Taco Bell Finds Subscribers Have Bigger Appetite for Change

Taco Bell App

As brands look to adapt to the new omnichannel normal, one of the most powerful tools at their disposal is data, leveraging digital platforms to more deeply understand (and consequently influence) the behavior of their customers.

Quick-service restaurant (QSR) giant Taco Bell, for one, which has more than 7,000 U.S. restaurants and almost 500 in international markets, has found that, by using its limited-time subscription offering to incentivize more frequent purchases, the brand can better understand the digital habits of its audience.

“More than ever, customers are value-conscious, and it’s on us to narrow in on what our fans want and need,” Taco Bell’s global chief brand officer, Sean Tresvant, told PYMNTS in an interview. “The Taco Lover’s Pass was created with the digital consumer in mind, who’s looking for … value. It allows us to examine how our digital consumers engage with a tool that ultimately pays for itself in just a few visits.”

The subscription program, Taco Lover’s Pass, offers members of the brand’s loyalty program one taco a day for pickup for 30 days for a one-time $10 fee, enabling subscribers to choose from a limited set of options. The program returned a week ago (Sept. 29), following an initial nationwide run back in January.

See also: Taco Bell Brings Back Subscription Pass to Boost Loyalty Signups

One of the insights that the brand gleaned in the previous run is that subscribers are open to trying out new menu items in a way that much of the brand’s customer base is not.

“Often at Taco Bell, consumers get into their own routine, getting their go-to order,” Tresvant said. “Here, we saw experimentation. The pass allowed flexibility when it came to our taco offerings and introduced not-so-new products to longtime … fans.”

Unlike with some other major restaurant brands’ subscription programs, such as fast-casual brand Panera Bread’s Unlimited Sip Club beverage subscription, this program is not an ongoing offering but one that the brand has brought back in limited-time spurts. That said, Taco Bell does have its eye on the long-term future of restaurant subscriptions.

“Subscriptions are here to stay,” Tresvant said, adding that the brand is “excited to take these learnings” to inform future interaction with customers “in new and unique ways.”

Indeed, PYMNTS research finds that the audience for restaurant subscriptions is small relative to the total dining population but is comprised of consumers who can be especially valuable to reach.

Research from the February/March edition of PYMNTS’ Digital Divide study, “Digital Divide: Restaurant Subscribers And Loyalty Programs,” found that 17% of consumers are “very” or “extremely” interested in being provided a restaurant subscription service, while 58% are just slightly interested or not interested at all in participating. Yet 78% of subscribers and 73% of those interested in subscriptions reported being very or extremely loyal toward their preferred QSRs, while only 41% of diners uninterested in restaurant subscriptions said the same.

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

In addition to noting that subscriptions can drive consumers to be more experimental in their choice of menu item, Tresvant explained that the brand has also observed that gamification has proven to be a powerful way to drive engagement. Looking ahead, the restaurant chain intends to leverage this, as well as consumers’ demand for simple user experiences and on-demand convenience, to drive sales down the line.

“[Gamification] is a critical trend we’re keeping a close eye on,” Tresvant said, later adding, “Our fans are more eager than ever for ease, convenience and reliability, which we will continue to provide within our digital platforms in the coming years.”