Leaders in Customer Loyalty, Powered by Loyalty360

Technology Makes It Easier: A Q&A with Wings and Rings on Loyalty Programs and Improved Customer Engagement

September 14, 2023 Loyalty360
Technology Makes It Easier: A Q&A with Wings and Rings on Loyalty Programs and Improved Customer Engagement
Leaders in Customer Loyalty, Powered by Loyalty360
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Leaders in Customer Loyalty, Powered by Loyalty360
Technology Makes It Easier: A Q&A with Wings and Rings on Loyalty Programs and Improved Customer Engagement
Sep 14, 2023
Loyalty360

Known originally as Buffalo Wings and Rings, the Wings and Rings first opened its doors in 1984 in Cincinnati, OH, with four locations. Entrepreneurs Nader Masadeh, Phillip Schram, and Haytham David bought the properties in 2005 with an eye to combining their mutual love of sports and delicious chicken wings. The modern-day Wings and Rings chain was born.

With over 85 locations, the franchise has been named to FSR Magazine’s Top 25 NextGen List, which honors fast-casual dining chains leading the next generation of quick service dining and 1851 Franchise Magazine’s list of Top 25 Chicken Restaurants for 2023. Its growth and success can be attributed to a promise to serve quality fresh — never frozen — chicken, onion rings, and burgers, a commitment to tech innovation, and its focus on listening to customers and providing them with new and innovative rewards for their loyalty and patronage.   
   
Recently, Loyalty360 CEO Mark Johnson spoke with Wing’s and Rings Associate VP of Marketing, Linsey Case, to discuss how the chain is thriving in post-pandemic consumerism, its straightforward loyalty program, and what the brand sees on the horizon for technology in its industry.

Read the full interview on Loyalty360 here: https://loyalty360.org/content-gallery/in-depth-exclusives/technology-makes-it-easier-a-q-a-with-wings-and-rings-on-loyalty-programs-and-improved-customer-eng

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Known originally as Buffalo Wings and Rings, the Wings and Rings first opened its doors in 1984 in Cincinnati, OH, with four locations. Entrepreneurs Nader Masadeh, Phillip Schram, and Haytham David bought the properties in 2005 with an eye to combining their mutual love of sports and delicious chicken wings. The modern-day Wings and Rings chain was born.

With over 85 locations, the franchise has been named to FSR Magazine’s Top 25 NextGen List, which honors fast-casual dining chains leading the next generation of quick service dining and 1851 Franchise Magazine’s list of Top 25 Chicken Restaurants for 2023. Its growth and success can be attributed to a promise to serve quality fresh — never frozen — chicken, onion rings, and burgers, a commitment to tech innovation, and its focus on listening to customers and providing them with new and innovative rewards for their loyalty and patronage.   
   
Recently, Loyalty360 CEO Mark Johnson spoke with Wing’s and Rings Associate VP of Marketing, Linsey Case, to discuss how the chain is thriving in post-pandemic consumerism, its straightforward loyalty program, and what the brand sees on the horizon for technology in its industry.

Read the full interview on Loyalty360 here: https://loyalty360.org/content-gallery/in-depth-exclusives/technology-makes-it-easier-a-q-a-with-wings-and-rings-on-loyalty-programs-and-improved-customer-eng

Speaker 1:

Good afternoon, good morning. It's Mark Johnson from LoL 360. Hope everyone's happy, safe and well. Welcome back to another edition of our Leaders in Customer Loyalty series. In this series, we speak with leading brands about what they are seeing on the front lines of customer channel and brand loyalty. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Lindsay Case. She's Associate Vice President of Marketing at Wings and Rings, so thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you, mark.

Speaker 1:

Perfect. We'd like to start these on a personal level, get to know the individual we're speaking with. So we'd love to know a little bit more about you. You know your role at Wings and Rings and maybe you know jobs you've had before that kind of, maybe similar, and also a fun fact about your passion you may have outside of work.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sure, so I've been at Wings and Rings for about nine years now. So prior to that I was in marketing for a regional bank here locally. But other than that I have pretty much always worked in the restaurant or the food industry. So my family had a pizza restaurant that I worked at, starting in many people do. But then after college, you know, kind of continue that trend by joining the marketing team of a local food manufacturer.

Speaker 2:

So, like I said, been in the food and restaurant industry pretty much all my life and when I had the opportunity to join Wings and Rings it was just a true natural fit. You know I'd known the brand for a long time. You know, having grown up in the Cincinnati area and it's Cincinnati based company, I actually frequented, frequented several of their locations as a child. So you know it was kind of just fun being a part of the growth and the evolution of the brand over the last nine years. Having, you know, I remember going on Wing Tuesdays to some of the locations out in Kentucky. So you know, just been a fun ride. So currently I'm managing basically national and digital marketing. So that can include anything from our larger national initiatives around like Super Bowl, march, bandist and stuff to digital campaigns that support our menu and our LTOs. But you know, within there, I was also integral in launching our loyalty program back in 2019. So I'm still leading that overall strategy, which is, I think, why we're here today.

Speaker 1:

Okay, perfect.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So Wings and Rings. For those who may not be familiar, can you give us a rundown of what you guys do, how you do it, where the locations are, and it'd be great to know.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so, as you said, wings and Rings, but formerly known as Buffalo Wings and Rings. So a couple of years ago we did rebrand to the new identity, dropping the Buffalo probably assume there was a lot of confusion there in the marketplace with another competitor of ours. And you know we really want to pride ourselves on our Wings and Rings, the two things that we do best. So we are a Cincinnati based sports restaurant and bar franchise. We have about 85 locations globally, but the about 60 of them are here in the US. So the franchise started back in 1984, but it was purchased by the current ownership in 2005. So you know, since, since they purchased the franchise, we've grown to about those, those 60 locations spanning from gosh down in Florida up to North Dakota, all the way out to California and South Texas, and then, of course, good concentration here in Cincinnati. We really do pride ourselves just on those superior, crave worthy wings and rings and, you know, an atmosphere that encourages all fans to, you know, relax and celebrate.

Speaker 1:

Let's go. I know wings and rings recently launched a new consumer-facing website which allows the process, or enables the process to order Wings easier for their customers. Can you talk a little bit about the website overhaul and kind of what that means to your customers?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we knew we had an opportunity to update the website, since it had basically not been updated in about seven years. So there was a back-end opportunity and then a front-end opportunity as well, and really, you know, some of the points that you hit on was that we wanted to provide more opportunities for our guests to convert. So obviously there's a reason and a need there from a from a sales standpoint, but really from a guest standpoint as well, like the reason that they're coming to the site to begin with is to Typically either find a location or look at the menu and place an order. So just being able to make sure that the things that they're coming to the site to to do are always within reach Was a big focus for the design of the site itself. But then also we wanted to make sure that we brought lots of prominence to our local, our individual local pages. I mean, that's, you know what guests are looking for, that that location, specific information, so that we made sure that that was at the forefront as well.

Speaker 1:

Okay, your loyalty program can tell us a little bit about the program that you launched kind of obviously under your Guidance. You know how do members engage with it more of some of the benefits of the program. You know how do you keep it current as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, ultimately we, when we launched it, we wanted to make sure that it was just simple and easy to understand, not only for our guests before our servers, if they're trying to, you know, sell the program. So it's a points per dollar program, so it's a point for every dollar that you know is spent and those points are automatically applied if you're Ordering online and you're signed in, or if you're using the app and then for in-store purchases, you just have to, you know, scan the barcode so once you reach a hundred points, that automatically converts to a $10 reward so you can come in and use that on, you know, any, any food item that you buy.

Speaker 1:

Okay, Excellent. When you look at the rewards program, obviously the mobile app is very important. Roughly 80 percent of your customers access the Wings and Rings website from their mobile devices. So how does having a loyalty program and a mobile app, how do you get them to work together right and make sure that you're in the quote unquote right channel for the customers? How does that work with the new organization?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean for the app. We wanted to have loyalty at the forefront. So you know we're very upfront about that, points tracking and how far along you are to that next reward. You can easily see what rewards you currently have. And then just the ease of use being able to scan receipts to earn those points, ease of ordering within the application and just being able to, you know, quickly make your purchase and then even or even place a previous order, you know, replicating previous orders with pretty much the click of a button.

Speaker 1:

Okay, and the Buffalo Saucity, I know.

Speaker 2:

Lots of training.

Speaker 1:

I know it wasn't a name today, and how do you pronounce that? Saucity, society, society, society? Yes, I would never have got that, but I should have been going to have asked that too. The VIP app how does it work? You kind of touched a little bit, is it? You talk about having the rewards front and center so people can see and access them. How does the VIP app work?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so you know, it really just allows guests to really easily scan their receipts in store. It allows them to place orders really easily. It's a great way for us to just communicate through push notifications and inbox messages and things like that. And then the ease of online ordering and being able to replicate those previous orders and, you know, redeem rewards that they've earned and then other ad hoc ones that we may have sent out as well.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so when you look at other technologies that you may want to involve, kind of engage or involve with, are there other technologies or strategies that you're looking to learn more about or potentially leverage within the organization?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, we're always looking at new and different things. Ultimately, what we want to make sure that we're doing when we're evaluating some of that new technology, is to make sure that we're reducing friction with our guests and just introducing technology when it's going to support their experience, Like it has to solve a need. So we don't want to just, you know, implement something for the sake of implementing something. So you know, that being said, we're working on testing some additional features to reduce those friction points, such as mobile wallet. It's not necessarily applies, doesn't necessarily apply to the app, but for online ordering, what certainly does apply to the app, but if you've got your information already saved in there, it's pretty easy already. But you know. So things like mobile wallet, arrival notifications and really just an overall enhanced ordering experience. When it comes to that specifically, Okay, can we?

Speaker 1:

the rewards program is a big piece of your personalization efforts, right? We have a growing brand membership. We meet every week and we actually have conversations this week around personalization, segmentation, cadence management, how to manage. So what's personalization mean to wings and rings? You know especially. I think you have a surprise and delight offering as well, correct?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, sure. So personalization for us is less about just including the person's name and maybe segmenting them based on their purchase history. While we do that a little bit, for us personalization is a little bit more on their segmenting based on their frequency and on, like reengaging our laps users, so more on their behaviors of their visits versus what they might have purchased in that visit. So you know, making sure that it's meaningful to guests that do come more frequently and meaningful for the guests that you know and motivating for the guests that may have not been in as recent.

Speaker 1:

Okay, when you look at employee engaged, that's another area of great interest in our community. You know how does employee engagement fit into the customer loyalty discussion. You know how employees train, trained about the program, benefits program, and how do you keep them and kind of engaged to do that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, like I mentioned before with the, you know we launched the program we wanted to make sure that it was simple for not only the guests but for our employees, because we've made something super complicated for Our employees to try to sell. Then we knew that it was never going to get off the ground. So, you know, just keeping the program simple and easy to understand and also to explain is super important. It makes the training a lot easier. But we also encourage employees to participate. So some franchisees were like oh could, could employees really earn points on things? Well, absolutely, we want them to be in there using the app so that they can show guests the value and, you know, be continuously talking to those guests about. You know the value of the program. You could earn points on your purchase today. Just download the app, scan right here and you know, off you go.

Speaker 1:

Okay, great deal discussion within our community about brands, how they're changing, how the customers are changing right, how they evolve. Going into code, there was a change by online picking store. You know hands-free delivery and what do you see in your customer base? How are they changing and how are you adapting to those changes?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think, I think I would definitely Spend a lot of things up and for us it was all about that off-premise and the convenience. So things like curbside, carry out, pick up windows, stuff like that, those are really changing the game for casual dining because we can provide that higher quality, you know, more varied menu but with the convenience of you know what, like some qsr and fast casual brands are doing. And I think you know we all kind of got a taste of that ease of ordering and ease of pickup during COVID and you know it's it's made a lot of folks change the way that they think about ordering from a casual diner or a full service restaurant.

Speaker 1:

Okay, excellent. When you look at other programs, customers programs or just bigger picture customer loyalty, you know are there brands that you are loyal to and, if so, you know why are you loyal to them?

Speaker 2:

There are, I probably about nine food apps on my, on my, on my phone, but I'm also, you know, always kind of tested, not new ones, but for me it's it's.

Speaker 2:

It's actually a little bit less about the loyalty and more about the convenience piece for me, and I think I'm, you know, guilty of Getting acclimated to that through COVID and Knowing how easy it could be to just you know which apps are the easiest to navigate and, and you know, it is the whole experience right. So it's not just ordering through the app, it's got to be easy for me to order, it's got to be easy for me to pay, and then the pickup experience as well. You know, once when you're hitting the mark on all of those things, the loyalty part is great, but so many of them it's. I've lost track of what a point means or what I'm even earning, and so, if you know, I become more loyal to the brand and the experience Than the loyalty piece itself, unless it is, you know, super easy to to understand and to to remember. You know the the simple Earning structure, if you will okay.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's interesting topic as well. There's a great Discussion around keeping or having programs be more simple, right, so you understand with the value what it is straightforward kind of simplifying the program to do that. And there's also this whole push of Changing point structures, right, valuing them more value than, let's say, some of the economy challenges. How do you keep your program simple in a way that's easy for the customers to understand? Yeah, I mean really the, the. The goal out of the gate was just to increase our guest frequency.

Speaker 2:

So you know there are different levers that we could pull to kind of gamify it and and go off the. You know the path of our current point structure. You know the path of our current point structure, but really we do want to make sure that we keep it simple. You know, when guests are close to their their $10 reward, we make sure that we're nudging them along and letting them know they're only a few points away. Every message that we send out, it has, like, their stats at the top of the message, so they know how many points they have and how many rewards they also have. So you know, but we're always also, you know, just monitoring what other competitors are doing so that we stay relevant. We do have a pretty lucrative program compared to some of our competitors, but you know we we don't have any concrete plans to change the program right now, but we're definitely keeping our eyes on, you know, what's meaningful for for our guests because they are pretty engaged in the program and right now the focus is getting more people into the program.

Speaker 1:

Okay, excellent. The last question I have is you know what can loyalty 360 do to help you in your team and your customer loyalty program efforts?

Speaker 2:

I think you guys are doing a lot of great things already just getting people talking, sharing ideas, sharing Struggles and just kind of getting it all out there. I think that's what challenges us each day and as long as we keep an eye on what the guests needs are and come up with creative ways to solve those needs, and we're on the right track.

Speaker 1:

Great Well, lindsay, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today. It was great learning more about the program, what you guys are doing, how you're doing it and also you know a little bit by you, and hopefully maybe I'll even see you over here on the beach month side of town soon. That'd be great, all right, thank you everyone else for taking the time to listen. Make sure you join us back for another edition of our leaders and customer loyalty series soon and have a wonderful day.

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