Buffalo Wild Wings’ Customer Loyalty Program: 3 Key Takeaways

Buffalo Wild Wings customer loyalty program

Blazin’ Rewards loyalty program: hit or miss?

Buffalo Wild Wings, known affectionately as “B-Dubs,” rolled out a pilot loyalty program in select markets across the US.

“Blazin’ Rewards” awards points to customers for anything from eating at Buffalo Wild Wings to checking in with their friends. From their website:  “[the program] exists to reward you for doing what you already love to do: eat wings, watch sports, and hang with friends.”

The program seeks to adopt the carefree, easy-going spirit of the B-Dubs experience. While it succeeds in many ways, it falls short in critical aspects of customer experience.

1. Redemption is complicated

To reward customers for being loyal, Buffalo Wild Wings offers the exchange of accumulated points for guests’ choice of a treat from their online roster!

All you have to do is:

    • Go online and find the reward you want from their list.
    • Go to BWW, order that exact item.
    • Once you get the check, write your phone number on the receipt
    • Hope that the cashier notices it (and doesn’t take it as an invitation to call you), and subtracts it from your bill.

The upside of this process is that Buffalo Wild Wings is offering a wide range of items to their customers. This allows guests to choose exactly how they’d like to be rewarded, which definitely sweetens the program.

The not-so-great part? Guests should NEVER have to write their phone number on their receipts — this is one way to seriously isolate your female guests.

Beyond the customer’s awkwardness of the whole “write your phone number” exchange, there’s another aspect to this: cashiers are now tasked with the job of scanning all receipts for phone numbers, then identifying the item on the bill that shouldn’t be charged, taking it off the bill, and then running the card with the correct amount.

If you’ve ever worked in a busy restaurant, you already realize the problem with adding additional complexity to a server’s job — they’re trying to take care of multiple tables and enter orders into the POS correctly… and now they need to go searching through people’s checks to make sure that they subtract rewards items? Loyalty programs should optimize customer engagement, not put it at risk by adding complexity.

2. Multiple ways to earn rewards

Even though the phone number thing is a huge turn-off, Buffalo Wild Wings is doing a great job of diversifying the paths through which guests can earn points, and the goodies they get for redeeming them range from free chips & entrees to Buffalo Wild Wings merchandise.

Guests can also earn points in a number of ways, including checking in with friends at Buffalo Wild Wings, filling out an interest form online, and other opportunities that are communicated via email.

…but still, not every transaction is eligible

Life Pro Tip: Always read the fine print.

With Buffalo Wild Wings, here’s the fine print when it comes to rewards redemption:

The only things that don’t earn points are alcohol, gift cards, merchandise, tax, and gratuity.

This is a disjointed customer experience; guests come to Buffalo Wild Wings to eat wings, drink beer, and watch sports. Why can’t guests earn rewards on one of the most integral parts of the BWW experiences: Beer?! Selectively rewarding customers doesn’t come across as generous and customer-centric; it feels cheap. Wherever customer experience and satisfaction is the focus, spend the extra dollar to keep loyal customers happy — especially when a 5% increase in customer retention has been shown to create a 100% increase in profitability. 

3. All customers are treated the same

All of Buffalo Wild Wings’ customers earn points at the same rate, and there’s no status to be achieved beyond redeeming points for food. In the spirit of equality, this sounds like a decent approach. However, when it comes to keeping VIP customers loyal, it’s crucial to differentiate the experience for your most valuable demographic.

Ignoring VIPs is a great way to lose them, which should be terrifying to business owners considering two-thirds of revenue comes from the top 25% of customers and less than 15% of revenue comes from the bottom 50% of customers. Why are your least valuable customers getting the same deals as your best customers?

Instead of incentivizing customers blindly, implement a VIP program targeted at the top 5%-25% of customers. Given their enormous revenue potential, rewards and benefits should go to the best customers to ensure that they stay loyal long-term.

The takeaway

Overall, one of the most powerful facets of a great customer loyalty program is that it can go beyond rewarding people for doing what they already do — a customer engagement and loyalty program should be able to offer incentives in ways that measurably change consumer behavior (bringing them back more often, getting them to spend more, getting them to visit at a different time of the day, bringing back lost customers… etc). No business wants to give away free product without some type of guaranteed ROI.