Burger Life Seeks Millennial Loyalty with Mobile App

By Dave Godwin, managing partner, Restaurant Management Group, LLC | September 27, 2012

For the past six years, Restaurant Management Group had great success with its customer loyalty program implemented at its casual concept, Marketplace Grill. In that time the restaurant has given away nearly $600,000 in rewards to good customers. When the management company was opening Burger Life, something less complicated and portable was needed to fit the chain’s target customer – millennials.
 
Burger Life is about customization and choice, so it needed a loyalty program that was personal and user-centered. The old program presented challenges, such as guests forgetting or losing loyalty cards. While not a new concept, it became obvious that the solution was finding a way to put a loyalty program on smart phones. Since modern customers always have their smartphones at hand, it was a natural way to remedy the problem. 
 
Punchh emerged as a leading resolution because it was a phone-based app, something a Millennial audience would adapt to easily. Plus it did a good job of using OCR (optical character recognition) technology to bridge the gap between the user and the POS. One of the big issues in simplifying loyalty programs is having a high level of integration.
 
Real-time feedback and response
Another benefit is Punchh’s use of Facebook as a social communication channel and that it generates conversation among customers on Facebook. This enables guests to immediately talk about their experience at Burger Life.
 
Managers are also able to review and respond to comments as they come in which is an extremely powerful capability in terms of managing customer satisfaction. Often fast casual situations don’t lend themselves to direct communication with customers, but Punchh allows for this. Operators are now able to express gratitude to a guest that says they enjoyed their experience on a social channel. Conversely, if a post reveals there was an issue, management can take steps immediately to fix the problem and even buy the annoyed customer a meal, if necessary.
 
These comments are accessed through the Punchh dashboard — which is web-based so it can be seen anywhere on a computer or smartphone. The system sends email updates so management can read customer comments and decide whether they require a response or action.
 
Since it’s web-based and on customers’ smart phones, installation was a smooth process. Getting it tailored to the program with the correct branding collateral took about a few weeks.
 
So far, Burger Life cashiers have done a good job of engaging and informing guests about the Punchh app, so it is being downloaded often. Since the app’s launch at Burger Life in mid-February of this year, more than 1,300 customers have signed up and subsequently spent about $50,000 with the chain. Checks average about $19 each.
 
According to the stats from the dashboard, 41 percent of those customers have “repeat Punchhed” as well, and there have been well over 100 redemptions for food and drink. Just as importantly, 176 people have provided feedback on Facebook, which is an easy and quick way to measure how the program is doing; how many people are using it; and how many are coming back and bringing new visitors.
 
The ability to directly and immediately engage users has proven to be a big benefit. Operators can reward loyal guests through e-mail or push notifications or reply to them directly. That instant connectivity is pretty big.
 
Every Tuesday at Burger Life is “Two Punchh Tuesday,” and 1,100 push notifications are sent out to let people know they get two Punchhes for coming in and eating at Burger Life. Since e-mail is not exactly cutting edge anymore, being able to do that through a push notification has proven to be a great updated mode of communication.
 
There are opportunities to do better on the point-of-sale integration, such as when a customer walks in, they’re checked in, and when they pay their check, it automatically goes on their account. Right now they have to provide a photograph of their receipt — partly to avoid fraud.
 
Moving forward with the program, improvements have been discussed concerning incorporating survey feedback questions. Measuring the guest experience is extremely important to Burger Life and while Facebook feedback is good, there is the potential to dig deeper. 
 
 
Dave Godwin is the managing partner at Fayetteville, Ark.-based Restaurant Management Group, LLC, owner of three concepts including Burger Life, Marketplace Grill and Marketplace Express.

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