For the Love of Loyalty: Restaurant Chains Link Customers to More Rewards

Posted in Technology on October 13, 2020

286_andrej-lisakov-XL-hPDNeZvs-unsplashCustomers love to sink their teeth into loyalty programs, which can serve up a feast of rewards for repeat customers—and a steady stream of revenue for operators.

As digital technology becomes more sophisticated and margins tighten due to restrictions on dine-in services, loyalty programs are becoming the revenue engine du jour. Major restaurant chains (Panera Bread, McDonald’s and Taco Bell, to name a few) are serving up app-enabled loyalty programs—and now White Castle is joining the feeding frenzy.

White Castle's first-ever loyalty program, Craver Nation, launched in September after a successful test run in Louisville, Kentucky, this spring. Available at all 362 White Castle locations, the program can be accessed through the burger giant’s website and mobile app. Instead of the traditional loyalty program, which allows customers to accrue points for purchases and redeem those points for rewards, White Castle is following the emerging trend of offering personalized rewards and perks for their most loyal customers (dubbed “Cravers”) based on purchasing patterns tracked on the app.

Just for signing up for the program, customers receive a free combo meal offer, including four sliders, a small order of fries, a small soft drink and $10 worth of additional coupons. Already in the planning stages pre-COVID-19, the program was fast-tracked to become a personalized and targeted customer experience once the pandemic hit.

“We can tailor offers to the individual based on what they indicated is important to them,” White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson told Nation's Restaurant News. “It’s an ongoing conversation that’s not static. You don’t just answer this question today and we know you for life. Some days, you might not want that triple cheeseburger. … It needs to be transparent. I think the conversation [with customers] will get more sophisticated as time goes on.”1

Once limited to dine-in customer service, hospitality has migrated to the digital environment, where it remains safe from the fallout of the pandemic and also offers the ease and convenience of a few taps or clicks. “Anything we can do to make the White Castle experience easier for the customer fits right in with [the] heart of our hospitality strategy,” Richardson said. “People are looking for simplification, and we think this program achieves that.”1

Feeding an Insatiable APPetite for Rewards

Spurred by a surge in usage of its app during the COVID-19 outbreak, Taco Bell rolled out a tiered version of its loyalty program that rewards customers with points for every dollar spent and allows them to redeem their points for free food. Once they earn 250 points, customers reach the “Hot” tier where they can claim a complimentary Crunchy Taco, Bean Burrito or Baja Blast. Reserved for those who spend $200 or more in one year, the “Fire” tier entitles them to extra perks, including 11 points for every dollar spent, and upgraded items, such as free Chalupas.  

As customer demand heated up, the Mexican quick service chain reworked its loyalty program into the tiered model. As Zipporah Allen, Taco Bell’s vice president of digital experiences, put it when the overhauled program launched in July: “We've been listening to our customers and really architecting the program for some time. Our fans have been asking for a loyalty program—specifically, a loyalty program with free food.”2

Like White Castle, Taco Bell plans to leverage data gleaned from its loyalty program to tailor the experience based on members’ purchasing behavior. “Over time, we are building the foundation to get much more precise and learn a lot more about our customers,” Allen said.2

According to Anne Fischer, senior vice president of customer experience for Papa John’s, the pizza chain’s loyalty program has been the secret sauce to its growth this year. For Q2 2019–Q2 2020, loyalty visits and sales are up 12% and 30%, respectively, without discounting.3 In a September webinar organized by Nation's Restaurant News, Fischer shared that customer insights gained through the program are being leveraged to inform menu innovation, and new product launches and personalized offers are targeted to customer segments. What's more, membership in the experience-based program continues to grow rapidly.3

To learn how Mondelēz International Foodservice can help drive digital sales, reach out below. Put our trusted brands and culinary ingenuity to work for your operation. Contact us today.


1 Fantozzi, Joanna, “White Castle launches ‘Craver Nation’ loyalty program with personalized perks,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Sept. 11, 2020

2 Luna, Nancy, “Taco Bell’s revamped loyalty program features ‘Fire’ level for superfans,” Nation’s Restaurant News, July 9, 2020

3 Fischer, Anne, “Papa John’s Secret Ingredient for Driving Growth During 2020,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Sept. 24, 2020


Topics in this article

Related Articles

Right Bites: Restaurants Rework Menus for Snack-Happy Market

As small bites replace large meals, restaurant operations adjust menus for all-day snacking. Explore key data behind the latest trends in small plates.

Oh Dough They Didn't! Upstart Pizza Chains Cook Up New Recipes for Success

As a versatile staple, pizza continues to power sales. Lean how fast-casual restaurant chains Pie Five and 7Pie are taking pizza innovation to new levels.

Next Course: 2023 Foodservice Tech Trends

Explore why two foodservice trends--off-premise restaurant formats and artificial intelligence systems--are poised to rise to new heights in 2023.

Hot Sellers: Summer Flavor Forecast Calls for Wave of Appetite-Whetting Trends

Summer sizzles with seasonal staples and trending twists on old favorites. Explore flavor forecasts from Datassential and EatingWell for summer menu ideas.

All About Newstalgia in Desserts

Tweaking familiar dishes to include a new flavor or format could be the menu addition that will pique consumer interest and help increase sales.

No Sustain, No Gain: Foodservice Feeds Bottom Line with Sustainability and Wellness

Sustainability has become a core catalyst for foodservice success. Explore how True Food Kitchen and Mondelēz International exemplify the sustainability trend.

Smaller, Faster, Smarter: Automated Restaurant Formats Feed the Future of Foodservice

Sweetgreen, Chili's and Panera are adopting lean, automated restaurant formats. Learn how automation is transforming the restaurant industry.

Beverages and Desserts Fuel Flavor Inspiration

Inspired by classic beverage elements, operators are creating new dessert menu items — as well as drinks that feature dessert flavors.

Metaverse Measures Up, Major Restaurant Brands Dig In

Top restaurant chains are hungry to tap the promotional potential of the metaverse. Explore Jimmy John's and Pizza Hut's ambitious metaverse initiatives.

Va-Va-Vending: Technology Transforms Vending Machines into 24/7 Restaurants

No longer just a source for prepackaged snacks, vending machines are now purveyors of gourmet-quality meals. Explore two revolutionary vending machines.

Join the Let’s Chat Snacks Community

Be the first to know when we drop new articles, trends and insights, with updates delivered directly to your inbox. Plus, you’ll get an insider perspective on all things foodservice, carefully curated to help you grow your business.