Chances are, at least a few of you reading this article have a Starbucks app on your phone or tablet. Who hasn’t gotten excited, at least once, when the little notification pops up on your screen saying that you’ve collected enough stars for a free drink? It’s momentary bliss, especially when it miraculously hits on a bad day. Sometimes your favorite drink can cheer you up and turn your day around. And what would you do for a store that gave you a free drink on a bad day? You’d become a loyal customer. With COVID-19 stealing the restauranteur’s ability to create a unique dining experience, owners everywhere have been scrambling to optimize their customer’s digital experience through online date nights, customized menu options and, you guessed it, restaurant loyalty programs. Just like the QR code comback of 2020, restaurant loyalty programs are making a grand re-entrance onto the restaurant scene. And here’s a few reasons why we think they’re something worth opting into.
Improved Dining Experience
We’ve said it before and we will say it again, consumers dine out not only for delicious food, but for an unforgettable experience. This is where Michelin Stars come in! If you’re able to providing culinary perfection paired with a next-level dining experience, your dining room could be booked for years in advance. Well, since the pandemic, you can still book out years in advance, but not for popularity sake — dining rooms everywhere have taken a major hit in foot traffic to reduce the spread of the virus. As a result, we’ve lost the beautiful experience that came with dining out. This is where loyalty programs can bring back a little bit of that sought-after experience in a digital way.
Whether you want to reward your diners for ordering a romantic dinner for two complete with a bottle of champagne on-the-go or create an incentive for them to participate in an online date night, loyal customers can be created in the process.
A great example of these resurfaced customer loyalty programs is White Castle’s “Cravers” program that incentivizes their customers to return by catering to their personal preferences over their frequency of purchase. Their aim is to get to know the customer on a more personal level and create a custom experience that will keep them coming back for more.
“No two customers are quite alike, which is why we’re offering a personalized experience that’s not based on points or the number of purchases, but instead on their individual preferences at White Castle,” said Lisa Ingram, president and CEO of White Castle and fourth generation family member. “We’re looking forward to providing these special offers and creating even stronger connections with all beloved members of the Craver Nation.”
Consumer trends dictate that more and more people are looking for a tailored experience when it comes to everything from dining out to purchasing a cell phone. Socail media has completely chanted the way that marketing campaigns function. Ever since Mark Zuckerberg made it possible for people to become individuals in a sea of consumers, it has set the bar for other businesses to provide the same experience. This is especially true with the purpose behind these improved customer loyalty programs. They don’t revolve around the members that spend money, the revolve around the needs of the individual. Now the question becomes: How does a business determine the needs and preferences of their customers in order to produce successful restaurant loyalty programs?
Customer loyalty programs, like the Craver’s program rolled out by White Castle, are strategically created by collecting massive amounts of data and searching for patterns. This particular data is called consumer insights or in our end of the market we call them diner insights. These diner insights point to exactly what a customer is looking for when they create a food order. Each time a customer returns to your online menu, their movement is tracked and data is compiled to begin to understand the mind and habits of the diner.
How does a restaurant do that? Great question (and one we’re particularly excited to answer). This can be done by integrating your online menu with a platform like MealBuilder. MealBuilder is an interactive nutrition tool that is complete with diner analytics and retargeting capabilities. When you combine forces with a platform like MealBuilder, you are able to track everything your diner does when they visit your online menu so that you can begin to see what patterns emerge in order to then begin to cater to your diner’s preference and drum up repeat business.
The edge that MealBuilder has over any other analytics platform is it’s extensive ingredient and recipe database. A restaurant that utilizes MealBuilder can seamlessly share their recipe data from their recipe database to their online menu. Each time an ingredient is removed, or any changes are made to a menu item before a customer completes their order, MealBuilder documents each change, then provides a report for the restaurant owner to review.
So what do all of these reports mean? Well if you have a homestyle chicken sandwich on your menu and 50% of online customers remove the pickles before checkout, this means that you can potentially decrease your order for pickles from your supplier which impacts your overall costs and profit margins. Perhaps you want to test another ingredient, like roasted red peppers, in place of pickles due to the high removal rate. It takes no time to replicate the recipe in your recipe database and test out the new sandwich with roasted red peppers at a select number of locations and gather data around the success of the ingredient swap.
Another great example of useful data collection was discovered with a Build-Your-Own burrito bowl restaurant concept. After thousands of entries a pattern began to emerge around caloric values in particular. When building a burrito bowl, it was found that once consumers reached a caloric value of about 1,000 calories, they became uncomfortable with the number and began to remove toppings to reduce the caloric value of their meal.
These valuable data points can begin to craft details of your loyalty program and impact the way you create your menu. If a diner is logging into your loyalty program and reduces their calories during the ordering process, that particular customer can be incentivized to order healthier menu items containing their particular ingredient preferences. Once you understand your menu’s ability to peer into the mind and habits of your direct target audience, you can begin to do business more strategically, saving money and increasing your revenue along the way.