Following the pandemic, many fast-food and casual restaurant chains have sought to rejuvenate their value propositions in order to win back the hearts and minds of their customers. In this spirit, American salad-and-grain-bowl chain Sweetgreen has recently revamped its loyalty program, Sweetgreen Sweetpass, pivoting towards a more privilege-based experience with a separate, $10 subscription membership, challenges, and special offers. Is the Sweetgreen loyalty program fresh enough to satisfy the appetite of its customer base, or will it wither and go stale? Let’s take a bite and find out!
Also, if you are looking to spice up your own loyalty program with gamification, make sure to check out our award-winning case study on KFC UK & Ireland’s Rewards Arcade.
Registration & Membership Page – Reward Program in the Spotlight
Upon visiting the site, it is instantly obvious that the company is proud of its loyalty program. On the main page, Sweetgreen prominently features a banner inviting visitors to join the program. The company also encourages customers to download its app so they can order their meals and get rewarded while on the go.
In terms of enrollment, the company goes beyond the minimum requirements, asking customers to submit their phone numbers and dates of birth, alongside their name, email, and password. Since the Sweetgreen loyalty program doesn’t reward customer profile completion, it makes sense to ask for all of that information at the very beginning.
First impressions matter a lot, which is why there’s always a big dilemma regarding how much information to ask for during registration. Though you can ask for all the data you need in one go — alleviating members from dealing with this task — younger generations have less time and patience for overly long enrollment forms. If you want to have a rich layer of zero-party data, incentivized surveys are a good alternative.
Point Accrual – Favoring Simplicity and Pushing Product Discovery
Before the revamp, the Sweetgreen loyalty program used a stamp-based system, where members received a free treat after every 10th order. Instead of opting for points or tiers for the revamped loyalty program, the company bravely went in a new direction, implementing a streamlined and easily accessible reward journey.
After enrolling, members instantly qualify for the “free section” of Sweetgreen Sweetpass. However, they can go one step further by subscribing to Sweetgreen Sweetpass+, a premium section of the program that requires a $10 monthly subscription.
A Perk System Combined With Challenges
Regardless of which membership option customers choose, they can participate in a system that Sweetgreen calls “challenges”. Since people don’t earn points with purchases and cannot move their way up through tiers either, the primary way to earn rewards is by completing tasks. For example, when customers order a set list of menu items within a specified time limit, they receive 50% off their next order.
This approach provides an element of gamification, as the tasks available can be changed frequently, but overall, Sweetgreen Sweetpass is a perk program. Perk programs remove all barriers to the loyalty program offers and put all members on the same playing field.
Why it works:
- Sweetgreen’s system excels at building customer habits. By using different types of challenges, Sweetgreen can directly incentivize customers to try out specific product combinations, buy more items per purchase, or make more frequent purchases.
- By removing points and tiers, members don’t have to wait for an opportunity to be rewarded. The challenges are available from the very first time they log into their account.
Rewards and Benefits – Emphasizing Privileges and Appreciation
Besides the rewards earned through challenges, members have unrestricted access to other benefits, further underlining the perk-centric nature of the program. These apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are premium members.
One noteworthy reward is the birthday gift, and it’s also the reason why Sweetgreen asks for customers’ birthdays during enrollment. This reward is shrouded in mystery, as the program only hints at what kind of “sweet” reward they have in store — an excellent use of the surprise & delight approach.
The other rewards include members-only access to special menu items in the restaurants and branded merch. Both are meant to give customers a sense of privilege and special treatment — and both are great ways to build emotional loyalty.
Why it works:
- Secret birthday rewards help to build anticipation because members can only guess what they’ll receive each year. Secret rewards also allow program owners to make changes behind the scenes without causing an uproar among members.
- Rolling out upcoming or limited-edition menu items as an early access perk in the loyalty program allows Sweetgreen to gauge community interest among an already-engaged audience. Meanwhile, this VIP privilege has the potential to nurture engaged customers and turn them into brand advocates.
Premium Elements – Sweetening the Deal With Sweetpass+
Naturally, the best benefits in the program are reserved for the premium section, Sweetpass+. For a monthly $10, members are privy to:
- A $3 discount from orders: customers who make at least four orders a month will already get a return on their investment. But for Sweetgreen, this strategy can sharply increase people’s purchase frequency.
- One free delivery per month: Free shipping or delivery is a customer favorite, and it makes a great premium benefit in any loyalty program.
- A say in the brand’s charity: Sweetpass+ members can vote on which carbon reduction partner the company chooses. Since many customers align themselves with companies based on shared values, this seemingly small perk can be the foundation of lifelong brand love.
- Community content & VIP customer service: Insider access to community-only experiences and a quicker response time from customer support. The latter, in particular, is a staple in exclusivity-driven and premium loyalty programs.
Why it works:
- Sweetpass+, a part of the Sweetgreen loyalty program, blends practical rewards like discounts and free shipping with emotional benefits, such as VIP customer service and having a say in the brand’s sustainability partnership.
- Even with $3 discounts on orders, Sweetgreen still wins. They receive an upfront commitment from customers, and even if they order more than four times per month, the increased purchase frequency is a worthy compensation.
Loyalty App – Pushing Meal Discovery
Sweetgreen has its own app where members can access the loyalty program on the go and search for nearby restaurants. For members of the loyalty program, the biggest benefit of using the app is the ability to view and order special, members-only menu items from the list. This is yet another way the company treats its members in a special way. In addition, the available menu items may vary at different locations, prompting customers to keep an eye out for Sweetgreen bars when visiting new places in hopes of experiencing new flavors.
Final Judgement of the Sweetgreen Loyalty Program
Sweetgreen’s Swetpass is an excellent example of how to bring the premium, privilege-driven loyalty experience to the restaurant and fast-food vertical. The company balances the various rewards perfectly, and they even dedicate attention to building brand advocacy and emotional loyalty. On the downside, however, the lack of long-term progression elements (tiers, points) might cause some people to get bored after a few months. Therefore, Sweetgreen has to make sure to keep the experience fresh by adding or changing the rewards or by boosting their program with additional gamification elements. Also, by incentivizing gamified surveys and profile completion, the company would be able to harness more zero-party data.
Do you plan to launch a loyalty program based on exclusivity and emotional loyalty? Our experts are more than happy to discuss how Antavo’s technology can power it. Feel free to include us in your RFP or contact us directly.
In the meantime, make sure to check out our award-winning case study for KFC UK & Ireland’s Rewards Arcade, a gamified loyalty program that 70% of customers recommend.
Tamas is a Senior Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. Tamas is known for having a keen eye for loyalty and customer retention research and trends. Tamas is also a true gamer at heart and has an impressive collection of cyberpunk books.