Del Taco has altered the structure of its tiered rewards program, the chain announced Tuesday. It has reduced the points needed to access some tiers, shifted some items between tiers, added new items and removed at least one item from its tiered rewards, a comparison of the brand’s current loyalty site and an archived version shows.
Other changes include the addition of “vanity badges” that reward customers for completing challenges, like visiting five days in a row or 10 times during the lunch daypart, and a digital punch card that rewards repeat purchases.
These adjustments, on balance, seem to offer diners greater variety at lower redemption thresholds. In recent months, restaurants have rushed to add gamified features to their loyalty programs while altering the rewards offered, sometimes to change consumption patterns and sometimes to curb discounting.
Del Taco said these changes are intended to differentiate from the simple points accumulation schemes favored by many restaurants. The chain has long employed frequency-based tiers, with the earliest archived version of its rewards program, from 2021, featuring four tiers, with the same names as the tiers currently in use.
Del Taco’s lower points accrual thresholds could also improve loyalty member engagement and grow membership numbers. To move from the Queso tier to Scorcho once required 500 points, for example, but now needs only 250 points — a 50% reduction. To go from Scorcho to Inferno took 1,500 points, but now takes 1,000 points, a 33% reduction. Moving from Inferno to Epic is also discounted by a third, dropping from 3,000 points to 2,000 points. The rate of accumulation of points within tiers remains unchanged.
The brand has added some new rewards to its Queso and Scorcho tiers, as well.
“While other loyalty programs are making it more expensive for the guest to get rewarded, we wanted to thank our guests by gifting them food faster through our new lower point threshold tiers,” Tim Hackbardt, Del Taco’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
|Reward||Old points||Old tier||Old spend needed to redeem within tier||New reward||New points||New tier||New spend needed to redeem within tier||Percent change in points price|
|Epic Burrito||1000||Scorcho||$100||Epic Burrito||1000||Inferno||$90.91||-9.09%|
|Combo Meal||1250||Scorcho||$125||Combo Meal 1-16||1400||Inferno||$127.27||1.81%|
|Epic Burrito Meal||1600||Inferno||$145.45||Combined with combo meals||1400||Inferno||$127.27||-12.49%|
|N/A||Snack Taco||100||Queso||$12.50||New Reward|
|N/A||Snack Quesadilla||150||Queso||$18.75||New Reward|
|N/A||The Del Taco||350||Scorcho||$35||New Reward|
|N/A||Medium Crinkle Cut Fries||450||Scorcho||$45||New Reward|
But Hackbardt’s claim is not precisely accurate. As shown in the table above, the change to the points value of the tiers does not automatically reduce the spend required to redeem an item. The Epic Burrito’s redemption spend fell 9%, a significant change for customers, but the redemption spend of combo meals increased about 2%. Further, both the Epic Burrito and combo meals shifted up a tier.
So instead of being available as rewards options for members of the Scorcho tier after $50 of spend, as under the old system, the Epic Burrito and combo meals only become an option after $100 of spend needed to reach the new Inferno tier. Further, if a customer joined the rewards app with the intent solely of earning a combo meal, the minimum spend required to rise through the tiers increased from $137.50 to $142.61. However, the Epic Burrito Combo Meal, once its own rewards category, has been combined with the combo meal, meaning the price to earn solely an Epic Burrito Combo Meal has fallen from $171.59 to $142.61.
The brand is offering vanity badges in its rewards app to customers who reach certain milestones. Del Taco plans to add further challenges on a monthly basis.
The rewards program will feature specific challenges “for members where they will be rewarded with points, offers, and free food as well. Challenges may include watching short in-app video reels featuring new products, user-generated content, independent product reviews, behind-the-scenes content, celebrity collaborations, and more,” according to the press release.
Del Taco will also add a digital punch card functionality, giving customers free items for repeat purchases of promoted menu items.
Many brands, from Dunkin’ to El Pollo Loco have moved toward tiered loyalty structures in recent years. While digital collectibles like NFTs and vanity badges, are also becoming more common. Monthly challenges, too, are now a point of differentiation. Denny’s launched its own suite of monthly rewards challenges at the end of June, while Chick-fil-A launched a promotional game around the same time.
Most brands have framed their rewards changes as increasing access, or speeding up redemption possibilities, while adding personalization, but nearly all such claims are undercut by increases in the points costs of specific items, transfers of items from low tiers to high tiers, or devaluation of points. Such changes can anger long-time customers, as when Dunkin’ decreased the discount rate on its coffee drinks last year.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, the redemption cost of the Epic Burrito Combo Meal was misreported. The Epic Burrito Combo Meal has been rolled into the overall combo meal rewards category.