HT Talks Tech: Noodles & Co. CMO Dishes on Tech Initiatives

Mobile interactions and digital channels continue to be of the utmost importance.

HT caught up with Stacey Pool, Chief Marketing Officer at Noodles & Company, to talk about innovations in loyalty at the fast casual restaurant chain.

HT Talks Tech

How has Noodles’ loyalty program evolved and where is it headed?
Stacey Pool, CMO:  Noodles & Company debuted its surprise-and-delight-based Rewards program in 2017 to deliver unique, tailored offers, and information directly into the palms of Noodles’ guests. Today, the Rewards program has evolved to a points-based program and is central in delivering unique brand experiences, giving guests exclusive perks and benefits, streamlining the food ordering process, and offering convenient contactless features. With more than 4.2 million members, Noodles & Company’s loyalty program has become a direct channel that allows us to communicate with our Rewards members directly and provide exclusive offerings, bonus incentives, early-access notifications, events and more.

Mobile interactions with guests are especially important as we continue to be a leader when it comes to digital sales with our quarter sales still north of 50%.
Digital continues to be a sticky channel for Noodles & Company as we see additional  growth opportunities in providing a fully integrated user experience that’s seamless, convenient, and rewarding for our guests. We have a high rate of 90% of app users enrolling in rewards daily — with well over half of member purchases coming through our app. In the coming months, consumers can expect to see the loyalty program evolve to streamline and improve the digital experience for guests. 

Everyone talks about personalization and leveraging data. 86% of restaurants surveyed say they’re leveraging POS data for loyalty programs and for upselling/special offers in 2022, according to HT's 2022 POS Software Trends report.  How does this work at Noodles? 
SP: Through the Rewards program, we’re able to collect first-party data about our guests and offer personalized messaging to a guest for stronger engagement. From demographic to behavioral data, we are able to understand personal preferences so we can optimize the messaging and cater exclusive offerings to the guest. 

Additionally, this allows us to be a better franchise partner and support our franchisees who are looking to expand within their markets. The data our technology provides, mainly through our Rewards program, allows Noodles & Company the ability to grow a franchise through driving traffic. For example, by having insight into where customers are ordering or picking up from, we can better target site locations to reach existing and new customers in their markets.

Any advice/tips on how restaurants collect and utilize data to their best advantage? 
SP: The restaurant industry continues to grow more competitive and knowing exactly what customers want is a huge advantage. Loyalty programs and online surveys are great platforms to collect data as customers are willing to share their and see the benefits from sharing their data. Collecting and analyzing this data can also offer insight into what customers want, what systems need to be improved, and where marketing tactics should be implemented. Once you figure out a plan and successfully execute it, restaurants can ultimately build loyalty amongst customers and increase sales.

Restaurants have leaned heavily into contactless technology during the past two years. What’s next for contactless technologies at Noodles?  
SP: As with most technology initiatives, Noodles & Company’s contactless focus is improving the guest experience – convenience, speed, choice and delight. We have enabled three new digital wallet options in 2022 and are actively working to bring several more into the suite of choices for our guests. We are also continuing to evaluate contactless options for engaging with our loyalty program which could further increase engagement and convenience for interested guests. 

Any predictions on technology trends for restaurants when it comes to: AI/ML, robotics, crypto payments?
SP: We're always looking for innovative and uncommonly good ways to bring our guests their food, and our technology teams are keeping a close eye on ways we can continue to do that. One area we're leaning into is how we can utilize robotics to create efficiencies in our restaurants and improve speed for guests while maintaining our fresh, made-to-order standards. Additionally, artificial intelligence and machine learning is something we’re investing in to accelerate the understanding of our guests and ensure we can drive a return visit more quickly through advanced analytics. We are investing in the implementation of a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which we strongly believe will be a key driver in achieving our accelerated growth objectives.   

What are you most excited about as we move into the last part of this year?
SP: Noodles & Company continues to focus on strengthening its digital capabilities including the web and app experience to make it easier for our most loyal guests to order and redeem points.

We’re also excited to be launching a new feature in September called “What You Want Weekends” where Rewards Members will be able to vote for the rewards they want next via email. The monthly poll will give Rewards Members a voice on the rewards they look forward to the most like a free drink or free small shareable. 

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