If you don't know what Foursquare is, or you do and are one of those people who hate it for whatever reason, this post isn't for you. If you do use Foursquare or happen to run an establishment that may have a place on Foursquare, I'll invite you to read this post.
I have a problem with Foursquare mayorship offers. As Foursquare slowly becomes a driving force among location based apps, more and more businesses are utilizing Foursquare to increase customer loyalty. The initial way that they leveraged it was to offer deals to mayors. Users can earn mayor status at each vendor on Foursquare by checking in the most frequently over a given time span. Offering deals to them seems like a great idea, it rewards your most loyal customer and makes it a challenge to see who can keep the mayorship.
The problem I have with them is that it excludes other customers who use Foursquare. Especially as the application becomes ubiquitous, limiting your offer to one person is a way to dishearten some of your loyal customers. Some people will go have a drink at their favorite bar every night just to keep the mayorship. They may not spend a lot; they might just take the time to walk in so they can check in and keep that deal. Second, offering a deal to the mayor allows them to walk into the establishment and spend less, and they can do this day after day (of course you can cap the deal, but that is somewhat lame). On the other hand, you might have a couple who comes into your restaurant every Saturday morning for brunch. They don't come in every day so they don't earn the mayorship but they are loyal. If they use Foursquare, it could get frustrating being a regular diner yet being excluded from using that orange "Deal Here" button on the app.
What do I think business should offer? I think using Foursquare as a supplement to a loyalty program is a great idea. One local business that excels at this is The Wedge Co-op, instead of giving you a special discount or complimentary beverage; they allow you to enter a weekly drawing every time you check-in. This is a great way to reward all visitors yet keep things from being exclusive to your most frequent visitors. Another idea for a deal could be to offer a discount or complimentary item based on the number of check-ins a person has.
The point is to not reward your most loyal Foursquare customer, but to reward loyalty regardless of status. If someone comes in five times a month to a restaurant they are a loyal customer, and offering specials that reward everyone can keep new customers coming back to get the perks ever if there isn't a chance they can dethrone the current mayor.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will state that I have received mayor deals. Once at Barrio I happened to earn the mayorship and was actually the first person to use the deal. I've since lost that mayorship. I was also a long time mayor of the Chef Shack and am still treated extremely well by Carrie and Lisa even though I lost my mayorship this spring. Additional, I currently am not a mayor of any venue in Minneapolis. If that makes this post less genuine, then so be it.