Moe’s Southwest Grill Launches Nationwide Check-In Campaign

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Rather than having individual franchises run their own social check-in campaigns, Moe’s Southwest Grill decided to pull together their promotions and launch a nationwide campaign that aggregates Foursquare and Facebook check-ins at more than 440 Moe’s locations. Although the new campaign is still in its infancy, Lauren Barash, director of marketing at Moe’s, says she is already seeing tremendous lift and enthusiasm from customers who are eager to get engaged.

Tell me about the new check-in campaign at Moe’s. How would you describe it?
The way it works is, you go to to register and put in all your information. You link your Foursquare or your Facebook account to the check-in club, so when you go [to Moe’s] you can check-in like you normally would. You’re not doing anything differently; you’re still using your regular check-in [platform]. Then, you can go back to the website later and see how you’re doing. You can see your status change, you’ll earn chips for doing different activities, and the chips become a currency for you to earn. Every time you reach a different status level, you get a prize.

The goal of this is to be able to aggregate and reward people who are already enjoying checking-in at Moe’s. We noticed a while back that we had a lot of guests who enjoyed checking-in, and certainly our individual franchises were doing different deals through Foursquare or whatever platform they were working with, but we wanted to provide an opportunity for guests to get rewards no matter what Moe’s they checked-in at and no matter what social platform [they used]. We started with just using Foursquare and Facebook, and the idea is to let those rewards work against different locations and to create that competitive spirit.

What was the reasoning behind focusing on check-ins, versus social media in general?
We feel like check-ins have a lot of momentum right now, and people are doing it more. We love the fact that checking-in symbolizes you’re at Moe’s. It’s equal to a visit, and it gives people the opportunity to share with people when they’re visiting Moe’s. We’ve done a lot with Facebook and we’ve done a lot with Twitter, but we’ve definitely seen our guests really cling to this idea of checking-in. I think mostly that’s because it is a little bit new and a little bit different, whereas you have seen so many brands do things with Facebook and Twitter already. Doing something with a check-in platform is unique.

You mentioned that some individual franchises were running their own local campaigns before. What is the benefit to doing something nationwide?
One challenge to having individual franchises do specials is that we have a lot of turnover at the local level, and there is a lot of training that goes into that. You have to explain to a crewmember what the special is for the day and you have to have a button on the POS where they accept the coupon offer, so they know what to look for on the screen and accept it. We were trying to figure out a way to take some of that training and that cumbersome process away from the franchisees, so they didn’t have to worry about it. The idea is, the prizes are a free cup of queso, and the [coupon] gets emailed to you. That coupon is something our franchisees and our crewmembers are already used to seeing, because we use it for E-World, which is our email loyalty program. Another prize is a song download, and you get that instantly through your computer. Again, a general manager or a crewmember doesn’t have to do anything in order to reward [the customer]. The whole point is to make sure it’s not cumbersome for our crewmembers. We can still reward guests, but it takes the crew and the general managers out of it.

How about your focus on Facebook and Foursquare. Was the decision of which platforms to use strictly based on what your consumers were already on?
We wanted to go where the people already were. There are certainly a lot of other competitors in the space, but when we started looking at where people were checking-in the most with our brand, we saw Foursquare and Facebook coming out on top. That’s why we started there first. What’s interesting is because [the Check-In Club] is our own platform, we’ll have the opportunity in the future to pull in new social platforms as they become more popular, if appropriate.

Did you have any challenges in getting this campaign off the ground?
One thing that’s been a little bit of a challenge is getting some of the information from Facebook and Foursquare. When you’re pulling it in through different social networks, you have a risk of slowing down the site, which I think we worked around. I haven’t really seen the site go slow, but I know that was one of the things they were initially concerned about. The other thing I’d say is just trying to figure out how best to explain it to our guests and our franchise partners, because this is something that, as far as I know, no one’s done before. Having to come up with a way that makes it simple and easy sounding [is important], so it’s interesting enough for people to want to sign up and get engaged.

How have you marketed the new check-in club to customers?
We wanted to do a little bit of a soft launch and really give the people who are already engaged with us on social media the first pass at getting involved. We know they’re already in this space, so [we wanted to] see what their feedback was and make any changes that we needed to make. Originally we just posted it on our Facebook page and on Twitter. We messaged it out to the people who follow us on Foursquare. We have an Instagram account, and we can message it there. We sent out an e-blast, and we have it featured on the homepage of our website.

What factors or metrics are you ultimately going to look at to tell if the campaign is successful?
One thing we want to see is an increase in check-ins. We have a benchmark that we started with, and we’d love to see that number grow. That’s a big thing we’re going to look at. Another is shares. One of the things we’re encouraging people to do on the site is actually post on Facebook and Twitter. We’re really trying to watch that closely. One of the goals of the program is to take people that we feel are already advocates of the brand and already checking-in, and [get them] sharing with their network and getting their friends involved. And then registrations in general are important. We have an email club, we have Facebook, we have Twitter, and we have text messaging. I’d really love to see where checking-in falls into that, in terms of the number of people who are interested in getting involved. It would help us shape our customer relationship management program going forward. If we know that people are more interested in engaging with us through a check-in platform than Twitter, for example, then maybe we need to consider shifting our focus.

I think this is something that’s really different and new, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. One stat that I thought was cool was that I mentioned we sent out an e-blast about a week after we launched [the check-in club], and we got the single highest day of traffic to our website over the last two years. We do major promotions all the time—and we send out e-blasts every month—but this was the single day that had the most visits to; more than Free Queso Day, more than Cinco de Moe’s, and more than when we’ve done television advertising or national freestanding inserts. To me, it was so encouraging to see that, first of all, our email marketing was working, and second of all, this was something our guests were extraordinarily interesting in getting involved in.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.