For the purposes of this article, imagine if you will, I am the newly installed CEO of a 100 plus location national Casual Dining Chain here in the UK.

With little or no footfall growth predicted for the UK restaurant sector, except for quick-service, my first real challenge is to stop convenience & price being the two deciding factors for the purchasing decisions of my customers.

I know by increasing the loyalty of my existing customers will help protect my profit margins.  However, my knowledge of the actual workings of a loyalty program is limited.  Based largely on my experience using the plastic card I habitually swipe in my local grocery store and the frequent flyer rewards I collect through my membership of the BA Executive Club.

I am aware data is perhaps the most powerful asset I have in my company.  Given my online experiences using Amazon, Google & Facebook, I understand how these companies use data to enrich my customer experience.  I therefore must also optimise my own data to ensure I delight my customers, personalising their food & service ensuring they come back time and time again for more.

So where do I look for help?  Rather than engage a specialist loyalty company, I decide to start by speaking with my existing service providers.  To my surprise all of them have developed a means of bringing together the online & instore experience.

First, my WiFi provider explains how the data they collect from my WiFi log in page can be used to send personalised marketing messages to my customers and these can be targeted based on frequency of visit & dwell time in my locations

Next, my Payment Gateway company tells me they can tokenise & track my customer’s card transactions.  They show me a marketing dashboard where I can view, in real time, the purchasing behaviours of my most valuable customers.

Then, I’m informed by my Couponing provider by linking their Promotions Manager service with my Point of Sale, I can track all my promotional coupon redemptions centrally.  Building up a profile of my customers, how they respond to my different promotions based on the channels I issue them; direct, social media or even within my mobile ordering flow.

Finally, the provider of my Digital Receipts says they can deliver targeted offers & promotions published on the receipt itself.  Crucially, this will allow me to target new additional bank customers with offers where redemptions can be tracked and analysed in real time.

Following these conversations I decide, rather than a loyalty program, I’m looking for a ‘game changer’ in how my restaurant locations use technology to optimise the guest experience.

I really like the idea of linking customer rewards & promotions directly with my ordering & payment flows.  So where ever my customers make a purchase; via my on-line ordering website, my App or even at the table using their own mobile device I have an ability to reward them.

I’m not Starbucks, so do not have ownership & control over my technology stack to make this happen.  I’ve come to understand, however, that my vision for customer loyalty can be delivered if only I can connect my existing technology stack around an open Point of Sale system.

Providing my customers with a great restaurant experience; personalised for loyalty, promotions, ordering & payment, can only happen once my back-end systems, Point of Sale & Kitchen Management, work seamlessly with my front-end capabilities; App & ordering website.

I now know what I want.  Who, however, do I ask to deliver me this loyalty program of the future?  The Point of Sale provider, Payment Gateway a Loyalty Specialist or a front-end Development Agency?

The answer is in fact all of them.  To create the loyalty program of the future, all the providers in my technology stack must work in collaboration.  Only then can my vision for customer loyalty, at least in the F&B sector, truly be delivered.