The diners of the world have spoken: food tourism is officially more than a fleeting trend. It’s a phenomenon that has taken the restaurant industry — and the loyalty industry — by storm. In fact, according to Skift, 35 million U.S. leisure travelers seek out culinary activities after they’ve decided on their destination and before they take their trip.
With consumers dedicating entire excursions to culinary experiences, the food industry is more competitive than ever before. But as a restaurant stakeholder, how can you capture consumer interest and stand out in a food tourism-based world? The answer you’re looking for is right in front of you: your loyalty program.
Remember, phone eats first
There’s no denying that social media single-handedly created the food tourism craze (and Skift has the data to back it up). Smartphones allow diners to document and post every single moment and meal — and with #food tallying 349,073,372 Instagram posts and counting, it’s clear that most are. To take advantage of this digital food scene, dig into user-generated content.
User-generated content (UGC) is a marketing gold mine. It’s material that your customers have shared on their own that you now get to feature on your own channels. Whether you repost content from your most loyal fans or run a quarterly (or weekly, monthly) Instagram contest for the coolest restaurant pic, collecting and resharing UGC shows your customers you care what they have to say and can reinforce the affinity between your audience and your brand. While local eateries might have an Instagrammable interior, genuine interactions between your brand and consumers will help you outshine the competition every time.
Keep it consistent
When it comes to food tourism, travelers lean one of two ways: trying something new or sticking with what they know. To excel in food tourism, cater to both. So, if a Chicago regular visits your Los Angeles locale, they’ll anticipate a similar experience — and the same sort of loyalty interactions. And the same goes for any customers who discover you in their travels and return months or even years later.
Make sure your loyalty solution provider is equipped to make all of your offers (coupons, discounts, etc.) redeemable across locations. If they aren’t, building brand loyalty will be an uphill battle.
Get in the game
Nothing drives people quite like a healthy dose of competition. Gamification adds an interactive element to your loyalty program that keeps customers engaged and eager to return to your restaurant again and again, even when they’re on the road.
Take Old Chicago Pizza, for example. Its revamped OC Rewards program includes the World Beer Tour — loyalty members can sample cold brews from around the world and earn points for those pints. Once a customer goes “around the world” (80 days not required) and tries 110 beers, they’ll live on forever in the Hall of Foam. This kind of community-building program is a great step to keep customers engaged not only with their home location but through their travels too. (Those 110 beers take time.)
To really stand out in the world of food tourism, your loyalty program needs to be like no other. Social engagement with your most loyal visitors, consistent interactions, and gamification all provide solid paths to fostering brand advocacy among your customers.
If your current loyalty solution isn’t up to the task, we’re here to help. Contact Marigold Engage+ here to start your journey.