the Pie mobile app loyalty program rewards customers with free pizzas after their sixth order and now boasts 27 million members. (source: restaurantbusinessonline)
  • Wendy’s introduced its Wendy’s Rewards loyalty program which now has 3 million members. (source: restaurantbusinessonline)

This combo of gamification and loyalty program is a powerful one and works like a charm, provided it is leveraged in the right fashion. Let’s have a look at some of these techniques to entice customers.

5 Ways Gamification & Loyalty Program can Boost Restaurant App Engagement

1. Appeal Customers with Rewards for Signing Up

75% of consumers will likely place an order at your restaurant after they have been offered an initial incentive i.e a reward. (source: touchbistro)

Therefore, it’s the perfect lure. Give your customers a reason to sign up by tempting them with a reward!

And it is a strategic idea for two reasons:

  • It ensures your customers immediately see rewards for their participation in the program
  • The lure of more (rewards) in the future will keep them on the hook

Starbucks is a perfect example. They lure you into creating an account by showing you the green fields except that the grass really is greener on the other side. 

Gamification techniques to boost your restaurant app's loyalty program
Source: Bootcamp

Denny’s – loved for its cheap and delicious breakfasts – is another instance. They butter up their customers with 20% off their first meals when they sign up on their app for the rewards program. They also offer their members exclusive deals and a free birthday gift.

2. Keep Your First-timers Informed of their Progress – Ping them!

Nothing beats a healthy contest inspiring people to get into action. You can use this gamification tactic to make your restaurant’s rewards program work for you, whether it offers rewards for a certain amount of spending or a certain number of points.

Keep in touch with your customers via in-app push notifications, remind them of the reward awaiting to be unlocked. Use email marketing promotions or chatbot apps to let them know how close they are to receiving their next reward. It keeps the flame alive. There are many third-party service providers like Bluedot that offer geofencing and loyalty reward services to let your restaurant send customers personalized notifications or emails letting them know what tantalizing rewards await them.

Pro tip: create a leaderboard to help your customers track their rewards (like the Dunkin’ Donuts DD Perks app offers), so they can track their progress stacked up against other members. This will encourage competition and get your guests through the door faster for a repeat visit.

3. Create Different Reward Levels

Considering that 53% of consumers are interested in using loyalty programs with gamification techniques, this would be a power move. (source: touchbistro)

Serving a smorgasbord of reward levels will help promote an environment of curiosity, joy, and intrigue. Tiered point scoring (i.e. bronze, silver, and gold tiers) is a fun-tastic way to keep the customers coming back to your restaurant to win and redeem points.

Chick-fil-A’s for instance offers point-based loyalty programs with three reward levels. Customers are encouraged to spend money and win points in order to advance to the next stage. Every time a customer advances to a higher level, they bag more points for every dollar spent, resulting in greater rewards when the time comes to redeem those points.

Starbucks offers a similar reward program. For instance, if you collect 150 stars you can redeem the stars for a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast sandwich, oatmeal, or your favorite drink. Similarly, for collecting a different number of stars you can redeem a distinct meal offer. This is what makes Starbucks loyalty program so tempting.

7 Gamification Techniques to Boost Your Restaurant App’s Loyalty Program
Source: Bootcamp

While this strategy is worthwhile, it’s important to keep your incentive levels realistic. Your customers should not have to wait a year to receive a complimentary meal!

4. Add a Bit of FOMO to Spice it up

60% of people will make a purchase and likely within 24 hours because of FOMO. (source: trustpulse)

As humans, we have a need to be included. We don’t want to miss out on anything. Adding a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) would kick your loyalty program up a notch.

Actually, in sales, there’s a well-known strategy ‘shortfall’ or scarcity’ is a well-known sales strategy: it builds a sense of urgency in the customers. To create feelings of FOMO among your loyalty program participants, consider offering a limited run of a reward or only making the reward valid for a limited time span.

For instance, you could give lapsed members an email or text message or in-app notification a tempting deal (such as 25% off an entree or main dish) that they can only use within the next week or so. Alternatively, if you know a guest comes in on Fridays based on data in your reward app, give them a sweet deal valid only for the next two Fridays.

5. Keep Customers Engaged with a Good Challange

You can set occasional “challenges” for your customers, such as inviting them to come during happy hours throughout barbecue season or ordering takeout on Wednesdays to gain reward points.

You may also hold competitions for rewards system members on social media, or add a new level for them to “activate” after they’ve been on board for a while and achieved a certain status.

Ready to Play the Virtual Field?

The restaurant industry is already competitive and with more and more restaurants adopting digitization the market is becoming saturated with mobile ordering and restaurant apps resulting in fiercer competition. However, with the right approach to gamification reward programs, you can get out on the virtual field, take on the competition, and play your best game!


Have a new or existing app that requires gamification? The CitrusBits team has built successful gamified apps across numerous categories, including food & beverage, job seeking, and sports & entertainment. Contact CitrusBits today for a free consultation.

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