A picture of Bagel Boy's gift cards

Restaurant gift card programs are super popular, and for good reason: both customers and restaurant owners benefit from gift cards. For customers, it’s an excellent gift to give and to receive. For restaurant owners, gift cards are a great way to promote your restaurant while increasing cash flow.

In this guide, learn how gift cards benefit restaurants, plus what you need to know before starting a restaurant gift card program and how to promote your gift cards. 

3 reasons to start a restaurant gift card program

Offering restaurant gift cards sounds appealing but you may be wondering if the juice is worth the squeeze. You already have a lot on your plate! Here are a few ways that restaurant gift cards can benefit your business. 

1. Gift cards increase cash flow

Gift cards are an easy way to boost your cash flow for two main reasons. First, when someone buys a gift card you get that money right away. You don’t have to wait for the gift card to be redeemed for that cash to make it into your account. 

Second – and more importantly – when customers do get around to redeeming their restaurant gift cards, they are very likely to spend more than the amount included on the card. 

For example, if someone receives a $50 gift card, chances are high that they’ll end up redeeming all $50 plus spending an additional $10, $15, maybe $20 at your restaurant. That initial $50 all of a sudden turns into a $70 sale and generates an additional 40% boost to your revenue!. On the flip side, if they don’t redeem all $50, that’s extra cash for your business. 

2. Gift cards attract new customers

Aside from the cash flow benefits, gift cards are also a great marketing tool. When someone gives their friend a gift card to your restaurant, they’re basically doing free word-of-mouth marketing for you. And if the gift card recipient hasn’t ever been in your restaurant before, getting a free meal or drink is a great way for them to get a taste of what you offer — and hopefully keep coming back! 

3. Gift cards help retain existing customers

Gift cards aren’t just for attracting new customers… they’re also excellent tools for keeping your current customers happy. Here are three ways that gift cards can be used to retain customers: 

  1. Offer loyal customers a pre-loaded gift card for their next visit: nothing says “we appreciate you” like receiving a surprise gift card!
  2. Include gift cards in your restaurant’s customer loyalty programs
  3. Give away gift cards as a prize when your restaurant hosts events, like a trivia night. 

Even though your loyal customers are pretty likely to order from your restaurant on their own, it’s always nice to show that you appreciate their business while also giving them another reason to keep coming back! 

What to do before you offer restaurant gift cards

Now that you’ve decided to start a restaurant gift card program, it’s time to get it off the ground. Here are a few things to think about before getting started.

Check if your POS accepts gift cards

First things first: can your current point of sale handle gift cards? Ideally your restaurant point of sale system should be able to process physical gift cards as well as electronic gift cards – giving you and your customers more flexibility. 

If your point of sale doesn’t work with gift cards, then it may be time to make the switch. Table Needs POS can help you launch and maintain a successful gift card program, in addition to other money-making options like commission-free online ordering and a cash discount program (plus a whole lot more). 

Consider both physical gift cards and digital gift cards

Once you have the all-clear from your POS, decide if you want to offer physical gift cards, digital cards, or a combination of both. Digital cards have the benefit of being easy for customers to purchase from anywhere and then customize, but physical cards show off your branding in a more obvious and eye-catching way. 

Plus, if someone is giving a restaurant gift card as a gift they may prefer to have something to physically hand to their loved one. Since Table Needs makes it super easy to create and manage your gift card program, consider offering both. That way you cover all your bases, and give your customers the most options. 

How to promote restaurant gift cards

Okay, so you checked your POS and you created a gift card that’s eye-catching and shows off your brand. Next up: how do you let people know about your new gift card program?

Display gift cards at the counter

If you’re offering physical gift cards, put them in your restaurant someplace where people will notice them, like at the register. This will make them super obvious to everyone who comes through your restaurant, and if they see them right when they’re paying, they may add one or two to their order. 

Ask your staff promote gift cards

Especially when you first launch your restaurant gift cards, you’ll have to do some manual work to let people know about them. One simple way to boost gift card sales is to have your staff ask customers if they’d like to add a gift card to their order.

Incentivise gift card purchases

Increase gift card purchases by adding an irresistible incentive. One option is to offer a $25 gift card for only a $20 purchase price. Another idea is to add a perk for gift card purchases over a certain dollar amount. For example, for all gift cards over $50, the purchaser receives a free beverage or side of kimchi. People like giving gifts to their friends and family, but it’s nice when they get a little something, too. 

Promote gift cards on social media

Posting about your gift card program on your restaurant’s social media channels works magic for both digital and physical gift cards. Post a picture of the physical card to show off the branding and then include a link for people to purchase gift cards online. This spreads the word about your gift cards in a way that people can easily share with others and make purchases right from their phone.

Donate gift cards at community events

Gift cards are a simple, low-lift way for your restaurant to participate in community events. Donate various denominations of gift cards as prizes for community raffles and game nights at the local brewery, or as giveaways at a local nonprofit’s next silent auction. Not only does this type of participation get the word out in your area about your restaurant, but it builds goodwill and encourages people to try your restaurant.

Ready to launch your gift card program?

Table Needs guides you through the entire process,  from helping you create a professional design to printing and digital set up all the way through to reporting. Contact us today to learn more.

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