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

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.


By selling gift cards now, especially in large sums, restaurants can secure capital and liquidity to enable reopening when the worst of the pandemic is over. Gift cards are also a huge loyalty indicator: these guests are committing to come back, and 80% of consumers spend more than the value of their card.

Even better, restaurants can offer virtual cards through Paytronix , which can be easily purchased – and delivered! – directly from the restaurant’s website. The lack of face-to-face time with a guest may be unconventional, but during the pandemic, it will likely add an extra level of comfort for the guest in addition to enabling restaurants that aren’t providing takeout to keep revenue coming in.

Bloomin’ Brands’ Outback Steakhouse is offering a $20 e-Bonus when guests buy $50 in gift cards through March 29. Taking their own promotion in another direction, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants are donating 100% of gift card proceeds through the end of the month to a relief fund for employees, in a campaign similar to one being practiced by Prime Hospitality Group.

Others are seeking ways to ensure the guest will use the gift card for a dine-in meal.

Immigrant Food in Washington, D.C., has promised a complimentary glass of prosecco with each gift card purchase – a promise that will be honored when the restaurant is able to reopen for business.


Some campaigns are even being promoted by organizations outside of the foodservice industry. Beasley Media Group, a collection of radio stations across 15 different U.S. markets, last week unveiled “Operation Gift Card: New England,” a promotion that will feature local restaurants’ websites where gift cards can be purchased. The group’s Boston-area stations will also promote the campaign on-air.

Seek out local partners in your area who are offering platforms to promote your gift card sales, and ensure you’re targeting all of your guests by utilizing all channels of communication: email, social media, your website.

Ultimately, remember to keep your message heartfelt and honest. Prepare a narrative as to why you need the support, and what it will mean to your business and your staff. Your guests’ loyalty brought you this far – trust them to see you through this storm, too.

Go Wide and Go Home: Best Practices from the Paytronix Community

As we all try to adjust to the new reality of doing business, the Paytronix community is coming together to share best practices for customer outreach in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope you find some ideas here that will help you in your day-to-day marketing operations.

Extend Your Outreach

Right now, use your loyalty resources to connect with both existing and potential customers, regardless of whether they are loyalty program members. Let them all know if you are open and to what extent. Are you open only for takeout or do you offer ordering and delivery? How about curbside pickup?

While your loyalty program has always been a great communications channel for reaching your best customers, consider taking your campaigns into new channels.

Primanti Bros. Restaurant and Bar, the 87-year-old, Pittsburgh-based creator of sandwiches topped with French fries, took a one-off reward usually only available to loyalty members, such as two sandwiches for $10, and promoted it on all available channels – loyalty, e-club, and social media – to reach the widest possible audience.

 

Know Your Delivery Customer

Catering may be on hold for now, but individuals and families that are stuck at home want an alternative to their dwindling pantry fare. It’s important to know who these customers are so that you can segment and target them with relevant offers.

For instance, come up with an offer of sandwiches and soda for families stuck at home and another offer, like six-packs to go, for the millennials and Gen Xers who are confined to apartments.

Or take your $10-off-$40 promotion to the delivery channel, as California Pizza Kitchen is doing in this Facebook post.

Give Customers Delivery Options

Some brands are generating up to 30% of their current revenue through the third-party delivery services. The associated charges can make this an expensive proposition, but some services are negotiating reduced fees during the current crisis. If your brand has its own free-delivery service, make sure your customers know about it.

If you have a strong delivery business, think about how you can promote it beyond your core loyalty program.

Captain D’s, the nation’s leading fast-casual seafood restaurant, took two key actions that proved effective. First, it promoted its delivery campaign strongly on social media. Second, it sent “shout-out” emails to explain operational changes, such as shorter hours and stepped-up sanitation measures, while also promoting takeout and delivery. Captain D’s can actually attribute a jump in online ordering to these promotions.

Captain D’s also gives customers the option to choose how their order is delivered. Many brands now offer alternatives, such as contactless delivery, drive-through, carryout, and curbside pickup.

Listen to Your Customers

Finally, be open to customer feedback. If customers are calling and asking about redemption dates, it’s important to reassure them that their rewards will be honored. In fact, many brands are reviewing redemption dates and extending them from 90 to 120 days.

If your customers are responding to your Facebook promotions, thank them for ordering with you and for their continued support of your brand. Tell them that you look forward to seeing them again.

Through all of this, it’s about building strong customer relationships that can be beneficial today and grow in the future

Rapid Launch Order and Delivery Helps a Ruth’s Chris Franchise Keep the Kitchens Open 

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Prime Hospitality Group of Indianapolis to close its dining rooms, the leadership team needed to maintain a source of revenue to help keep its 750 employees safe, fed, and part of the team. 

That’s a key reason why the company signed with Paytronix to offer ordering and delivery through the rapid-response product that launched last week. In just a few days, Prime was able to get delivery up and running at its flagship location in Northside Indianapolis and keep serving guests. It also plans to use the DoorDash connection for delivery, in addition to existing deals with Uber Eats and Postmates. These efforts will enable this location to continue doing the highest volume in Prime Hospitality Group’s portfolio.

Takeout and delivery had previously been a secondary focus, intended to fulfill guests’ preference for convenience. Until recently, Prime had always concentrated almost exclusively on the on-premises experience.

“I believe that online ordering and delivery is a necessity in our current circumstances,” said Prime Hospitality Group President Kristy Rans. “We still think that our product is one that can be enjoyed at home even outside the traditional service and hospitality that we provide within the four walls of our restaurants.”

Right now, Prime’s management teams are staffing their restaurants to keep the kitchens running and the employees fed. Takeout dinners for a family of four are being supplied to employees free of charge every Monday through Friday at each of the company’s seven franchised Ruth’s Chris locations in Indiana, Missouri, and Arkansas.

In addition to operating the takeout and delivery side of things, Prime started a fund for its hourly team members, and many guests are donating. The company is also running a gift card promotion that provides a $10 discount for every $100 gift card purchased, with $20 of each gift card sale going to the fund for hourly employees. The tips that management receives through takeout and delivery are going to the fund as well.

All of this is why it was so important to have delivery up and running quickly. Rans notes that Prime had been testing Uber Eats in several locations and had been speaking with Postmates, but there hadn’t been a full rollout. “We wanted to continue to serve our guests at this time, and having an order-and-delivery system allows us to do that,” Rans said. “Keeping operations going through this time will also position Prime to return to normal operations as quickly as possible when we are able.”

 

 

Rapid Launch for Order & Delivery

With dine-in and bar experiences shut down for nearly every restaurant in the country, Paytronix has quickly rolled out a way for restaurants to implement an online order-and-delivery program. This highly focused offering gets a simple program going in one to two weeks.

It’s built on the cloud-based Paytronix connector, which sends information through a connected Windows machine to generate output at a printer. An employee then takes that information and enters it into the POS system. The system also features self-service menu management, so restaurants can make menu changes quickly to adjust to inventory changes. Clients can also easily activate delivery through our DoorDash partnership or offer delivery from their own in-house operation.

Rapid launching is designed to be a fast, easy way to get moving and not intended to replace the full-featured version of the Paytronix Order & Delivery product

For more information, contact the Paytronix team at 617-649-3300, ext. 5.