Fast-casual brand Panera Bread, which has more than 2,100 locations across the United States and Canada, is joining the ranks of restaurants expanding their audiences with cross-brand partnerships. American Express announced this week in an emailed press release that it is offering four-month subscriptions to Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club beverage program to consumers and corporate card members for a limited time.
For the financial services company, this partnership creates an additional loyalty perk. For the restaurant chain, meanwhile, the partnership has the potential to incentivize many consumers who have not engaged with the brand in the past to become regular customers. There were 56.4 million Amex cards in the U.S. last year, according to a regulatory filing.
Indeed, Panera often offers free subscription promotions as a way to get consumers in through the restaurant’s doors. Even consumers who don’t use Amex are being offered a free two-month subscription, suggesting that the program functions as a loss-leader, attracting customers to the brand so that they can purchase other items from which Panera can make a profit.
Panera joins other restaurants looking beyond their own brands to drive loyalty, both by offering in-restaurant deals to other brands’ customers and by promising rewards from other brands to their own customers.
For instance, IHOP, the California-based casual dining breakfast chain with more than 1,700 locations around the world, announced in August that it has partnered with Xbox to make gaming rewards available to the brand’s “International Bank of Pancakes” rewards program. The pancake chain is offering members of its loyalty program a one-month free trial of the subscription offering Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a bundle of premium add-ons for the racing video game Forza Horizon 5 and download codes for survival video game Grounded through the end of this month.
See also: IHOP Announces Xbox Rewards as Restaurants Explore Cross-Brand Loyalty
Plus, last year, Starbucks, the world’s largest restaurant brand by revenue, launched a partnership with Air Canada that lets members of the carrier’s rewards program “double-dip,” earning loyalty points for both the airline and the coffeehouse with purchases at participating Starbucks locations.
“Through blockchain or other innovative technologies, we are exploring how to tokenize Stars and create the ability for other merchants to connect their rewards program to Starbucks Rewards,” Starbucks’ then-CEO Kevin Johnson told analysts on a call a year ago. “This will enable customers to exchange value across brands, engage in more personalized experiences, enhance digital services and exchange other loyalty points for Stars at Starbucks.”
You may also like: Starbucks Looks to Double-Dip Loyalty With Blockchain-Enabled Cross-Brand Rewards
Aggregators are getting into the game, too. For instance, Grubhub announced in July a commercial agreement with Amazon to offer U.S. Prime customers receive a free one-year Grubhub+ membership. The following month, the aggregator unveiled a similar partnership with Bank of America to offer a free yearlong membership to cardholders.
Related news: For Grubhub, Is Two Partners in Two Months Too Much?
By setting their sights beyond the restaurant category, restaurants and aggregators can drive deeper loyalty with their customers, building relationships in other aspects of their day-to-day lives.
PYMNTS research finds that top-performing brands are those that engage consumers across the pillars of the connected economy — how they work, pay and are paid, shop, eat, bank, travel, connect with others, have fun, stay well and live. Partnerships such as Panera’s and Grubhub’s extend the brand experience to how they pay, bank and shop, while those such as IHOP’s extend them to how they connect with others and have fun, and Starbucks’ to how they travel.
Read more: How Consumers Live in the Connected Economy
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