Chili’s Grill & Bar wanted to expand the benefits of its already successful loyalty program, My Chili’s Rewards. As a result, it partnered with Plenti, the first U.S.-based loyalty coalition.

Chili’s® Grill & Bar, the flagship brand of Brinker International, Inc., will join the program as a new partner representing the casual dining space. This marks the coalition’s expansion into a new category with Chili’s as the latest partner to join the multi-brand loyalty coalition, which currently includes AT&T, ExxonMobil, Macy’s, Nationwide, Rite Aid, Direct Energy, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Hulu.

Plenti, a program operated by American Express, launched in May 2015 to offer members numerous ways to earn points and use them to save on the things they already shop for every day, regardless of the payment method used.

By the second half of 2016, My Chili’s Rewards members will be able to enjoy the additional benefits associated with the Plenti program while maintaining their existing loyalty status. Plenti members will be able to both earn and use Plenti points when dining at Chili’s restaurants nationwide as well as use points to pay for their favorite Chili’s Fresh Tex™ and Fresh Mex™ items when picking up a meal to-go.

Wade Allen, vice president of digital innovation and customer engagement, Chili's Grill & Bar; and Abeer Bhatia, EVP and CEO of U.S. Loyalty, American Express, participated in a Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss the new partnership.

What factors prompted Chili’s to join Plenti and what are your goals for this partnership from a customer loyalty/customer engagement standpoint? 

Allen: When we created My Chili’s Rewards, our goal was to leverage technology, personalization, and gamification to make earning and redeeming points more engaging than ever before. Our move to join Plenti is a way to further expand loyalty benefits for our guests by giving more flexibility on how they earn points and increased value when redeeming. Our goals for this partnership is to 1) Tap into a much larger potential population of guests through a very effective and efficient communication channel 2) Continue to reward Chili’s most loyal guests with additional benefits 3) Increase engagement and loyalty by giving more options on how to earn and redeem points.

What does customer loyalty mean to Chili’s and has that definition changed or evolved in recent years? 
Loyalty is getting a guest to fall in love and be an advocate of your brand. In the past, loyalty was about if a guest came into the restaurant or not. But, today, we’re chasing brand advocacy from a behavior standpoint and want guests to talk about the brand and make experiences at Chili’s a part of their life.

What does this addition of Chili’s mean for the Plenti coalition loyalty program and can you talk a bit about the progress of the program since it launched?

Bhatia:
We choose our partner brands based on their scale, brand recognition and relevance to our target consumer. We think the diversity of the products offered across our partners makes the program enticing for consumers. Chili’s is joining Plenti as a new partner representing the casual dining space marking our expansion into a new category. By expanding into the restaurant category with another well-known brand with loyal customers and a commitment to a great guest experience, we're introducing a great way for members to earn and use points at Chili's and across multiple Plenti partners. 

We said previously that we were going to have new partners introduced regularly and are delivering on that promise. This is still early days for Plenti and we look forward to expanding the program and providing more value to our card members in the future. We’re seeing great progress and continued growth. 

What has been some of the feedback/insights you have received since the launch of Plenti and what are your goals for 2016?

Bhatia: We’ve learned a lot about running a multi-brand loyalty program in the U.S. and the challenge has been worth the effort. We’re really pleased with the response to the program so far from both our partners and our members. 

We know that our members value the program, the unique opportunities to both earn and redeem points as well as the diversity of our partner set. The program is in early days, but we’re seeing that members are starting to take full advantage of the program across multiple partners. Also, our most engaged members are very digitally savvy so we are placing increased emphasis on digital engagement and making sure our customers are able to maximize the benefits of the program.

As for goals and what’s next for the Plenti program, we expect to add partner brands in new categories over time. There are many opportunities to expand into categories consumers use every day and where they can experience greater value from this program.  

What is your view of this coalition loyalty program and, as a future trend in loyalty marketing, what are your thoughts?

Bhatia: The coalition model is the future of loyalty. We're working to bring the next generation of loyalty to U.S. customers and providing one loyalty card that earns points at many places continues to be easier. 

What makes this program unique?

Bhatia: Plenti is the first U.S. loyalty coalition involving multiple, well-known brands spanning many categories. Never before have so many big brands joined together to offer a fully integrated rewards program that offer members numerous ways to earn points and use them to save on the things they already shop for every day, regardless of the payment method used.

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