How Loyalty Drives Visits for Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh

Devin Handler, the director of marketing for Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, joined us and shared some insights on how the company’s loyalty program is driving visits.

Paytronix: Tell us about you and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh.

Handler: Garbanzo is a 20-unit quick-casual concept based in Denver, Colorado. High-growth mode is our MO, as we come off of 2017 having increased same-store sales by 6.5%.

Our marketing mix includes radio, print, and, of course, our loyalty program. The driver that stands out among the mix is what we can do with the more than 100,000 members of our V.I.B. [Very Important Bean] Rewards Program.  

I came to Garbanzo a little more than a year ago from Qdoba Restaurant Corporation, where I was director of field marketing for five years and, before that, brand manager for almost two years. I have been working in restaurant marketing since 2010.

At Qdoba, I ran franchisee and restaurant marketing programs that increased revenues in many local markets. I selected and oversaw the company’s agency partners for public relations, advertising, social media, gift card, and traditional and digital channels. Today, I am bringing that same mastery of traditional and digital marketing to Garbanzo.

Paytronix: To what do you attribute Garbanzo’s success?

Handler: For fast-casual restaurants, often 60 percent of customers don’t come back after their first visit. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

At Garbanzo, everybody is moving in the same direction. Marketing is engaging and promising – but not overpromising. We deliver remarkable experiences in everything we do and in every interaction with our brand. The worst thing is to be unremarkable. A guest who has an extraordinary experience will tell other people.

The combination of our loyalty program plus training plus food equals a remarkable experience at every touchpoint with the Garbanzo brand.

Paytronix: Can you give us the elevator pitch for the Garbanzo V.I.B. Rewards Club?

Handler: One hundred thousand V.I.B. members enjoy earning points for every dollar they spend at Garbanzo. For every 80 points accrued, members receive $5 in rewards. Plus, V.I.B. provides a way for us to connect with our customers to truly make them part of our brand. We encourage members to interact with us in whatever way makes them comfortable, whether that’s a physical badge on their key chain or through our mobile app.

At Garbanzo, we are building a great product: food our customers love to eat. We make it easy for them to join our V.I.B. Rewards Club any way they want.

Paytronix: The Garbanzo loyalty program focuses much of its outreach efforts on the four lowest segments. Can you explain what they are and why you chose this strategy?

Handler: Paytronix really makes the Garbanzo segmentation strategy possible with ease of access. We can visualize our KPIs [key performance indicators] and look at our data in a scientific way.

With the help of Paytronix, Garbanzo has created seven customer bands based on an RFM [recency, frequency, and monetary value] model that makes sense for our unique brand. The platinum, gold, silver, and bronze bands are based on a member’s level of engagement. Finally, we have three levels for unengaged members: lapsed, gone, and really gone. We also segment for new or “fresh” members.

The lowest-hanging fruit is the lapsed bands. We’ve fallen out of their consideration. Maybe they’ve moved or it’s something we did. If I can get a lapsed customer in, it’s almost as though I have acquired a new guest – only cheaper.

Paytronix: How do you leverage these segments to drive sales?

Handler: Once the bands are created, you need to message-map the list. You have to know the member purchase habits too, so that you are not sending your vegetarians the “Three Meat” promotion. Instead, you send the vegetarians the “Meatless Monday” promotion and start developing affinity with them. In fact, I can send the vegetarians the Meatless Monday message without an offer. Many now come in two, three, or more times a month.

With message mapping, I will send out a double-points Meatless Monday offer that is dynamic by bands. Here’s how it works:

  • Platinum members get double points for coming in on Meatless Monday.
  • Gold and silver members get double points too, but if they don’t visit in the first week, I message them again with an offer for quadruple points.
  • Bronze members get double points plus a free order of fries.
  • Lapsed members get double points and free fries, but if they do not come in in the third week, we sweeten the offer with a $5 off bonus.
  • Members who are classified as gone and really gone get the double points, free fries, and the $5 bonus.
  • Fresh members get all of the above.

There has to be a campaign flow. With the bronze and fresh bands, we wait seven days and see about visitation. Then we send out a second offer to the members who do not come in. At week three, if they still haven’t come in, we may increase the offer.

We like to say that we “inspect what we expect.” If I expect to motivate each band in different ways, then I must augment the offers in order to get results.

Paytronix: How does your experience as director of marketing at Garbanzo compare with your experience at your previous position with Qdoba? Do the two companies have different approaches to integrating loyalty into the overall marketing mix? 

Handler: I always wanted to do message mapping with Qdoba. But we never did. We would send a meat-eater message to every vegetarian on the list. The loyalty program was more “set it and forget it.”

Today, we put a lot of thought into V.I.B., message mapping, and using our customer data. It’s an asset we use to grow sales. Targeting with precision – moving the sales needle while engaging customers in a relevant way – has been critical to our growth.

I learned a lot at Qdoba about what to do and what not to do. We were training our customers to expect a discount. They went from 170 to 700 restaurants and had a tough time breaking from old discounting habits. With Garbanzo, we are all about business drivers and how to reach our goals using the rich data set we have on hand – to minimalize cannibalization and use offers to motivate incremental sales.

Paytronix offers the solutions plus the partnership to enable restaurants to be truly strategic. This partnership is critical when a restaurant is investing in its rewards program.

To hear more about Garbanzo’s best practices for loyalty, click to listen to the webinar, What the Heck Happened? Recapping 2017’s Challenges and Identifying 2018’s Solutions.


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The Author
Stephen Stone is a content marketing specialist at Paytronix. With a Bachelors Degree from Fitchburg State University and a Masters in Communication Management from Emerson College, Stephen is well-versed in all things communication.

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