Q&A: Mark Mears, CMO, Schlotzsky’s

Schlotzsky’s, home of The Original round oven-baked sandwich and famous Fresh-from-Scratch buns, last month announced the nationwide launch of its new Lotz4Me™ Guest Rewards mobile app. According to Schlotzsky’s, it’s the first brand in the fast-casual industry to offer an app that combines a digital loyalty program with patent-pending technology that enables users to refer friends and earn rewards when their friends download the app and make a purchase.

Mark Mears, CMO of Schlotzsky’s, participated in a fascinating Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss his company’s new loyalty app.

What factors prompted the creation and implementation of the loyalty app?

We took a lot of factors into consideration when we began working on the Lotz4Me Guest Rewards program. Our Brand Positioning is centered around the promise of delivering an “All ‘round Lotz Better” guest experience, so we studied other programs we admired and took the best of the best from Starbucks, Panera and Chipotle to create our program. As a result, we wanted a unified, system wide program that would reflect the unique and differentiated brand experience we provide our guests every day–one that would help drive incremental/profitable sales into our restaurants while engaging our guests on both a commercial and relational level.

How does it work and what are your goals for the program?

Our Lotz4Me Guest Rewards program is designed to build brand awareness, deepen our level of brand engagement and drive profitable sales into our restaurants. By combining an app-based loyalty program with a social sharing and a referral bonus benefit, we are driving incremental guest visits by rewarding members with a digital “punch” for each visit (they earn $7 after 7 visits!) while also rewarding their advocacy through both social sharing and referral bonuses (they earn a free punch for every new referral). This allows our loyal and engaged guests an easy outlet to share their love of Schlotzsky’s with friends via the amplification of social media, which is advantageous for both our guests and Schlotzsky’s. It’s a win-win!

How do you define loyalty, what does it mean to your organization, and how has it changed in recent years?

For Schlotzsky’s, true guest loyalty is when we have turned our guest into a Brand Ambassador who serves as an advocate for us with their friends, family, coworkers, etc. This goes beyond the guest simply visiting our restaurants on a regular basis into the guest becoming engaged with the brand via the Lotz4Me app, social media, and any other outlet where the guest has the opportunity to rave about Schlotzsky’s. We know guests have access to more information about a brand than they ever have before, and they also have more dining options than ever before, so we must treat our guests with the best possible dining experience, while also providing them with rewards that surprise and delight them so we can create dedicated Brand Ambassadors.

What does Customer Experience/Customer Engagement mean to your organization, and how has it changed over recent years or since you have been on the job?

First of all, we don’t use the term: customers. Rather, we refer to them as guests to reflect the importance of hospitality (vs. service) in treating every guest like they were indeed a guest in our own home. Through social media, fans are able to share with their friends what makes Schlotzsky’s great, what menu items appeal to them, and why others should download the Lotz4Me Guest Rewards app to earn their own rewards and special program benefits. This is a large part of the overall guest experience by offering rewards while creating a way for our fans to engage with our brand that is comfortable and natural to them via social media – rewarding advocacy of our brand by offering a free punch for every Facebook fan they refer to also join our Lotz4Me Guest Rewards program. Our guest experience will improve simply by having one unified guest rewards program that is both engaging and rewarding.

What are the best opportunities for the next two years?

One of the great things about this app is that it links with our POS system, which allows us to study our guests’ buying behavior so we can provide them with offers that will appeal specifically to them. So as we continue to grow our membership and learn more about our guests’ interests and buying behaviors, our offers will become very relevant and rewarding to our guests. We’re also looking at exciting ways to improve the app in the future with things such as games, enhanced social interaction and more unique offers.  

How do you measure effectiveness? What metrics are used?

We measure the effectiveness of our Lotz4Me Guest Rewards program by not only incremental guest visits/sales, but also the level of engagement the app fosters with our guests. We encourage feedback by prompting the guest, after every earned reward the opportunity, to share their thoughts both externally through social media and internally to our Lotz4Me team. We also use traditional quantitative measures, guest check, etc.; however, the beauty of this program is the ability to see beyond the guest check to obtain a better understanding of our guests as a whole, including soliciting their feedback via ad hoc surveys to weigh in on new ways to serve them better. 

How do you keep up with trends, technologies, and direction?

At Schlotzsky’s, we employ a Best Practices mentality−within a spirit of continuous improvement–to stay up to date with the latest information, leadership and technological advancements in the world of guest engagement, hospitality and satisfaction. This means attending conferences/webinars both in and outside of our industry, doing extensive competitor analyses, reading the latest blogs/white papers and partnering with forward thinking vendors. This allows us to stay on the bleeding edge of programs that are important to our guests. Our ultimate goal is to extend and enhance our guest experience in between visits by delivering a Lotz Better guest rewards program that is as high quality, unique, and differentiated as our legendary food and hospitality.

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