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Wow Bao Divulges Details on Its New Hot Buns Club at NRA Show 2023

Fast Asian street food brand discusses how its turning a simple rewards program into a much more valuable loyalty program with the help of some fun technology.
Sample NFT artwork for Wow Bao Hot Buns Club
Sample Wow Bao Digital CollectaBao.
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Right before the 2023 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, Wow Bao launched its Hot Buns Club – an enhancement to its points-based Bao Bucks rewards program. Customers can purchase digital CollectaBaos (NFTs created by NFT artist MANOVERMARS) which will give them benefits such as 10 percent off all orders, 10 percent off all merchandise, double Bao Bucks points, and chances to win additional CollectaBaos, free meals and more for a year after purchase.

To learn more about the Hot Buns Club and Wow Bao’s web3 strategy, we spoke with Geoff Alexander, President and CEO, during the 2023 NRA Show.

Loyalty vs. Rewards Programs

To begin with, Alexander emphasized the difference between a loyalty and a rewards program within the restaurant industry.

“About a year ago we launched a rewards program for people who ordered from for delivery,” Alexander explained. “We were trying to move people off third-party delivery platforms and to our website so that we could have better interaction with them. But it wasn’t a loyalty program. Loyalty is when you’re treated special, not just rewarding them for their online purchases. As NFTs increased in popularity, however, we decided we could use NFTs as a stepping stone to enhance our rewards program and turn it into a loyalty program.”

Geoff Alexander, President & CEO, Wow Bao

Wow Bao charges $99 to purchase one of its digital collectibles which then becomes the guest’s ticket to its membership club. Guests who are willing to purchase these NFTs are highly valuable consumers for Wow Bao and their participation in the Hot Buns Club will allow the brand to have valuable conversations “with a group of people who want to talk to you.”

A Program with Mass Appeal

When asked who this program was meant to appeal to, Alexander noted that anyone can purchase one of its NFTs – all they need is a credit card and an email address.

“We’re looking to appeal to a wide range of people,” Alexander explained. “It could be someone who just wants to collect NFTs, someone who wants to invest in something fun, someone who loves Wow Bao and wants the discount and extra points, someone who wants to be at the forefront of technology, etc.”

For those who really love the brand, Wow Bao plans to “wow” Hot Buns Club members with really creative benefits such as a video conferencing session with the brand’s chef.

“Imagine being at home and looking for a new way to cook your shrimp,” he explains. “What if you could have access to our culinary team to help you with that? That would be a very exclusive and special experience for our guests.”

What the Future Holds

So, what happens when the year is up? Will CollectaBaos holders need to purchase another minting to continue receiving their benefits? Will the NFTs cost more? Will there be a way for guests to pay a nominal fee to renew their membership.

“We haven’t decided yet,” Alexander said matter-of-factly. “We’re waiting to see how people react, the excitement to the program, and we’re still working out the details because we want to make sure we do it correctly.”

But one thing is for sure, Alexander’s plan is to keep innovating with technology.

“We’ve always been an early adopter of technology,” he said. “We believe by getting into the Web3 space right now, we can help write the narrative of how this space should interact with restaurants. We can try a lot of different things and consumers will forgive us because it’s still so new and exciting. In 24 or 36 months, when everyone else is joining this space, we’ll be light years ahead of them and we won’t be making the mistakes they’re making because we already went down that route, learned from it. So, I’m very excited about what we’re going to be able to accomplish in the coming months and years.”

Some Good Advice

When asked what kind of advice he would give to operators who are looking to innovate with technology, Alexander warned: “All technology comes with a headache. You have to be willing to take on the headache in order to embrace technology. But make sure you ask: Who is going to have to deal with that headache? Is it your frontline employees? If so, you really need their buy-in and willingness to embrace that technology.

“If you don’t get that buy-in, then you’ll have failure. You’ll have created friction both with your employees and with your customers. So, consider carefully if the headache is worth the risk. We’ve had a lot of migraines, but thankfully they’re not as bad as they used to be!”

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