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LongHorn Steakhouse drives loyalty with mobile-enabled at-the-table offer

Darden restaurant LongHorn Steakhouse is targeting visitors through its drink coasters with a QR code and text offer that includes a free appetizer for joining the chain’s loyalty program.

The offer is printed on participating locations’ drink coasters and gives visitors the option to scan a QR code or send a text message to opt-in and receive the free appetizer. Reaching customers at the point of sale in this effort initiates an ongoing conversation by allowing the restaurant chain to contact those visitors in the future.

“Calls to action on premise make perfect sense given the fact that virtually everyone has a mobile phone, time on their hands as their food or beverages are being prepared, and most importantly, all want a deal,” said Jeff Hasen, founder of Gotta Mobilize, Seattle. “This, of course, is only part of the job of the marketer since patrons would have to have already come through the doors to see the prompts.

“As important are calls to action on marketing and media outside the store that gets folks to come in for the first time,” he said.

An unavoidable offer
The placement of these offers on drink coasters allows customers to receive them at a convenient time and particularly at the point of sale.

Also, the inclusion of QR code activation along with a text message opt-in solution allows users to sign up in a way that is easiest for them.

The coasters read, “Join the club. To get your free appetizer email voucher, sign up for the LongHorn Hospitality Club.” Users then either scan the QR code or text “Steak” to 346464.

Once the connection has been made, LongHorn has the opportunity to reconnect with its customers via email to offer promotions, deals and new menu items. However, it is important that LongHorn uses customer segmentation to ensure that customers are receiving the right orders based on their habits.

While email marketing is an old concept, brands are reexamining and revamping their email marketing efforts to ensure personalization. If email marketers are reaching out too often or are not providing context in their messages, users are more likely to opt out.

Food driving mobile
While each industry vertical has its own pace of technology innovation and risk-versus-reward criteria in regard to adoption, restaurant chains are experimenting heavily with mobile at present due to many customers using search, reviews and ordering from restaurants via smartphones.

Due to the on-the-go nature of their businesses, fast-casual chains need to be available to their customers on mobile. The tactics being embraced by this category include apps, responsive sites, virtual reality, QR codes and messaging to name a few, but this technology-focused approach is changing as the brands in this category as well as others are learning more about their mobile customers and how to interact with them to create a fluid mobile conversation.

Last year, Longhorn Steakhouse allowed customers to text in during the 4th of July holiday to receive culinary advice from one of their expert grill masters (see story).

Mobile has been a channel of use for LongHorn for many years.

In 2009, LongHorn Steakhouse took its “Discover the West in You” ad campaign mobile with the launch of its first-ever Apple iPhone stereoscopic 3D application.

LongHorn Steakhouse tapped its agency partner Grey New York for the design and execution of the application. Grey New York also created the TV ad campaign for LongHorn using animated illustrations to link the brand to the values of the American West (see story).

“The use of coasters is common and smart since businesses are already needing to provide a place to sit drinks,” Mr. Hasen said. “A switch in on-coaster message and, voila, it works harder.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York