UPDATE: June 1, 2023: The Cheesecake Factory launched its rewards program nationwide on June 1, the company wrote in an email sent to Restaurant Dive. To promote the launch, the company is offering guests a complimentary slice of cheesecake as long as they sign up before Labor Day.
- The Cheesecake Factory will launch its Cheesecake Rewards program nationally sometime in the midyear, Cheesecake President David Gordon said Wednesday during the company’s latest earnings call.
- The full-service chain originally launched a pilot last June in Houston, followed by a second pilot in Chicago in November.
- The company’s objective is to use data insights to engage with customers one-on-one and grow incremental sales, Gordon said.
Cheesecake’s pilot program resulted in higher acquisition and member activity rates than originally expected, Gordon said. Launching this program nationwide could have an impact on the chain’s traffic, which executives said was flat during the last quarter.
The company has been taking a “measured and deliberate approach” to designing its rewards program to ensure that it’s consistent with its marketing strategy and can help drive sales, he said. Among the biggest benefits for the company is the ability to collect data on customer habits in order to provide more customized offers to help drive engagement.
The program isn’t points- or spend-based, but will have elements to “surprise and delight” guests, Gordon said. The offering will allow guests to access things like reservations, a complimentary slice of cheesecake on their birthday and other perks to help drive engagement.
Gordon said Cheesecake’s stores often have long wait times, and offering access to reservations could help drive customer acquisition.
“We’ve seen so far very good usage of something that doesn’t cost us anything on the margin side to be offering reservations to folks,” Gordon said. “Our goal is to not have this program impact restaurant-level margins.”
While the program is expected to help boost dine-in traffic, there is also potential to boost off-premise traffic as well. The company tested marketing and online ordering promotions during its pilot and has also been working with DoorDash to integrate its rewards members into its platform, as well as make offers available to DoorDash members, he said.
A growing cohort of restaurant brands have either rolled out or revamped their rewards programs to help improve customer engagement. In April, El Pollo Loco updated its rewards program to a tier-based rewards offering while Chick-fil-A revised its platform with new items available for redemption. Sweetgreen, after testing a rewards program for over a year, launched a rewards scheme with a free program and paid subscription that same month.