Building standalone adaptable apps is accessible for big civic chains like Chick-fil-A, whose app hit No. 1 on the iTunes app abundance aftermost month, with over a actor downloads aural three canicule of its June 1 launch. But it’s tougher for absolute restaurants: What’s the best way to accolade committed diners for their adherence — afterwards borer into Groupon fatigue?
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That’s the ambition of Portland-based Chew Dining Club, a rewards app for 15 restaurants aural the assorted ChefStable accumulation — which includes a beer hall, a craft-cocktail lounge, a burger joint, and fine-dining restaurants. ChefStable architect Kurt Huffman wants Chew to action as a adherence app in the accurate faculty of the word: a association builder, not a advertisement generator. One that, yes, may annual its users a chargeless adjustment of chips from time to time — but does it in a way that feels like the restaurant is saying, “this one’s on the house, friend; acceptable to see you again,” adjoin a bargain abatement experience.
“How do we acknowledge loyal barter in a way that doesn’t feel eavesdropping or cheap?”
“For us, the catechism comes bottomward to: How do we accommodate abundant annual alike afterwards our guests accept larboard the restaurants in a way that feels welcome, and not cheesy?” Huffman says.
Chew is aggravating to acknowledgment that catechism as one of the aboriginal above efforts from absolute restaurants, which face a tougher app-development claiming compared with acclaimed civic brands. Chains like Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, and Burger King accept the basic and, in some cases, the committed agents that can absorb months developing their apps. (According to a Chick-fil-A columnist release, a “core aggregation of added than 30 developers, designers, web architects, and others” were amenable for developing its app, in a amplitude on the Chick-fil-A campus accurately committed to the project.) And already completed, those apps address to a massive absolute chump abject with appearance like order-ahead capability, coupons, and app-exclusive offers. At Chew, the calibration is abate but the stakes are aloof as high.
More than 5,000 Portlanders accept downloaded the app, which was advised by bounded community-software close Boulevard, aback it launched six months ago. Huffman and the Chew aggregation plan an amplification to non-ChefStable Portland restaurants by the fall. Afterwards that, the ambition is to body agnate dining-club adaptable platforms for added independents and abate bounded concepts with a few locations.
Before accepting to that point, Huffman and the aggregation accept added abeyant to tap and big problems to solve. They’re alive on application diners’ transaction abstracts to clothier alone rewards experiences, and are still addition out how to accomplish the adaptable acquaintance “feel classy” at sit-down restaurants. “We’re about 60 percent of the way there in addition all of this out,” Huffman says. If all goes according to plan, Chew could serve as a archetypal for the approaching of absolute restaurants’ adaptable apps.
On the face of its aboriginal iteration, Chew appears to assignment like a slicker adaptation of the accepted rewards system: Download the app, redeem a acceptable allowance (like chargeless chips at sandwich boutique Lardo or a chargeless appetizer at flush pizza collective PREAM), and assignment adjoin academy rewards tiers by dining at the group’s restaurants.
Diners affirm their visits by alive into the app four-digit codes printed at the basal of their checks. (“This can be clunky,” Huffman admits, but he didn’t appetite to force added accomplish like social-media bond a la the Taco Bell app.) Ten to 29 visits beyond the ChefStable ancestors of restaurants array a altogether gift, while those with 30 or added check-ins additionally accept an allurement to an anniversary Chew party. ChefStable admirers who analysis in at all of the group’s 15 accommodating restaurants accept the “bucket list” accolade of a $100 allowance agenda additional the anniversary affair invitation.
“To actualize article that users don’t appetite to attending abroad from, you accept to do that through data.”
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But Huffman has affairs for Chew “to be far added than the bite agenda arrangement of ‘just go nine times and get a chargeless X,’ and that’s it,” he says. “We’re aggravating to body a community, not a rewards system. How do we acknowledge them for actuality loyal barter in a way that doesn’t feel eavesdropping or cheap?”
The abbreviate answer: data. The Chew app links to restaurants’ point-of-sale systems, which lets operators see absolutely what barter ordered and how abundant they spent — creating the befalling for approaching personalized, tailored rewards. “Based on your adjustment history, we’ll set abreast article appropriate for you: When you airing in, the bartender comes over with your admired ale,” Huffman says. “Or the sommelier has a appropriate canteen to allotment with our 20 best wine-drinking clients. If you’ve spent bags with us, I appetite to apperceive that.”
The abundant booth abstracts gives Chew a lot to comedy with on the aback end, which is key to the capital ambition of a “classy, non-Groupon-like” experience, says Zach Hull, Boulevard’s carnality admiral of business development. “[Before Chew] we had been experimenting with the bulk botheration of how you can get consumers to acquaint you what they appetite so you can action it in a way that isn’t disruptive,” he adds. “It’s array of the adverse of the article of TV, which is announcement by accepting in people’s faces. To actualize article they don’t appetite to attending abroad from, you accept to do that through data.”
ChefStable and Boulevard accept accordingly run Chew aback its December 2015 launch, and six months on, they accept a appropriate bulk of abstracts to consider, including what allotment of ChefStable affairs were affiliated to the adherence app. Hull wouldn’t specify the restaurants, but he revealed, “for some it’s as low as two percent and others are as aerial as eight percent.” Hull is admiring with the aerial end of the range, he says, cartoon comparisons to Starbucks’ adherence app, advised the industry’s best. (According to a Starbucks rep, 10 percent of all affairs in the 300 busiest burghal belief absorb adherence associates application adaptable adjustment and pay; but adaptable payments as a whole, whether at the annals or application the adjustment advanced feature, now annual for 24 percent of all U.S. transactions. The Chew app does not absorb payment.)
One hurdle to beyond assurance numbers: Diners are beneath accommodating to use the app at added flush locations, the aggregation learned. “One of the challenges that I didn’t apprehend was it’s harder to get [people to use Chew in] the sit-downs,” Hull says. “There’s acuteness about affairs out your buzz in a dining allowance and actuality perceived as cheap.” Hull suspects that at flush restaurants, “there’s a acumen that bodies don’t affliction about ‘loyalty’ because it’s academy end. But industries like airlines are addition out that bodies who absorb a lot of money appetite to be accustomed for affairs that $1,500 admission — maybe alike added than bodies who absorb less.”
Architecture a proprietary adherence app isn’t an advantage for everyone. When Huffman aboriginal began talking to firms, he was quoted added than $250,000. He instead affiliated up with Hull, an old associate from bounded Reed College, and cut a accord for Boulevard and ChefStable to run Chew jointly.
“Apps are adamantine to market. It has to accommodate some appealing amazing appearance for consumers to accord up absolute acreage on their phones.”
“If you can get your academy associate to advice out, that’s fantastic, but best absolute operators aren’t activity to be able to absorb money on their own app,” says Anna Tauzin, the Civic Restaurant Association’s chief business administrator for addition and ambitious services. “We don’t admonish for or adjoin apps in general, but they’re adamantine to market. It has to accommodate some appealing amazing appearance for consumers to accord up absolute acreage on their phones.”
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That aerial barrier to access for absolute restaurateurs leaves a window for Chew and Chew-like platforms to access the space. The team’s big goal: Attract audience with a Big Abstracts approach. “The Holy Grail on the aback end is actuality able to use this abstracts and advance ROI [return on investment] for businesses,” Hull says. “If you can accord [diners] a added able-bodied acquaintance afterwards them accepting to acquaint you absolutely what they want, they’ll be happier and they’ll accompany you added business. It’s bigger for everyone.”
While accepted appearance like order-ahead and social-media tie-ins accept formed for apps from the big chains, Tauzin thinks “they’re acceptable a bit stale” and adeptness not be as acute for independents’ diners. “[Chew] is the aboriginal app I’ve heard of breadth absolute restaurants are alive calm to body cast affinity,” Tauzin says. “I absolutely adulation the abstraction of creating an acquaintance for diners, a appropriate club that makes them feel included and set afar from the rest.”
In the future, those experience-focused appearance could accommodate no-touch adaptable payments, Huffman says. He imagines possibly outfitting restaurants with “beacons,” low-energy Bluetooth accessories that can accelerate signals to adjacent phones and accomplish them accomplish simple actions. “How air-conditioned would it be to airing in the aperture and your app automatically wakes up, cogent me you’re a loyal chump and absolution you pay afterwards you affecting your phone?” Huffman says. “We don’t appetite to aberration bodies out, though. The catechism is, ‘How does that band advance over time?’”
Diners would acceptable acceptable a pain-free way to pay at the end of their meal, whether it’s through beacons or addition blazon of “seamless” technology. “Improving on payments at the table is actual challenging, because you don’t appetite a confusing experience,” Tauzin says. “Right now your acclaim agenda disappears off the table and it comes appropriate back. If [Chew] can amount out article easier than that, they’d be golden. There’s annihilation bigger than accepting aggregate already taken affliction of.”
According to Huffman, the “Holy Grail” is the adeptness to booty reservations. Catch analysis is an alive market: Chicago restaurateur Nick Kokonas’ Tock pre-pay “ticketing system,” launched aftermost year, auspiciously swiped big names like the French Laundry from OpenTable (and accustomed wd~50 to sell $41,000 account of tickets for its final dinners in 2014). OpenTable still has a lock on the catch space, Huffman says, but he suspects owners would adulation to abstain advantageous that fee every ages while absorption on loyal audience who are beneath acceptable to no-show. For Chew reservations, Huffman imagines a tiered catch arrangement in which the best tables are offered to the best loyal customers. “If you’ve been to a abode 25 times, why shouldn’t you accept added table availability than addition who’s never been there before?” Huffman says. “There’s a lot of befalling still to come.”
The beheading of that befalling will attending altered beyond counter-service joints and white-tablecloth gems. But in a apple of more high-quality dining options, Huffman and Hull accept that for absolute restaurants, association architecture is key to longevity. “There’s this arc breadth you accessible the restaurant and it does able-bodied and it has its heyday,” Hull says. “What happens afterwards that is up to the restaurant. The ones that survive advance abiding relationships — and you accept to assignment to acquire them.”
Julianne Pepitone is a freelance biographer (and above customer tech/cybersecurity reporter) active in the greater New York City area.Editor: Erin DeJesus
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