Three Strategies for Gift Card Redemption

Welcome to February, the month all those cards you sold over the holidays come back to haunt you!

Through the next several months, your customers will be presenting the gift cards they purchased/received for the holidays for payment. Restaurant management should view this as an opportunity to increase the number of visits for returning customers. Here are three strategies to entice customers to return beyond the one time usage of the gift card.

Strategy 1

Should the full balance be paid and the card swipes to $0, have your staff load $5 on that card, return to the presenter and have your server say, “Happy New Year, thank you for your business, there is $5 put back on your card for your next visit!” You are showing appreciation, and providing an incentive for that customer to come back. If the customer has come in with a friend, also give that friend a $5 card and invite them back. They will absolutely tell their friends about the nice gesture. Lots of bang for your buck!

Strategy 2

In the case where cards are presented and they still have value after the bill is paid, there is another opportunity to provide an incentive. Let the customer know that if they use that card today, and add $20 to its value, $25 will be added, instead of the $20 they pay for. Alternately, today and today only (or only in February, however you decide), if they purchase a new $20 card, you will add $5 to their card for no charge! Buy a $50 card, and you will add $15 to their card. You get the idea. Get your cash flow flowing, make your customer happy and impress them with your service.

Strategy 3

Valentine’s Day has hit the books. Reservations for two are flowing in from your website, your phones are ringing off the hook, and you are booked! After the rose is presented to the table (after the check), present a gift card in a lovely envelope and let them know, similarly to the other strategies above, that Valentine’s Day at your restaurant is Magic. Miraculously, if they add a gift card to their check at the end of the service, with a minimum of $25, then the glass of champagne is on the house today (or dessert, or an appetizer … you decide). If your staff is admirably trained, then a verbal explanation is in order. At the very least, professionally produce a promotional postcard explaining the gift card options and drop it gracefully with that special rose. Make them feel special and then wow them with your food and service.

The cards keep coming in, but this year, there is improved cash flow, improved customer satisfaction, improved customer perception, and you now have created a cycle where gift cards are not just for special occasions, but rather part of your overall marketing, and … drum roll … your success!

About the Author

Henry Pertman is Director, Hospitality Consulting at CohnReznick LLP, located in the firm’s Baltimore, Md. office. He can be contacted at 410-783-4900 or

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.