Restaurant Roundup: Dunkin’ Opens Digital-Only Co-Branded Location With Jimmy John’s

Inspire Brands To Buy Dunkin' For $11.3B

For Dunkin’ parent company Inspire Brands, co-branded locations are not a new concept. The firm, which also owns Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Sonic, among others, has been opening joint Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins locations for years. Now, it is trying out a new combination.

Inspire Brands announced in a Tuesday (Feb. 22) press release the opening of the first co-branded Dunkin’ and Jimmy John’s location, a small-format store within the lobby of a support center in Sandy Springs, Georgia, that only accepts orders placed online or through the brands’ mobile apps.

For companies that own a range of restaurant brands, such as Inspire Brands and competitor Focus Brands, which owns Auntie Anne’s, Carvel and Cinnabon, among others, co-branded locations open up the opportunity to boost sales of each brand on the strength of the other.

“Our specialty brands all complement each other in their offerings,” Alisa Gmelich, chief brand officer for Auntie Anne’s, told PYMNTS in an interview in May. “When we harness the power of our portfolio, options for growth are endless.”

Read more: Auntie Anne’s Pivots to Drive-Thrus Versus Malls for Its Pretzels

Certainly, name recognition can go a long way toward boosting sales, according to data from PYMNTS’ new report “Digital Divide: Restaurant Subscribers And Loyalty Programs,” a PYMNTS and Paytronix collaboration. The study, which drew from a census-balanced survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, found that 44% of quick-service restaurant (QSR) customers said familiarity with a restaurant’s name encourages them to patronize that restaurant.

See more: Four in 10 Consumers Open to Restaurant Subscription Services

Pokeworks Launches Improved Loyalty Rewards

As brands look to make the digital gains of the past two years stick moving forward, many are taking another look at their online platforms, incorporating new features to meet consumers’ quickly evolving digital expectations.

Irvine, California-based fast-casual poke chain Pokeworks, for instance, which has 65 locations across the United States, announced in a Monday (Feb. 21) press release the launch of a new site and app with improved ordering features and loyalty rewards. New offers include a credit for loyalty program referrals and a flat $1.99 delivery fee.

“Like other brands, our guests are increasingly accessing us through a variety of digital channels,” said Pokeworks Senior Vice President of Marketing Jayson Tipp in the release. “We want to make those channels as easy to use and compelling as possible while providing more ways to enjoy Pokeworks. The new app provides more opportunities for us to reward our loyal Pokeworks Rewards Members with rotating rewards, enhanced features and customized preferences based on their favorite Pokeworks locations.”

Noodles & Company Sees Digital Sales Bolstered by Rewards Program

In additional digital ordering and loyalty news, Noodles & Company announced in a Wednesday (Feb. 23) press release that in 2021, online sales rose even as digital mix fell. Specifically, full-year eCommerce sales grew 20% year over year as the mix fell from 62% of sales to 57%.

“One of the biggest tools for driving digital growth is our rewards program, which has now across 4 million members,” CEO Dave Boennighausen told analysts on a call Wednesday discussing the company’s fourth quarter and full year results. “During 2021, we saw significant increases both in our ability to attract … guests, as well as convert rewards members to more frequent guests. For example, 65% of new members who sign up for our rewards program returned for a second visit within 60 days, which is faster than revisit rates we’ve seen in prior years.”

According to data from PYMNTS’ new Restaurant Friction Index, created collaboration with Paytronix, 57% of eateries now offer loyalty programs.

Read more: How Eateries Can Tap Order Throttling Tools as Delivery Demand Grows

Additionally, the study’s survey of a census-balanced panel of more than 2,100 U.S. adults found that rewards programs are the most-cited feature that consumers said would make them more inclined to purchase from a given restaurant, ranked ahead of even online ordering and payment capabilities.

Hospitality Company Launches NFT Food Hall

As major restaurant brands including McDonald’s and Panera look to nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to bring their virtual locations into the metaverse, hospitality investor and technology company Cordia Corporation announced in a Tuesday press release the launch of its Crypto Food Hall NFT Chef Collection with an eye toward bringing independent restaurants into cyberspace.

See more: McDonald’s New Special Sauce? McMetaverse, With 10 Trademarks Already Filed

Restaurants buy one of 1,000 NFT chefs, getting a range of other perks with their purchase, one of which is that Cordia will use one-fifth of their resale royalties to purchase gift cards from those who have bought a digital chef. Additionally, the purchase includes marketing support in the crypto space.

“Our Chef collection is a fantastic and inexpensive first step for restaurants to get exposure to NFTs and the growing cryptocurrency community,” said Cordia Corporation CEO Peter Klamka in the release.

Earlier in February, New York-based online ordering solutions provider Lunchbox announced the launch of its first NFT restaurant and announced the sale of this virtual location to Astoria, New York-based, 35-location, full-service burger chain Bareburger.

Read more: NYC Burger Chain Buys NFT Restaurant