ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Commerce Daily in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out our topic page for the latest mobile commerce news.

Firehouse Subs heats up mobile ordering and in-app gaming rewards

Firehouse Subs is rolling out a revamped application that includes mobile ordering capabilities, a must-have for fast-casual chains, as well as in-app gaming that enables consumers to receive additional loyalty points for extended engagement.

The brand claims it has experienced strong sales results following the nationwide app rollout last week, underscoring the need for dining chains to offer loyalty perks to frequent visitors and also provide the ability to place orders prior to arrival via mobile. Rewards-based gaming will likely continue taking off in the food and beverage sector, especially as more marketers introduce tablet devices to tables in their bricks-and-mortar restaurants.

“As a brand working to deliver heartfelt service to every guest, it’s important to provide options for ordering that are convenient and easy for guests to use,” said Kristen Majdanics, vice president of brand marketing at Firehouse Subs, Jacksonville, FL. “Mobile ordering provides a quick and convenient way for our guests to order Firehouse Subs.

“We’ve built in a lot of elements into the Firehouse Rewards app to make ordering convenient,” she said. “For example, you can recall and re-place a prior order, pay online, and have your order hot and ready for you when you arrive at our restaurant.

“Plus, we wanted the Firehouse Rewards app to have several reasons for guests to use it. Our app was built to give users several reasons to download and continue to use our app including ordering, loyalty, and gaming.”

Multiple app components
Firehouse Subs is seeing strong engagement and sales stemming from its updated app due to the multiple components it encompasses. Consumers appreciate having loyalty and payment features embedded within one branded app, so they are not forced to give up additional prime real estate on their smartphones to a suite of standalone services.

Time-strapped customers can pull up the app on their smartphones and input their order prior to their arrival at a Firehouse Subs location. They may pay with their credit card if they wish to circumvent lines at the cashier stand, or opt to pay when picking up their meal.

The app offers customization to ensure that the ordering experience mirrors that of an in-store one. Users can select the type of sub they would like and click the “customize” button to request specific tailoring, such as extra dressing or no cheese.

Many customers will likely find this capability useful, especially when ordering during high peak traffic times, including lunch hours.

In-app payment and ordering tools are becoming a requisite feature for all fast-food chains to provide, as the food and beverage sector continues wading deeper and deeper into mobile-enhanced services.

Firehouse Subs recently announced its decision to accept MasterPass payments via the platform on its online ordering site, highlighting the brand’s desire to stay at the forefront of the digital payments movement sweeping the food and beverage industry (see story).

Gaming and rewards
Firehouse Subs fans are now able to accumulate loyalty credit for in-app orders, in addition to ones placed in restaurants. Offering an incentive to prompt consumers to use the mobile ordering feature is a smart move, as adoption rates for some demographics may initially be slow.

Users will also receive rewards points for playing the Blaze Hopper mobile game, proving Firehouse’s dedication to driving app usage and taking the branded experience one step further, to a digital medium that many consumers enjoy engaging with.

While a plethora of popular mobile games exist, some customers may be swayed to play a brand’s game if they know they will receive extra loyalty points and perks for doing so. The Firehouse Subs app now boasts a loyalty page where consumers can view their current account activity, as well as how many points they need before they can redeem rewards.

Possible rewards include double meat on a sub sandwich, a free large drink with purchase and a complimentary salad with any order.

Mobile gaming may also take off in bricks-and-mortar restaurants themselves, as tablet devices start to infiltrate tables for payment and entertainment options.

Olive Garden is one of the latest restaurant chains to employ tablets in its locations, enabling customers to order and pay via the devices, suggesting that mobile has a strong role to play in streamlining the dining experience and increasing tip percentages for servers (see story).

However, diners are also able to use the tablet devices to play games while they wait for their meals, a move that resonates well for families with younger children.

If brands offer additional loyalty points or rewards to any customer who beats a certain gaming level, they could potentially drive more in-store traffic and fuel additional in-app engagement later on.

“We are using our game, Blaze Hopper, as a means for users to engage with the Firehouse Subs brand in and out of the restaurants,” Ms. Majdanics said. “The game is challenging, which keeps users playing.

“And, we included the opportunity for users to earn loyalty points if they reach a specific level in the game. So, there’s extra incentive to keep at it!”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York