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How Chili’s tabletop tablets are driving charity donations and loyalty signups

Chili’s Grill and Bar is leveraging its tabletop tablet devices to make it easy for customers to donate to its annual fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and is rewarding those who have signed up for its mobile loyalty program with bonus points for each donation made.

To celebrate its thirteenth year participating in the campaign, the food marketer has partnered with band Lady Antebellum to encourage guests to donate to the charity of choice, which treats childhood cancer and life-threatening illnesses. However, consumers will likely be swayed to open their wallets by the promise of receiving additional loyalty points each time they use an on-site tablet to donate to the cause.

“Anything a dine-in restaurant can do to make an action easier for a guest, the more likely they are to take that action,” said Brent Brown, founder/CEO of Latitude 360, New York. “The same holds true with donation requests.”

Mr. Brown is not affiliated with Chili’s, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Marrying loyalty with charity
Chili’s is undertaking a unique strategy by driving in-store donations with the help of its mobile-optimized My Chili’s Rewards platform. The brand has recently integrated Ziosk tabletop technology into its restaurants, which enables guests to pay the check on tablet devices at their leisure, a move that reduces stress for busy servers.

Chili’s is seeking to ramp up the amount of donations by offering loyalty members additional bonus points, which can be redeemed for rewards such as a free side item and a complimentary chips and salsa appetizer.

Customers dining at any Chili’s location can add their desired donation amount to their bill at the end of the meal, and check out via the tablet device.

Consumers who have recently opened up a My Chili’s Rewards account may be swayed to make a donation for the worthy organization, if only to bump up their accumulated points.

Although mobile loyalty is nothing new for many fast-casual chains, Chili’s is putting a different spin on its efforts to drive signups. It may have entered the rewards fray at a later time than its competitors, but will likely continue gaining traction as usage of its application jumps.

The brand has updated its eponymous app with several new features. Guests are encouraged to unlock several challenges by playing on their smartphones to receive additional points.

Challenges related to St. Jude’s will be available to tie into the campaign theme.

Supporting branded efforts
Chili’s is hoping its fans will aid efforts to offer St. Jude’s a significant amount of donations this year.

Customers are encouraged to dine at restaurant locations on Sept. 14 to celebrate Donate Profits Day, when the chain will donate a minimum of $100,000 to the hospital.

Charitable guests can also decorate one of the brand’s signature red chili peppers with a coloring sheet and upload the design onto social media using the #CreateAPepper hashtag.

The fast-casual chain has been ramping up its mobile focus as of late. Users now have the ability to check seating availability prior to arriving at a local restaurant, and may place their party on the waiting list via its app.

Additionally, any individual who signs up will receive 60 rewards points as a welcome offer, enough for one free menu item.

Ultimately, Chili’s charity strategy may prompt other food and beverage marketers to team up with organizations to drive donations via mobile loyalty. Diners often respond well to incentives, and this tactic will likely yield even more awareness for the brand’s relatively recent rewards platform.

“With a very robust loyalty program, guests certainly value their points and work hard at accumulating them,” Mr. Brown said. “The added benefit of points awards coupled with the good feeling of donating to a worthy cause is a win-win.”

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