What’s the deal with bank credit card promotions?

December 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm 9 comments

Credit card promotions at restaurants are rife in Singapore. I never noticed such promotions in the US, but here every restaurant has a tie-up with a bank where users of that bank’s credit card will get some type of benefit – be it a percentage off the bill, free food based on a certain amount you spend, 1 for 1 deals, etc.

Credit Card

Before Standing Sushi Bar even opened, banks were approaching to talk about tie-ups. I wish I had known more about how to deal with them.

Their value proposition is that they will increase awareness of your restaurant by including the restaurant in their collateral – primarily booklets and web sites that list all the venues that have deals with them and what the promotion is.

Since I was a soon-to-open restaurant, I figured that any awareness would be good.  UOB is the bank best known for their restaurant tie-ups so when they approached me I signed on – offering discounts and a 1 for 1 omakase promotion to stimulate the dinner crowd.

The 1 for 1 omakase promotion was popular.  It helped bring new people to the restaurant that would normally not eat dinner in the Raffles Place area.  However a 1 for 1 promotion is hard to stomach, financially.

One of the awareness vehicles that the banks tout is that they will create banners and table tents with the credit card promotion that you’re supposed to place all over the restaurant.  They pitch this to you as if it’s a good thing.

To me, a bank / credit card promotion should bring in customers from outside the immediate area. One of the advantages of a restaurant in Raffles Place is that the foot traffic is incredible – people will discover you and try you out regardless of promotions.

So a promotion should convince people that aren’t in the Raffles Place area to venture into the CBD and try out the restaurant.  If a customer is already in the restaurant and has come of their own accord, the bank tie-up hasn’t contributed anything but the customer still gets the discount and then the restaurant makes less money without getting the benefit of the increased awareness by the bank promotion.

Tips on dealing with the banks:


As a restaurant owner you’re losing money with every discount that you give. The bank is trying to increase the amount of times a customer will use their credit card (thus putting money into the bank’s pocket) by your restaurant’s promotion.

When negotiating with the bank, they should give you something tangible in return.  While there is value in being included with their collateral and advertisements, you need to ask for money, subsidy, or an actual item.  For example you could say to the bank, “I will do this 1 for 1 promotion with you if you subsidize the promotion by giving us 2,000 SGD.


You may be paying 2.5% of the total bill for every Visa transaction.  If you partner with the bank that handles your credit card transactions they may be able to adjust the percentage rate to something lower.


Open-ended promotions are confusing for everyone. Make it clear when promotions will expire.


Ask for the demographics of the bank’s credit card holders. Are they the right market for your restaurant? If a bank’s credit card is popular with students and you’re targeting professionals, you’re not going to want to promote to that bank’s credit card base.


In the opening weeks, a flood of banks will meet with you and try to sign you to exclusive (i.e. can only sign with them or must give them the best deal) contracts.  Make sure you’re getting a good deal from the bank (i.e. what they will subsidize) before committing. 


Wait a couple weeks and see where you think you need help. For example, at the sushi bar we get a healthy lunch crowd – there’s no need for me to run a promotion to increase customers during lunch time. However we get few customers during the late afternoon and happy hour times. So with Standard Chartered I created a promotion that targets the happy hour crowd.



Entry filed under: Promotion, Starting-up.

Christmas Eve Dinner Omakase Sushi platters

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dominic Tan  |  December 20, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Promoting by word of mouth is the best, imo.

    I see you already have the best tools available to you, your facebook, tweeter, foursquared etc.

    Banks and credit card companies have only one interest which is to make people sign up with them, in hope of earning revenue through interest and fees in the future, therefore any gimmick about helping you is nothing but halfhearted effort to use you to promote them instead of the other way round.

    So yeah be aware.

  • 2. Jazz78  |  December 24, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Getting the banks for money, subsidy or anything tangible in return, I reckon, would liken to trying to squeeze blood out from stone! Frankly, I doubt they will place cash or subsidies on the negotiating table. *Yawn, what’s new yeah* 🙂

    Promos to get repeat customers, esp during the lull, could be the next ‘to-do’ step, I think. Incredible foot traffic, but how many of them return to put cash into your register or swipe their cards time and again? So perhaps your next bank/credit card promo could aim to get customers return a second, third, fourth time?..you get the drift. Sustainability will make standingsushi ‘stand’ for as long as you want! 🙂

  • 3. kiwi  |  June 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Howard,

    Curious to know whether you are still running any promo with credit card companies recently?

    For such promos, are they a mean to an end? Like were you trying to create awareness in the initial stage and thus the deep discount (1-for-1 promo)? Cos I always wonder how do companies make money when they are offering such deep discount?

    For me, I’ll try only if there’s promo for food that I like (so 1-for-1 promo on italian food and restaurant that prepare food using microwave are out)

    Or were you hoping that customers who enjoyed the promo will return to your restaurant in the future after trying your food? I’ll probably go back to a restaurant for good quality food at reasonable price. Other promos will be the icing on the cake.

    • 4. stand4sushi  |  June 28, 2010 at 5:16 am

      @kiwi – Yep, the initial 1-for-1 promo was meant to get diners to try us out during dinner time. Raffles Place isn’t a traditional dinner location so when Standing Sushi Bar first opened, two of the challenges were 1) Getting any customer in the door 2) Getting dinner customers. Certainly I was also hoping for customers to return after trying us out the first time.

      Currently we have promos with UOB card (10% off a la carte items) and StanChart card (15% off a la carte items).

  • 5. kiwi  |  June 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    @Howard.. so you do not have any 1-for-1 promo anymore?

    Btw. out of curiosity, do you guys make a profit or at least cover your cost for such cut-throat promo?

    • 6. stand4sushi  |  July 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      @kiwi The 1 for 1 promo was until the end of October (so it ran for about 2.5 months).

      We covered costs with the promo but that was about it. I suppose if I factor in labor costs as well as having someone utilizing the promo taking up a seat (we’re really small, only about 13 seats at night) that a full-paying customer might have been in then I would have lost money on it.

      Of course one could say since we were a new restaurant many of those seats might have gone unfilled!

  • 7. kiwi  |  July 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Oh.. missed my chance..

    When will you have one again?

    Will you be @ the shop today? Would probably drop by for a chat if time permits… curious abt yr business

    • 8. stand4sushi  |  July 12, 2010 at 11:20 pm

      @kiwi Hey! You can always e-mail me at howard@standingsushibar.com if you’d like to ask anything or meet up. Regarding 1 for 1 promotion… I need to examine the economics of it. Definitely brings customers through the door but financially might not be feasible.

  • 9. Margie  |  August 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Howard, This is really nice post for start-ups . I’d like to add few points regarding promotion. Apart from regular dining promotions one can offer deals for festivals, special events for celebration like wedding party and anniversary, birthday party, special food festivals etc. There are many things to do 🙂


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Standing Sushi Bar

Join us at our branches in Singapore's fast-paced Raffles Place business district or unwind in our flagship branch located in the Bras Basah Arts & Historic neighborhood. High-quality, healthy, affordable dining. Open at Marina Bay Link Mall and 8 Queen Street!



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