Archive for the “Gift Card Strategy” Category

To maximize your restaurant gift card program, ask these 6 questions

Gift card programs are a staple of the restaurant industry. They benefit top-line revenue, create brand advocates out of guests, and can be used to bolster community relations, employee dining, and to recover guests. For all their benefits, however, gift cards can put a drain on accounting resources and add friction to franchisee relationships.

Managing a successful gift card program is far from simple. Below are six critical considerations that all restaurant brands must take into account in order to maximize the benefits of their gift programs.

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Protect your gift cards from fraud with these safeguards

Gift cards make gift-giving easier for consumers and provide a valuable revenue stream for restaurants. Unfortunately, gift card fraud is a common and pervasive problem for merchants. According to a recent report by Mercator Advisory Group, fraud affecting digital gift cards alone represents a $950 million annual loss to the gift card industry – and that doesn’t account for physical card fraud.

A common form of fraud that targets the merchant involves criminals’ use of technology to “guess” the gift account numbers at lightning speed, enabling them to test many randomly generated numbers until they hit a valid card. When successful, this approach, called a “brute force attack,” is the first step in enabling criminals to access the value on compromised cards.  

Any form of stored value is susceptible to fraud, including comp cards and stored value linked to a loyalty program. 

There are some steps merchants can take to reduce fraud exposure, typically provided by the gift card provider. When choosing a provider, ensure the following safeguards are in place:

Avoidance of sequential numbers. While using sequential numbers when issuing gift cards seems like a logical thing to do, it vastly increases the potential for fraud. Sequential numbers allow criminals to make educated guesses about subsequent card numbers in a series. You’ll want a provider that randomizes the number sequence on the gift cards it issues in order to prevent criminals from deducing entire card numbers. […]

The industry rallied around gift cards, but did it help?

As the COVID-19 crisis gripped the restaurant industry, a call went out for people to purchase gift cards to help keep restaurants afloat. The hope was that an increase in gift card sales would sustain restaurants while they converted to a future dominated by online ordering, takeout, and delivery.

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The media ran with the story and restaurants nationwide sent out pleas to their customer base to help with a gift card or egift purchase.

An analysis of restaurant gift card sales in early 2020 reveals that the marketing effort worked but ultimately achieved mixed results. Overall, sales dropped during the pandemic, but that drop was much less severe than we saw in overall restaurant sales during that same period.

Around the same time we saw an increase in overall load amount on the cards purchased, with most of that increase happening in Casual and Fast Casual brands. This suggests that yes, the effort did manage to keep things from getting worse and provided restaurants with a much-needed kick. However, the actual impact on business is much more difficult to discern.

Gift card loads tend to hover around the $30 range for the industry as a whole, but in March we saw that number spike as high as $60, then settle in at about $15 higher than normal, eventually falling well below the normal benchmark.

Markets with the biggest impact

When we look closer, things vary through the industry. Fine Dining, for example, saw little movement in the average price of a gift card when compared year over year, while both Fast Casual and Casual Dining brands increases of between $10 and $30 on their average gift card sales. All that said, much of that lift was gone as we entered Q2. 

It’s also worth noting that included in the “gift cards” category are recurring loads for things like app-based purchases. Your coffee app may ask for your credit card, but you are effectively buying a gift card when you reload, then spending that money over time.

Moving forward, however, we see that gift card sales remain well below last year’s levels as we head into Q2, with traditional bumps in sales that happen around Mother’s Day and Graduation season being much less pronounced than in previous years. It is possible that people have switched to more generic gift card offerings, like those from third party delivery services, but we have little evidence to draw a full conclusion.

This is worth watching. However, given that the vast majority of gift card sales happen during the holiday season, we won’t have a good idea of whether there are major changes to the marketplace until the end of 2020.

When You’re Ready, We’re Here: Using Gift Cards to Boost Sales

March 26, 2020

It’s no secret that restaurants nationwide are hurting as we combat the spread of COVID-19. Some have closed completely for the time being, while others have shifted all operations to takeout and delivery to keep business moving and guests fed; but even the most loyal guests can only eat so much takeout.

So how can restaurants drive revenue without dining rooms, alcohol sales, and stellar hospitality? The answer for many has been simple: promote gift cards.

When all is said and done, gift cards essentially boil down to interest-free loans from the consumer, making them the perfect way for altruistic  guests to support their favorite brands, all while making a commitment to come back for a visit when dining rooms reopen.

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