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Bloomin’ Brands forgoes app in favor of Web-based loyalty program

Bloomin’ Brands’ new digital loyalty program, Dine Rewards, encompasses all four of its casual dining chains and enables members to receive welcome incentives as well as tiered perks, but employs a mobile Web-based platform instead of a separate application.

Bloomin’ Brands is enabling fans of its Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar chains to collect rewards for frequent visits. Although the restaurant company has undertaken a late entry into the digital loyalty sector, it may gain more memberships due to its decision to forgo rolling out a dedicated mobile app for the program and enable customers to sign up and redeem rewards via mobile Web instead.

“Dine Rewards was designed with simplicity and convenience in mind,” said Barb Millette, senior director of loyalty and marketing services for Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. “Guests can track and redeem rewards online from anywhere at any time and on any device.

“There’s no need to worry about carrying and keeping track of a card.”

All-encompassing loyalty
Consumers can earn Dine Rewards after eating at any of Bloomin’ Brands’ four chains, a notion that may seem enticing to individuals used to having a separate loyalty program account for standalone restaurant brands.

The Dine Rewards program currently lives on a Web-based platform, accessible via mobile and desktop. It does not yet have a complementary mobile app, but can be accessed through several of Bloomin’ Brands’ restaurants’ apps.

“Dine Rewards is currently available through the Outback and Carrabba’s apps,” Ms. Millette said. “Guests can link their rewards accounts to the app so they can track and redeem rewards, as well as get on the wait list and pay at the table.”

Diners can visit on their smartphones to interact with the mobile-optimized experience.

Consumers will be prompted to input their email addresses to begin the signup process. The subsequent step will ask the new members to enter their phone numbers, first names and last names before revealing the welcome incentive, a $5 off coupon redeemable at Carrabba’s, Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill or Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse.

To continue earning rewards, members must let their server know of their status as a Dine Rewards participant and provide the number associated with their loyalty account. Once customers have accumulated three visits at any of Bloomin’ Brands’ restaurant chains, they will receive 50 percent off their fourth visit.

The reward can then be redeemed within 90 days.

Mobile users can track their tiered status via the dashboard on the Dine Rewards homepage, which displays a qualified visit tracker and available rewards.

Consumers can also view their activity timelines – which show the dates of their latest restaurant visits – as well as frequently asked questions and membership instructions.

Additionally, users can click on the “Plan a visit” tab to visit the mobile site of any Bloomin’ Brands chain, where they can browse menu options and make dining reservations.

App vs. Web
Many restaurant chains have opted to introduce mobile apps in which their loyalty programs can be accessed, a nod to consumers’ increasing reliance on their smartphones as dining companions.

While mobile loyalty apps may be effective for highly engaged customers, mobile Web-based programs could yield a larger audience outreach, since consumers will not need to relinquish any of their prime smartphone real estate to make room for yet another app.

If the Web-based program is entirely mobile-optimized, members can easily bookmark it on their smartphones and simply sign in to access and redeem their accumulated rewards.

Bloomin’ Brands does, however, offer mobile app experiences for its Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s brands.

Several months ago, Outback Steakhouse introduced a mobile app that enables diners to pay the bill directly from their smartphones and place their names on the wait list for a table (see story).

Italian chain restaurant Carrabba’s took a different approach to pushing mobile and in-store traffic conversion through a Web site where users could register for coupons to be redeemed at bricks-and-mortar locations (see story).

“With so many people using smartphones, customer-loyalty programs today need to be optimized for mobile, making participation and redemptions easy and accessible,” Ms. Millette said.