This is the third issue of the Loyalty Disrupt newsletter and I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Emily, VP of Marketing at Thanx. I’ve been researching loyalty in the restaurant industry for the last three years and while I still have plenty to learn, having reviewed hundreds of restaurant loyalty programs, I’m (humbly) starting to consider myself a bit of an expert. And while I’ve been hearing the need for years, I’m finally starting to see a real shift away from an exclusive reliance on rote rewards (spend X, get Y). Restaurant loyalty programs are starting to use special treatment and experiences as incentives. And menus are where a lot of the action is.
A special menu just for you.
Giving away discounts and rewards can be expensive. That’s why, I believe the future of loyalty is all about secret menus, early access to new items, exclusive menus, LTOs for specific segments, and VIP experiences that allow guests to get involved in testing, giving feedback, and even creating new menu items.
I just received an email yesterday announcing the relaunch of Burger King’s Big King XL. Royal Perks members have early access via their website and mobile app. Not only does offering early access drive digital downloads and digital engagement, but it also gives customers a reason to order directly.
BK isn’t the first (and they certainly won’t be the last) to use access to their products as an incentive. Chipotle launched Guac Mode in early 2020, Papa John’s offers Papa Rewards members early access to new products, and Dunkin’ offers DD Perks members early access to limited-edition merchandise drops.
With early access, “secret”, and exclusive menus, the possibilities are endless.
Why provide one generic menu when you can leverage menu access as a (free) incentive to drive behavior. For example:
A better way to conduct a focus group
Offer your top 30 spenders at certain locations an opportunity to experience your test kitchen and to give feedback (has the added benefit of saving you from spending $100k on a focus group).
Promote a contest (ex: every visit this month is one entry) to win an opportunity to inspire the ingredients (or the name) for a new cocktail.
Secret menu for top-tier guests
Offer your highest tier of loyalty members surprise and delight perks including exclusive access to a platinum-members-only hidden menu.
Exclusive menu throwbacks
Bring back lapsed guests with access to a previously discontinued item that they purchased in the past available for a limited time only.
All-day happy hour pricing for regulars
All-day happy hour pricing on Tuesdays in March for your highest frequency guests (top 10%).
Need a brainstorming partner for special menu rewards? Click below to talk to one of our experts.
Loyalty as an extension of your brand
Not only are they inexpensive, but special menu rewards are a fantastic way to get creative with your guest engagement strategy. McDonald’s recently announced the debut of LTO “Menu Hacks”: an imaginative mash-up of favorite combinations such as hash browns and Egg McMuffins or a filet of fish and hamburger to create a “surf and turf”. Each of the menu items are inspired by popular pairings from so-called ‘menu hack masters’. This launch puts loyal customers front and center, even sharing individuals’ creative concoctions and tagging their Tik-Tok accounts for added engagement. I expect more brands will put a spotlight on their VIPs and super fans to not only inspire new menu items but amplify brand awareness to like-minded audiences.
…And Speaking of McDonald’s…
McDonald’s shared 4Q earnings this week, noting impressive global SSS of 12.3% and 7.5% in the US. The fast-food chain says growth will carry into 2022 thanks to menu innovation and the success of their loyalty program, MyMcDonald’s Rewards. The program has soared to 21 million active members with 30+ million enrolled since launching in July. The value of their new loyalty program cannot be overstated, with a 10%+ increase in digital customer frequency for program members and digital sales of $18+ billion in 2021, over 25% of total sales in McDonald’s top six markets.
Non-Discount Reward of the Week?
We recently shared six non-discount reward ideas to differentiate your loyalty program on our blog, including mega-rewards and ultimate experiences. Newk’s Eatery is offering customers who sign up for their new loyalty program between now and March 6 a chance to win $10,000. The distinction between a discount and cash-give away is a bit of a gray area and it remains to be seen whether or not cash-give aways build lasting loyalty.
Have a unique “non-discount” reward that you would like to share?
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