Pizza Power Report 2024

Loyalty Programs: Points-for-Pizza Is Not Good Enough

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By Rick Hynum

Many of the country’s top pizza chains have been fine-tuning their loyalty programs in 2023 to drive sales and attract new customers, who will, ideally, stick around for more deals and, ultimately, free food. But is the points-based approach taken by these big brands (and most other restaurant loyalty programs) the only way to go?

According to an August 2023 report, “The Evolution of Loyalty Programmes in Foodservice,” from Euromonitor International, Domino’s loyalty program ranks in the top 20 worldwide—specifically, No. 11, sandwiched (so to speak) between Chick-fil-A and Sonic Drive-In. But the Euromonitor report also notes that 23% of digital consumers have three to five apps for ordering directly from restaurants, not counting third-party delivery apps. These apps take up a lot of space on the phone. And Rocio Franco, who authored the Euromonitor report, says they’re all strikingly similar, because they “primarily revolve around transactional benefits.”

Photo courtesy Domino’s.

To meet evolving consumer preferences, she wrote, restaurateurs need to introduce “next-generation” features to their loyalty programs that will “add substantial value and adapt to consumers who actively seek an emotional connection to the brands they love.”

Related: Here’s how Domino’s has boosted its loyalty rewards program

What, exactly, does that mean? “Next-gen features, such as gamification, experiential rewards, hyper-personalization, decentralized structures and community-driven programs, go beyond the transactional aspect of loyalty programs,” Franco tells PMQ. “For independent pizzeria owners, I personally would focus on the community-driven program feature.”

Food, including pizza, makes for “captivating fandom topics,” she says. “Consumers seek communities around their passions, and loyalty programs catalyze fandoms and brand connections….Brands can leverage this connection to shift toward a more customer-centric innovation process.”

Franco points to Taco Bell as an example. “The brand is interacting with its loyalty program members, offering a chance to co-create a product. Members can vote on fresh hot-sauce slogans through a fan poll for each packet type, contributing to the redesign rollout process and feeling part of the Taco Bell community.”

Getty Images/THEPALMER

Granted, there’s a big difference between Taco Bell and an independent pizza shop. But any pizzeria can create a poll and ask for customer input on, say, a new specialty pizza or appetizer to be added to the menu. “Another type of community-driven program is from La Cage, a sports bar in Canada, which cultivates a community centered around sports, specifically [the Montreal Canadiens] hockey team,” Franco says. “Members of their loyalty program receive discounts whenever the Montreal Canadiens score five goals.”

Pizzeria operators understand community building better than most. Your rewards program offers another way to do it, while showing your customers that their opinions matter. And you don’t need a hometown pro sports team for that. Virtually every pizzeria has customers who love their local high school football or basketball team. Give them a reason to sign up for your loyalty program, and then show them that you share that passion.