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April 22, 2013

Is a loyalty program enough?

by wahoosteel92

After moving to Charlottesville in August, I made it a priority to try out as many restaurants as possible in the area before moving on after GIE. Luckily, I had my roommate Drew Keneally, a UVA undergrad and seasoned Charlottesville cuisine veteran, to show me the ropes and introduce me to Cville’s greatest culinary hotspots. On day 2 of our lives together as roommates, he introduced me to a little slice of heaven known as Sticks kabob shop and my life, and our relationship, changed forever.

After my first Sticks experience, I was hooked — the cilantro lime sauce, I’m pretty sure, could cure most ailments. The rice, the kabobs, the roasted red pepper sauce, and even the flatbread changed my perception of fast-food in a way Chipotle couldn’t even do. Before I knew it, Drew and I had run through our first Sticks loyalty card which, in short, amounts to a free meal after 10 paid platters or sandwiches. We were regulars, and we bonded over our 4-5 Sticks trips a week together. It didn’t hurt that Sticks is only a quarter mile from our place on Grady avenue, but I’m almost positive we would have travelled far and wide for our Sticks fix.

But as the year has come and gone, like 7 of my Sticks’ loyalty cards, so too has my appreciation for Sticks’ customer service. I still find myself going to Sticks a reasonable amount, but I have been slightly irked by one thing: not a single Stick’s employee even has a clue who Drew and I are. Think about this for a second, Drew and I have filled up 7, yes – 7, loyalty cards, amounting to roughly 70+ Sticks trips apiece, yet not one employee has attempted to get to know us. In what has amounted to an average of 4 Sticks trips a week, we are as recognizable as a first time Sticks shopper who stands at the counter dumbfounded at the number of options and, without fail, has no clue that he/she is entitled to a free side. Meanwhile, Drew and I continue to wait patiently, ready to pounce at our opportunity to order in a quick string of words that only a true regular could muster without tripping up.

This begs the question –is a loyalty program enough? At some point, one would think, you need to get to know your loyal customers. Sticks is no exception and could really stand to step up their customer recognition game. Would it kill them to recognize our steady business? Absolutely not. A company as local as Sticks should learn this lesson, before it has to learn it the hard way. That’s my story — and I’m sticking to it.



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