Restaurants deploy loyalty offers

In early 2020, restaurant brands could stand out simply by offering a mobile loyalty program to reward consumers for their spending. In 2021, with so many more programs hitting the market, brands have started working harder to personalize their messaging and offers with data analytics. Today, some restaurants are finding ways to incentivize loyalty beyond the flat-rate transaction model of dollars spent on points earned.

For example, Austin, Texas-based brand Torchy’s Tacos, which has 100 locations in 11 states, announced the launch of its rewards program earlier this month, offering surprise rewards members can’t anticipate. nor control.

“We wanted to create a loyalty program that was more than just points and punches – we wanted to create something fun, unique and different. So the way we’ve built it, it’s not a point-based system, but it’s more of a surprise and a delight,” Torchy marketing director Scott Hudler told PYMNTS in a post. interview. “The world isn’t waiting for another loyalty program. What are you going to do – sounds corny, but – to earn their loyalty to your loyalty program? »

Torchy’s isn’t the only chain experimenting with new ways to build loyalty. Some chains, including fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen and Mexican-inspired quick-service (QSR) restaurant chain Taco Bell recently announced new subscription programs, while fast-casual brand Chipotle has encouraged the engagement with gamified rewards.

See also: Taco Bell is rolling out ‘Taco Lover’s Pass’ nationwide as restaurant subscriptions see mixed results

Chipotle: Brands can build loyalty without incurring the cost of freebies or discounts

Give people what they want

According to data from the PYMNTS study, The Digital Divide Report: Minding The Loyalty Gap, created in collaboration with Paytronix, which featured the results of a census-balanced survey of more than 2,400 American adults about their eating habits. . The study found that more than half of consumers in their early 40s and below use loyalty programs, and that share jumps to around six in 10 for Gen Z.

Read more: Restaurants compete for loyalty programs to stand out as consumers join multiple programs

Additionally, the study found that rewards programs are the most requested digital feature that consumers say would encourage them more than any other to make more restaurant purchases, ranking ahead of online ordering capability. , drive-thru pickup and quick pickup.

Not only do these programs drive brand sales, but consumers expect them.

“Having a loyalty program was something that was definitely a priority for our customers — they’ve been asking for it for a while,” Hudler said. “The engagement and receptivity to a rewards program by our customers has been truly overwhelming.”

The novelty/control trade-off

While the surprise and delight model sets the program apart, it could have downsides for consumers looking to take control of their dining experiences, as many are. So far, Hudler noted, that hasn’t been a problem.

“What precisely does our desire to control him want? … It’s the beginning, but so far we haven’t seen that,” he said.

Certainly, consumers who are members of multiple loyalty programs may be open to the novelty of engaging with one with a less traditional rewards structure. Minding the Loyalty Gap report research found that 70% of QSR loyalty program consumers participate in three or more loyalty programs, and 25% use loyalty programs in all or nearly all QSRs with from which they often buy.

Yet, it seems unlikely that consumers will want more of their program loyalty to follow a similar pattern, given that across the industry there is a trend toward self-guided experiences. Increasingly, restaurant customers are opting for on-device ordering channels, a wide range of payment options, and omnichannel processing. With this growing expectation for the flexibility to choose your own adventure, it seems likely that the mindset could extend to loyalty offers.


Consumers aren’t the only ones looking to take control of the ordering experience into their hands – restaurants are in a similar position to third-party delivery marketplaces. During 2022, Hudler expects improvements in the restaurant industry‘s digital order processing capabilities.

“We love our partners at DoorDash, but the economics are pretty — everyone kind of knows what they are,” Hudler said. “I think all the cool things that can be done there to help with last-mile self-delivery are super intriguing.”

In addition to improving the delivery experience for restaurants, he predicts that this year’s technological innovations will also improve the on-site ordering experience for restaurants and consumers, at least for those looking for speed and convenience. Soon, he predicts that restaurant dining will be almost as digitized as the take-out experience.

“The age-old way of ordering and restaurants where you walk up and you order, or someone comes to your table and takes your order and then brings food – is there a way to get rid of those things, and that maybe on your phone?” he said. “A lot of places are starting to look at this, we’re starting to explore – can you…change this stream?”



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