How to protect your restaurant from shady gift card programs

Gift card programs boost restaurant revenue and work well with customer loyalty programs. According to Deloitte:

54% of consumers purchase gift cards or gift certificates during holiday seasons.

But have you researched third-party gift card services lately? Company after company with fancy landing pages and only a few actual reviews by restaurant owners.

This $160 billion industry is chock-full of startups alongside well-known (and more expensive) players. You’ll find reputable-looking sites that promise you can start selling within minutes.

But dig deeper, and you’ll find companies who suddenly stopped making payments to restaurant owners and changed their addresses.

Partnering with a credible company is vital. Protect your time and profit by knowing where to start, what questions to ask, and how to sniff out serious issues.

Check your current software integrations.

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Before heading down the online rabbithole of third-party gift card vendors, check with your existing business software and credit card processing systems. Narrow your choices by researching the gift card companies that integrate with your point-of-sale system or merchant bank.

Gift cards that work with your POS system make reconciliation easy.

  • Swipe a card or type in a number to access the balance.
  • Automate your reporting and reconciliation efforts.

Another solution is to call your credit card processor and ask about their existing partnerships with gift card programs. Integrations eliminate the need for staff to use an iPhone or iPad to process payment.

After all, a seamless transaction is crucial; as Restaurant Business points out that:

When high-frequency, modest-check brands make payment convenient for guest, visits increase.

Compare restaurant gift card services.

The most successful gift card programs capture guests across all sales platforms: in-store, on your website, through social media, and with virtual wallets.

Along with POS and merchant terminal integration, gift card services vary in several ways. Information isn’t always readily available on websites, so prepare to do a little digging.

  • How do guests purchase and redeem gift cards?
  • Is there an option for physical gift cards?
  • Does the program integrate with your website and online ordering apps?
  • Is your brand represented during gift card purchases online and in-store?

We know that guests use multiple channels to both purchase and redeem gift cards. However, it’s important to note that a BlackHawk Network study found that:

49% of respondents prefer to buy directly from the retailer/brand.

Deliver the trust that nearly half of your restaurant guests want by finding a third-party gift card vendor that allows your brand to shine through.

Avoid common user and customer experience problems.

Restaurant mobile payment and gift card optionGift card apps must be easy-to-use for you, your staff, and your customers, which is why it’s important to vet your third-party gift card vendor at every touchpoint.

Before choosing a gift card provider, look up customer reviews on independent sites, and check with the Better Business Bureau.

Then, shoot an email to their customer service department or jump on the phone. Doing so helps you avoid these common complaints:

  • Poor user experience on the third-party vender’s website or app.
  • Difficulty redeeming in the restaurant or online.
  • Concerns about data protection and fraud.
  • Inability to reach customer service or receive a response.

Physical, virtual, and mobile restaurant gift cards remain a necessary revenue-boosting tool for chef-owners and an essential part of any restaurant marketing campaign. However, plenty of deceptive companies exist, so use due diligence and partner with a reputable company.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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