Case Study: Restaurant Rewards Customers With Cash-Back Promos

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After being disappointed by the results of a yearlong advertising campaign with Yelp, The Range Kitchen & Cocktails general manager Edward Camarillo was at a loss for which marketing platform to try next. Camarillo ultimately decided to partner with MOGL, a card-based loyalty platform that rewards customers with 10% cash back when they pay with registered credit and debit cards at participating restaurants. Although MOGL is touted as hands-off program, Camarillo has found that he’s able to onboard more customers by being as hands-on with the platform as possible.

What types of marketing challenges do you face at The Range?
Well we’re in a gay neighborhood, so trying to reach outside of that demographic to let people know where we’re at is one challenge. And then, craft beers and grass-fed, cage-free food are the thing everyone’s doing nowadays, so it’s just being competitive against businesses that have similar concepts.

What marketing platforms have you used in the past to try to overcome those issues?
Yelp was horrible. They say they can manipulate all these different things, and it just didn’t pan out. We were in a year contract, and we didn’t see any benefits from Yelp whatsoever. They did an event at our establishment, and basically their Elite Yelpers completely blasted on the restaurant. They’re the people who post on Yelp the most, so they get invited to monthly events at different restaurants and they’re used to getting free things. The point of those events is to help the restaurant, but those people ended up never coming back. I’ve worked with them twice now, as far as hosting these Elite Yelp parties, and I’ve never seen repeat business from that. Outside of Yelp, we advertise in Pacific Magazine, CityBeat, we’ve advertised with a local gay publication, and then social media.

Tell me about your rewards program. What made you interested in partnering with MOGL specifically?
It was a referral from a friend of mine, and he talked to me about the concept. What I liked about it was that it was interactive. Instead of Yelp, where you’re at their mercy and you don’t know who’s Yelping about you, MOGL gave us a dashboard where you could see who was spending the most money, and you could reward them for doing that. And as long as you’re paying your invoice, it can be as hands-off as you want it to be.

I assume that’s a benefit from your perspective, to have a rewards program that’s totally hands-off?
It’s a benefit, especially because there’s a lot going on. But I’m actually very active with MOGL. I’m probably the one restaurant out of all their venues that is really hands-on. I think you benefit more when you are actually hands-on, although the program will run itself.

When you talk about being hands-on, what does that entail?
I actually contact my Success MOGL [MOGL’s term for an account specialist], and we look at the calendar and we plan events. I schedule with my Success MOGL for them to come out and do signups. We talk about events going on in the community, as well as the restaurant, and we partner up to come up with creative ways to get brand recognition for both our companies. When we do those monthly events, MOGL brings a green screen and people will go to our Facebook page to look at the pictures and tag themselves. It’s something they look forward to, and I think it’s about making things viral on social media.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from your customers?
I haven’t gotten any negative feedback whatsoever. They were a little hesitant in the beginning, but nobody’s going to complain about getting cash back. Customers who’ve registered their cards get notifications on Facebook, as well as their bank accounts, around the 15th of the month showing money going directly into their accounts, and they love that. Especially for people who spend the most, they’re always wanting to make sure they’re first, second, or third place spenders so they get a bonus kickback.

Tell me about the costs. What sort of ROI are you seeing so far?
[MOGL] gives us a report that shows when transactions go up, and we’re starting to hear people talking about it a little more, especially the customers who have spent the most with us. Our top spenders are a husband and wife team, and in less than a year they’ve spend over $5,000 with us. The cash back rewards come from us. The percentage of those sales come from us, and they distribute it out.

Do you keep track of the spending habits of your most frequent customers?
I don’t go over it as much as I want to, but MOGL tracks all of that so it is available anytime I need it. It allows us to recognize the customers and go up to them and actually thank them or invite them to special events. It helps us if they’ve uploaded a picture to their MOGL account. If there’s no picture, then you have to look for the name on the credit card. But the husband and wife, they’re in here almost every day so it’s kind of hard not to know who they are.

What makes MOGL different from competing loyalty platforms?
It’s the customer service aspect. Somebody’s always available. Lauren is my Success MOGL, and she’s amazing. I have her cell phone number. They’re totally hands-on. They make the process as easy as possible. As far as something unique about them, they’re totally interactive. They come out, they’ve got promo teams, green screens, and they’re open to doing different things down the road, as well.

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.