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Penn Station unpacks new loyalty app with mobile gamification twist

Fast-casual dining chain Penn Station East Coast Subs is rolling out a new application enabling users to order ahead, collect and redeem rewards points, send friend referrals and receive access to seasonal mobile games, underscoring the potency of all-in-one loyalty apps.

The app, which was developed by Relevant Mobile, gives Penn Station the ability to engage with customers and fuel interaction with branded mobile content through a plethora of rewards-centric features. In addition to accessing the usual tools found within a quick service restaurant chain’s app – such as order-ahead capabilities and store locators – users will be able to snag rewards in exchange for referring friends and win offers after playing with in-app seasonal games.

“Research into other successful loyalty programs indicates that the customers willing to engage with a loyalty app are likely to spend up to 20 percent more per visit and make those visits more frequently as well,” said Craig Dunaway, president of Penn Station East Coast Subs.

Slicing up mobile incentives
The restaurant chain, which maintains over 300 locations in 15 states across the East Coast, is ramping up excitement for its Penn Station Subs app, available for iOS and Android devices.

Penn Station sought to employ a user-friendly interface and incorporate some of its fan-favorite online games into the app. Another top goal for the brand was adding a strong loyalty component.

“Our restaurant chain customers have seen tremendous ROI from our custom apps,” said Brian Meldrum, vice president of sales at Relevant Mobile. “The data collected from the app will allow the ROI to be easily calculated by Penn Station based on customer spend, frequency, order history, friend referrals, etc.”

Customers can download the app and sign up for the new loyalty program by inputting their email addresses. The app will assign a bar code to each user’s account, which can be scanned at the register during checkout.

Penn Station is incentivizing consumers to make the initial download by gifting a complimentary six-inch sandwich to all new loyalty members, showcasing the importance of including welcome offers in rewards apps.

Users will receive loyalty credit for each dollar they spend at a Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurant, which can be tracked via a customized meter in the app. Once the meter has been filled, loyalty members will earn their choice of one Penn Station signature item, such as a chocolate chunk cookie, an order of fresh-cut fries or a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The next time a user fills up his or her loyalty credit meter, he or she will receive another free six-inch sub.

The app will send push notifications to alert consumers when they are eligible for a new reward.

“The free sub for signing up is certainly a great benefit to our customers, but I think that as they see their loyalty gauge filling up and they are earning free food for their loyalty – that will be really fun for them,” Penn Station’s Mr. Dunaway said. “Also, we’re excited that our next version will incorporate gift cards that can be loaded and gifted right through the app.”

Must-have mobile ingredients
Penn Station’s new app also leverages users’ GPS functionalities, enabling them to quickly find nearby restaurant locations. Additionally, consumers can boost their amount of loyalty credit by referring a friend via social media, a move that will help spread news about the app in a more organic way.

The referred friend will receive a free sandwich upon downloading the app, giving that individual a strong incentive to join the loyalty program.

Order-ahead capabilities are also available within the app, allowing customers to call their local Penn Station restaurant with their preferred meal specifications and have the order waiting for them upon arrival on-premises.

“This version of the app allows guests to call the store directly to place orders ahead,” Mr. Dunaway said. “Our next version of the app will actually incorporate online ordering directly into the app.

“This is imperative because our research indicates that online ordering and loyalty are two of the most requested features that make the app useful for our customers.”

Including mobile gamification is another must-have strategy used by QSR brands attempting to stir up extended app engagement among millennials and younger individuals.

Penn Station’s app will integrate with the brand’s popular seasonal challenges and enable users to win various offers in exchange for playing the games.

A slew of other major restaurant chains have placed a bigger spotlight on mobile gamification in the last few months.

McDonald’s recently treated fans in the greater Philadelphia region to a four-pronged sweepstakes campaign and boosted usage of its mobile app by inviting users to redeem any in-app offer during the month of April for a chance to win $50,000 (see story).

Last winter, Taco Bell introduced an in-app loyalty program with a gamification-heavy focus on rewarding customers for repeat ordering and engaging on social media in a strategic move to appeal to younger consumers (see story).

“It’s one of the features that today’s restaurant guests expect from your app,” Relevant Mobile’s Mr. Meldrum said.