4 Most Creative & Effective Customer Loyalty Programs – Part 2

If you missed our first article with examples and great ideas from East coast to West, check it out here. If you’ve already read part 1, you can skip down to the examples from Hawaii & the Pacific NW on how Independent Venues get more customers in their door, make them happy, keep them coming back for more, and increase word-of-mouth marketing.

RECAP: How much does it cost to get a new customer vs. keep an existing customer?

  • It costs FIVE TIMES more to get a new customer than keep a current customer, but most of us (40%) focus on getting new customers instead of focusing on retention (18%).
  • You can increase your profits by 25-95% with just a 5% increase in customer retention
  • Loyal customers are 5x more likely to repurchase, 5x more likely to forgive, 4x more likely to refer, and 7x (!!) more likely to try a new offer.

But, do those customer loyalty card programs or point systems actually work? And, if those little scanner/punch cards don’t work, WHY don’t they work?

RECAP: Why does a customer loyalty program matter?

Local restaurants and bars have (at least) 3 things in their favor over goliath corporations:

  1. Proximity to customer’s homes/work
  2. Face to face encounters with real people
  3. Customers might bump into their friends.

Key Points:

  • It matters to do something creative, unique, and if possible, tangible: this gives your customer a sense of ownership. If they can touch it, bring it home, or put their name on it, it’s like taking a little slice of their favorite place home with them.
  • Customer loyalty programs don’t have to be FREE…Remember, you value what you pay for. Unlike punch cards and grocery point systems, the most effective loyalty programs for restaurants and bars are those where people actually pay for the privilege to: be first, make a reservation, or have their name etched in glass on a wall.

4 Impressive Customer Loyalty Programs: 
Creative, Effective Customer Loyalty programs to improve customer retention.

Since you go through great lengths to be unique, from your craft cocktail menu to your Drag Queen Bingo Brunch…we found some of the most ‘crafted-with-love’ loyalty programs from east coast to well beyond the west coast.  Keep reading to see how they do it.

Kona, HI (The Big Island): home of free-flowing lava, host to the Ironman World Championship, where the aloha spirit is alive and well.

Ola Brewing Co – MUG CLUB

 “If you move to the island I suggest you purchase their mug club card for $100 a year. You flash this card & it doubles the size of your beverage without an additional charge.” – Colleen, happy customer on yelp.

This happy customer summed it up with their 5 star review, making it sound like a no-brainer for locals. With card-carrying members, Ola Brewing Co has created a community of regulars that benefit the more they come.  But more than that, they have created a sense of ownership and identity with a card that they carry with them where’er they go. 

This is priceless.  But of course, they are also getting a steady stream of upfront income, and a guarantee of repeat purchases.

There is no way to steer wrong with this idea.  There are no straight freebies…just a little extra love in a glass.  And we all know that you can’t drink a frosty beverage without a salty side….and preferably a friend.

Medford, OR

Copper Plank – MUG CLUB

We also talked to Copper Plank, an AmptUp VIP Venue, who hosts an elegant version of the Mug Club with glass mugs locally etched with the member’s name and the year they joined. This becomes a symbol of pride for regulars as the years wear on.

 “The culture it creates is pretty powerful,” says co-owner Amy Maukonen.  “If a new regular starts to come in…they’re pretty welcoming, but you’ll hear the other regulars say ‘Hey, why don’t you have a mug with your name on it?’  It becomes an investment, like: ‘We believe in you and we’re part of this community.’  It’s a sign of loyalty to us, while also bringing a sense of ownership of the shared community space,” she continued.


  • Mugs with names/dates are prominently displayed on a shelf as their permanent home, until renewal.
  • Members get an extra 4oz when ordering (and paying for) a pint with their mug.
  • Mug Club renewal happens the month of Jan – so it helps bring in revenue during a typically slow month.
  • Non-renewals get to take their mug home with them.
  • ~50% of mugs get used on a weekly basis
  • Currently at about 50 ppl, they want to grow and cap it at 100 (which may give it an air of exclusivity, a true ‘club.’)

Things to consider?:

There are some tricky logistics that can be “a pain in the rear,” according to Maukonen – ie:

  • the storage of the mugs
  • because it’s a specialty item, what do you do if/when it breaks and it needs to be replaced
  • the renewal can be really messy if there’s not a reliable way to track this
  • Figuring out the marketing for the program and staff expectations for renewals and non renewals.
Copper Plank Mug Club glass mugs chilling on the shelf
Copper Plank Mug Club glass mugs chilling on the shelf with your ‘call sign’ and the year you joined.

Oregon & Washington: Home to all things W.I.E.R.D. (Wild, innovative, eclectic, revolutionary, disruptive)


This passport brings out the hidden gamer in all of us.  Tapping into a gamification strategy isn’t new, but it’s well done at McMenamins. 

For a little background, McMenamins is an entertainment, dining, and drinking staple in the Pac NW. Virtually every man, woman, and child who has lived here has visited more than one McMenamins.  These renovated historic buildings, their creative entertainment, unique art, and ambiance wraps you in (a distillery? A wine barrel aging room with live music in an old work house? A Roman-style soaking pool in an old elementary school? A cigar lounge in the engine room?).

To have created this concept in the first place is a beautiful feat. To turn this into an almost 60 Venue regional chain, with each location as beloved by its community, as the next? Unbelievable.

Because they have so many incredible locations, they created a clever way to help their fans get the fullest experience. The Details:

  1. Participants pay $35 for a physical passport booklet,
  2. They visit locations between Oregon & Washington to collect their stamps.
  3. They can collect stamps by making a purchase or by completing a clue/task for that location, earning a prize when all stamps for the region have been collected…and a title to boot.

Because you don’t value what you don’t pay for, The $35 paid for these “just-for-fun, I-was-there-and-I-can-prove-it stamps,”  elicits commitment and excitement – getting their feet through the doors at as many locations as possible.

McMenamins Passport with stamps
McMenamins Passport with stamps for all of their 60+ OR & WA locations

Here are some hallmarks of this effective program.

First, they have a dedicated page for the program:

It often happens that Venues don’t update their sites, let alone mention their loyalty program. (If you’re not updating your website because it’s confusing, someone else controls it, or you don’t even know where to start – it’s time to get a new website. With sites like squarespace and Wix, you can have a gorgeous, easily managed site up in about 30 minutes, for less than $20/mo.)

Something Tangible:

As with any good game that goes down in history…there is something tangible, a little piece of the experience that people can take home with them and own. The passport and stamps act as physical game board, if you will (move over Monopoly).


Oh yes…of course, there has to be SOMETHING! (free tots, burgers, appetizers, goodies, exclusive Passport pint glasses, T-shirts, a growler and other merch.)


McMenamins goes beyond the simple satisfaction of a full book of stamps and prizes, full passport owners get ‘crowned’ as an official “Cosmic Tripster.”

Proper Rules:

Any good game needs rules…in writing! In an official location (the website). If you’re going to do it, do it right, am-I-right? See McMenamins rules here.

The Unique Sauce:

  • Adventure and travel (real not just imagined!).
  • Competition to get all of the stamps – self-motivated or with a friend.

Make it your own

So, few of us have 60 locations.  But, a sense of competition, a tangible piece of the experience, or being ranked or celebrated…are things you can incorporate that would keep customers coming back.

Create a passport with various tasks to complete, games to be won, or drinks to be tried.  Make the stamps unique (you can even get custom stamps on Amazon!) or even make it ceremonious with a dripped wax seal stamp (find options here or at Portland’s coolest print shop Oblation).  And don’t forget to either charge for it, or make ‘em work a little…that’s what makes it worth it! That’s what forms the CLUB.

Read Part 1 with Other Examples

Curious to see what the first 2 examples were? Check out part 1 of our Membership and Loyalty Programs Inspiration series.

  • Read about Multnomah Whiskey Library’s $800 yearly membership club, and how it sold out in the first year with a 3 year waiting list.
  • Read about the Fernet Members Club and it’s wall of liquor.

What is AmptUp?

AmptUp is the online booking tool that supports independent music Venues and helps them streamline booking, saving literal hours every week. Whether Musicians contact you, or you find them, with AmptUp you can:

  • Send and finalize booking offers FAST – 3 min. instead of 3 weeks.
  • Reduce the email overwhelm
  • Give Musicians everything they need automatically
  • Create a single source of truth for your team and the Musicians’
  • Get Musician assets WHEN the show is booked
Book fast and clear with AmptUp, so you can focus on promoting the show or running the business.


Join AmptUp today!

Live gig bookings made simple, for Venues and Musicians
A man wearing fluorescent colored clothing puts a 1980's - 1990's cellular brick phone into his fanny pack, representing state of the art style and technology for that time. Detail shot; horizontal with pink background.

Is Google Holding You Back?

After an unrelenting holiday season that goes from October to Jan 2…with demanding party hosts, constant staff changes due to a germ-filled December, late nights,

Read More »