If you think about it, historically, the defining characteristic of the United States and its people has been our entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout time, we’ve been a nation of explorers, hackers, tinkerers, do-it-yourselfers. Never happy with the status quo, we’ve been a nation of people who think “how could this be done better?”
Improving that which came before is as American as apple pie, and we’ve done it time and time again, especially in the world of cuisine. Sure, the Germans invented the hamburger, but we perfected it; burritos are a 19th century creation of Mexico, but it took American ingenuity to wrap up eggs, bacon, cheese, and hash browns in a tortilla to create the breakfast burrito. But one great American innovator gave us something so undoubtedly American, he should have his own holiday.
That man was Herb Macdonald. His invention: the all-you-can-eat buffet. In the mid-1950s, the Las Vegas publicity and entertainment manager had the earth-shattering revelation that you could deliver an artful presentation of a restaurant’s entire menu and more, and people would come. They would eat. And they would be happy.
Sure, the Swedes created the smorgasbord, and Herb Macdonald improved it, offering our great nation the ability to pick, choose, and consume to our hearts’ desire for one all-inclusive price.
But I’d argue that there’s one more great innovator in the history of the buffet, and that’s the LaFleur family of Livingston Parish, LA. Their great contribution: to bring an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring the freshest seafood plucked daily from the Gulf of Mexico to the people of Baton Rouge and surrounding communities.
Thirty-eight years ago, the LaFleur family opened their LaFleur’s Seafood Restaurant in Denham Springs, just outside Baton Rouge, and since then, they’ve been serving fresh seafood to over three generations of families in the area, to rave reviews.
And while many businesses can, at times, become stale as they find success by doing one thing well, LaFleur’s has continued to innovate, most recently in 2013, with the adoption of a mobile loyalty platform, enabling them to communicate with, and reward, the loyal customers who show up every weekend for their lunch and dinner all-you-can-eat seafood buffets.
Ever since launching the Clover Rewards at their restaurant, LaFleur’s has awarded hundreds of their loyal buffet customers with free lunch and dinner buffets. The tiered system allows LaFleur’s to reward their most loyal customers by reducing the requirements to earn a free meal over time. And over the first ten months, the program’s been a great success, averaging about 20 new customers every week over the first six months, and even more weekly (nearly 30) since December.
Having hundreds of engaged customers in a loyalty program is no small feat, but LeFleur’s 1800 rewards members is a real accomplishment, especially in a restaurant. Sure, coffee shops generally find great success with loyalty programs, as many people come in a couple times per week, but LaFleur’s has managed to do the same thing with their seafood buffet.
So how did they do it?
In chatting with LaFleur’s management, we learned that they’d tried the traditional punch card in the past, but found that often customers would forget the card at home, and they even had issue with a few bad apples trying to game the system by creating their own punches.
With the introduction of Clover Rewards, LaFleur’s has managed to reduce loyalty program fraud while improving customer service, enabling greater interaction with customers due to the ability to greet check-ins by name.
While the transition to Clover Rewards left some less technologically-inclined a little wary of having to use their phone, LaFleur’s implemented a couple of tactics to ensure the program went smoothly.
First, they gave their staff extensive training in offering, encouraging, and setting up Clover Rewards for customers, and they motivated the staff by putting up a sign that read, “if your server doesn’t tell you about our rewards program, we’ll give you $10 off your meal.”
The family-like nature of the staff that LaFleur’s management team has cultivated over the years ensured their staff incorporated Clover Rewards into every transaction; nobody on the staff wanted to cost the restaurant money. With ample training and a little motivation that was more carrot than stick, LaFleur’s management was confident that their staff would go the extra mile in offering Clover Rewards and helping their customers get set up.
And the proof is in the (tasty bread) pudding*: to date, LaFleur’s has given nearly 11,000 punches to just over 1,800 customers in just over 4,200 visits–numbers any loyalty program could be proud of.
Where the future of the all-you-can-eat buffet goes, no one can tell for sure, but you can be sure that with their mobile loyalty program, LaFleur’s will continue to provide great customer service and reward their best customers time and time again.
Visit Clover.com for more information about how Clover can help your business with a rewards program.
*actual dessert selections may vary
Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, SunTrust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including CardConnect, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.