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Why restaurants should up their mobile games

| by Nicole Troxell
Why restaurants should up their mobile games

Digital technologies and social media are now commonly accessed via mobile platforms, especially by Millennials and Gen Z, generations that seek the personalization, customization, self-expression and connection these segments offer. Savvy restaurant brands seeking to engage this influential target audience have found mobile gamication an attractive option, according to Mark Mears, CMO of Schlotzky's Bakery-Café. Restaurants looking to harness social media and digital technologies are implementing mobile gamification strategies in ways that benefit both the customer and the brand,Mears said.

Schlotzsky's utilized mobile gamification in its guest rewards mobile app, called Lotz4Me. The app, designed to attract and engage guests on a deeper, more emotionally evocative level, enabled customers to join in an interactive Instant Win game. By inputting a code from their 32-ounce cups into the app's "Scratch, Match & Win!" game, guests were eligible to win thousands of food and drink prizes at Schlotzsky's, including FREE Schlotzsky's for a Year, Mears said. 

Schlotzsky's mobile app is just one example of how mobile and tablet technology have opened opportunities for restaurants to provide new experiences for their customers. They also help to increase diner engagement, said Ram Krishnan, CEO of Buzztime, a provider of restaurant game apps.

"Restaurants want to have a unique draw that will attract customers and give them something to talk about when they are on location and also when they are not at the venue," he said.

Why restaurants should up their mobile games

Market saturation of restaurant concepts and increasingly blurred QSR and fast casual lines requires standing out if restaurants want to increase market share. Mobile gamification provides an opportunity to both attract new guests as well as engage existing guests, Mears said. Mobile gamification can "keep restaurant brands contemporary, relevant and top of mind within an increasingly competitive marketplace." 

At Schlotzsky's, we are committed to keeping our brand experience fresh, flavorful and fun by attracting the large, growing and highly influential Millennials and Gen Z target segments — the use of mobile gamification techniques will now allow us to engage with them in a mutually rewarding manner."

Consumers today are more technologically driven than ever before. Implementing games in restaurants provides a more connected and social dining experience than those without games, according to Krishnan.

"Games have become a truly social experience," he said. "Games also offer entertainment that is custom catered towards all ages."  

Utilizing mobile and tablet technology, customers can compete against other members in their party, across the restaurant, and even across the country. "Dining becomes more than just the food you're eating or the drinks consumed. Now, it becomes more of an all-inclusive experience," Krishnan said.

Implementing gaming technology usually costs restaurants installation fees and monthly subscription fees that vary depending on numerous location-specific details, Krishnan said.

But the rewards can far outweigh the costs.

Schlotzsky's gamification strategy, for example, led to the creation of "Stackin' the Original" game, which allowed customers to stack each of the 13 ingredients that made up The Original sandwich as they moved through a series of increasingly difficult levels. Guests who successfully navigated all five levels won a complimentary sandwich 'bite' that would be added to their account. For every seven sandwich bites earned, a Lotz4Me member received $7 to spend on his next visit at Schlotzsky's.

The game garnered more than 92,000 plays, resulting in an enrollment of over 43,000 new Lotz4Me members during the three-month promotional period, Mears said. Schlotzsky's also launched a combination its Instant Win Game and Sweepstakes called "Fill 'er Up!" The game is tied to the company's Route 66-themed Summer LTO promotion. The giveaway offers thousands of food and drinks prizes at Schlotzsky's, and one winner will receive a Cruisin' Vacation along historic Route 66.

Beginning brand advocacy via mobile

Restaurants can get guests involved in mobile gamification by first establishing a mobile app-based guest rewards program, and then by getting creative.

"Gamification does not necessarily equate to a traditional Instant Win game per se. Rather, there are techniques such as badging and social sharing that also tap into the essence of the gamification phenomena," Mears said.

Gamification offers customers a chance to compete and share their exploits both within the mobile app itself and across various social media networks. 

"We are working on ways to extend and enhance our Lotz4Me guest rewards program by using mobile gamification techniques that recognize and reward members for becoming brand advocates for us among their friends, family members and co-workers," Mears said.

Topics: Online / Mobile / Social

Nicole Troxell
Nicole’s work has appeared in business, education, technical, and travel publications. She is currently the editor of and wwwView Nicole Troxell's profile on LinkedIn

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