A restaurant’s rewards program is a critical tool for attracting and retaining loyal guests – even more so since the pandemic has changed how the public buys food from restaurants. Now, the uncertainty in the economy has encouraged restaurant brands to not only get more creative about the rewards they offer, but also to overhaul their programs altogether. In some cases, the changes may be designed to appeal to guests in new ways, while in others they may simply be an unavoidable reflection of the challenges restaurants are experiencing. Starbucks, for one, will soon be changing its loyalty program for the first time in two years. The brand is reducing the number of thresholds at which guests can redeem rewards, while lowering the reward cost of several menu items. The consumer response to the change has been largely negative, which may serve as a warning sign for other brands. If you’re contemplating scaling back your rewards program out of necessity, consider how you might still send the message that you’re providing value. That may have to happen in ways that don’t stretch your budget – perhaps some exclusive menu items for rewards program members, or an experiential benefit for your best guests.
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