Countless people choose to celebrate their birthdays at restaurants every year. And there are plenty of reasons to strive to make your restaurant people’s top pick.
“You’re building a deeper relationship with the customer – people like to be celebrated and having a restaurant proactively reach out to them builds brand loyalty,” says Shane Murphy, co-founder of restaurant text marketing platform Boostly. “This is also a moment when people are likely to bring a large group, generating incremental or new visits from customers and producing higher than average ticket sizes.”
Even if celebrants don’t show up with a party full of people, it is likely those birthday two-tops will still produce higher check averages. Birthdays are a time to splurge, whether that means ordering an extra appetizer or dessert. And perhaps more importantly, birthdays present an opportunity to recognize, thank, and retain your best customers – just like any loyalty program.
Naturally, birthdays position you against dozens of competitors vying to host customers’ celebrations. So how do you make sure you secure that golden reservation? We break down some birthday marketing best practices to help you stand out.
Utilize your digital touchpoints to collect customers’ birthday dates.
You obviously can’t send out real-time birthday promotions without knowing customers’ actual birth dates. The easiest way to collect those is to utilize existing components of your tech stack, like loyalty or reservation software. Every time someone signs up for your loyalty program or makes a reservation, prompt them to share their birth date and email address alongside the rest of their contact details. Some point-of-sale systems also enable you to ask customers to share birth dates following checkout. Speak with your provider about your options.
No matter how the dates are collected, it’s important to explain to customers why they should share this information. Include sign-up messaging that hints at the rewards, like, “Share your birthday with us, and we’ll send you a special gift when the day arrives!”
Think beyond “free dessert” in your promotional strategy.
After the email list is built, it’s time to shift the focus to your promotional strategy. What can you offer customers on their birthday that’ll actually drive a reservation? Here’s where it’s important to think beyond the obvious. Unless you’re well-known for your pastry program, a free dessert coupon may not cut it.
“Offering something that [the customer] generally already orders is going to give you the best shot at driving that customer in,” says Murphy. “Birthdays are one of the primary times where it makes sense for a restaurant to give a more aggressive offer because you are driving a larger [check size].”
Decipher what makes your brand stand out and what customers actually want. A compelling offer is key to beating out competitors.
Tailor rewards based on visit frequency.
Rewards don’t need to be the same for every guest. Invest more in your best customers, whether that means giving them a free birthday entree or meal or a higher discount off their check average.
“Ultimately it’s not a loss because you’re retaining a loyal guest who’s visiting you many times a year, and that has so much more value than one check ever will,” says Julia Bigwood, strategy and analytics manager at Paytronix, a marketing and customer loyalty platform.
As for people that aren’t your top customers, consider your goals. Are you trying to drive them back in the doors after a lapse in visits? If so, it might be worth investing in a larger reward. Otherwise, consider a less expensive gift, like a free appetizer or 20% off a meal.
Consider promotions for others in the party.
If your business goals include extending your brand reach and acquiring new customers, consider offering rewards to those beyond the birthday participant.
“Applying a discount to other people in the group helps incentivize more attendees,” says Murphy.
Hook the birthday celebrant with a larger discount, and then offer a smaller one for additional attendees. The goal is to encourage the celebrant to expand the guest list. (Example: Promote a free meal for the birthday person, while rewarding all other attendees 5% off their total bill.) Every additional invite brings an opportunity to introduce your brand to someone new.
Strategically time birthday email campaigns.
Aim to send email promotions a week before a customer’s actual birthday. This gives them time – but not too much time – to plan.
“If you send too far in advance, customers won't remember, and it's unlikely that they’ll actually make it into your restaurant,” says Murphy.
Promotions should also be marked with an expiration date – typically around a week after the customer’s birthday. This encourages the customer to act, but also leaves room for coordinating schedules among multiple attendees.
Partner with a loyalty platform to make personalization easier.
Customers want rewards that are tailored to them. Loyalty programs that excel in personalization can create a 6.4-time lift in member satisfaction, and members say they’re 3.5-times likely to spend more with the brand (Bond). And here’s where loyalty software comes into play.
Most platforms allow you to track customer visit information (day/time of visits, frequency of visits, items purchased, etc.) and spend information, and use that information to segment customers. This enables you to create custom email campaigns based around specific subsets of customers and your own business goals, and customize birthday rewards accordingly.