In the restaurant industry, coffee has big profit potential: 64% of consumers say they drink coffee at least once per month, according to Technomic’s 2016 Beverage report. But with about 11,000 chains and 14,000 independent cafes, coffee shops and coffeehouses across the country, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America—along with the growing number of c-stores and other retailers offering coffee programs—consumers can afford to pick and choose where they buy brewed beverages.
What’s more, consumers are looking for fresh, quality cups of joe, no matter where they’re buying it. Seventy percent are more likely to purchase coffee that is labeled “fresh brewed,” while 26% say they’d be willing to pay more for it, according to Technomic’s 2016 Bakery & Coffee Caféreport.
With increased competition and heightened consumer expectations, it’s essential for operators to offer at least one loyalty or rewardsprogram to capture a large share of diners’ coffee dollars. Thirty-four percent of consumers say a loyalty or rewards program is important or extremely important when deciding which bakery café to go to, while 36% say the same about choosing coffee cafés, according to Technomic’s Bakery & Coffee Café report. Consumers appreciate the opportunity to win free beverages or menu items for their visits, and can track their progress via a chain’s loyalty app. While the punch card still has a place at your local coffee cafe, consumers have embraced signing up for more robust loyalty programs such as Dunkin Donuts’ DDPerks, Einstein Bros. Bagels’ Schmear Society and, of course, Starbucks’ Rewards program.
The importance of using mobile apps is key here, too. Linking a mobile app to a chain’s loyalty program not only makes it easier for consumers (no punch cards to keep track of, for instance), but they also offer additional benefits including mobile ordering and the ability to communicate promotions directly to members via push notification.
Rewards programs also give members other perks that creates and builds more brand loyalty. Starbucks’ Rewards app, one of the most popular loyalty programs in the country, for instance, allows members to pay by phone, order ahead, get free in-store refills of drip coffee, receive a birthday reward and more.
Here are four coffee brand-building programs to help grow and maintain customer loyalty.
Refillable coffee mugs
A strategic refillable mug program can increase trip frequency, loyalty and basket size while tapping new demographics, including millennials, Gen Xers and boomers.
“We’re seeing a two-pronged approach to offering travel mugs at several of our larger bakery cafe customers that appeal to the broad spectrum of their guests,” says Ira Gleser, VP Industry Relations and restaurant channel marketing lead for Whirley-Drinkworks!. “These operators offer an everyday, less expensive plastic refillable mug program, and also feature a premium stainless or ceramic mug retail offer for guests that want to ‘upgrade’ their coffee travel mug experience.”
Refill programs such as these are a win-win: Not only do they offer savings for loyal customers, but they also continue to drive traffic and repeat visits for operators.
Earning points for coffee purchases is another popular loyalty offer restaurants can implement. This type of program is easy to understand for customers, and can pay off quickly, since rewards could be redeemed easily within two to three visits. For example, if the program has customers earning 1 point for every $1 spent, rewards could include:
- 10 points = 1 free coffee
- 15 points = 1 free pastry
- 20 points = 1 free coffee and pastry
With this type of program, every time a customer visits a place of business, they receive a certain amount of loyalty points (for example, 1) no matter how much money they spend. Once they visit a certain number of times (for example, 10) they get a free cup of coffee.
Offering daily incentives creates excitement among customers and generates buzz with potential new ones. These promotions can also help to drive traffic during slower times of the week. Offers could include:
- Monday: Free pastry with a large coffee
- Tuesday: BOGO (buy one get one free, etc.)
- Wednesday: 50% off one coffee any size
- Thursday: Discounted items (e.g., $1 pastry with any coffee size)
- Friday: Double rewards/points on coffee purchases
Having a successful coffee program begins with a quality product and a lineup of products that consumers desire. Those are table stakes in order to compete with the myriad of options available to your guests. A loyalty program, including discounted coffee refills, is a great way to build visit frequency, boost coffee sales, and surprise and delight your guests with special offers and discounts to keep them coming back for more.
This post is sponsored by Whirley-DrinkWorks!