GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Market, credited with competitively sparking supermarkets' interest in home-meal replacement, is taking a page from their playbook with a frequent-shopper customer-loyalty program.
Boston Market restaurants, which are operated and franchised by Boston Chicken, here, are rewarding customers with travel incentives simply for being loyal patrons of their stores.
"We launched the program in order to increase our customer frequency," said Karen Rugen, senior vice president of communications for Boston Chicken. "We recently stopped discounting and couponing to our customers, but we still wanted to give back value to our loyal customers."
The fast-food chain filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 5 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, and immediately closed 178 restaurants. The remaining 965 units in nearly 90 cities nationwide are promoting the new loyalty program, according to a spokeswoman at Boston Chicken.
The bankruptcy announcement hasn't had a negative impact on the loyalty program, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Through the program, customers receive a Travel Award Card, which is presented to the cashier each time they make a purchase. For each qualifying purchase, cashiers use a punch machine to validate the card. With nine validations, customers redeem the card at any participating restaurant for one TWA Travel Certificate. Customers can continue receiving Award cards, and there's no limit to the number of discount certificates they can earn. All cards must be redeemed by Oct. 25.
The certificate entitles customers to $30 off their purchase of a round-trip TWA domestic airline ticket up to $249; $60 off airfare up to $349; $80 off airfare up to $449; and $100 off round-trip airfare up to $450 or more. There's also a $30 discount for travel originating in St. Louis.
"The interest in air-travel promotions has increased dramatically since airfare rates are at record low levels," said the source.
Officials from the marketing company that developed the retailer's loyalty program -- Propco, Chicago -- projected that the program will provide about an 8% increase in same-store sales. Boston Chicken's Rugen declined to speculate about specific results.
"It's still too early to report results, though during the first few weeks, the chain did see very strong traffic in their stores," said the source. In addition to promoting customer loyalty, the program, which began Sept. 14, is expected to increase sales and transaction sizes, according to the source.