Going Digital First: Restaurant Success Stories

Sam Langrock Mar 20, 2020

A few weeks ago we penned a blog post on Why Restaurants Need to be Digital First ,which took an in-depth look at the success Chipotle has had implementing a strong digital strategy. In light of recent events, now more than ever Restaurants are looking to build a seamless digital experience. An experience that is simple to use, integrates their rewards program across all channels, and provides utility & value for customers. Let’s take a look at four restaurant brands that have built a powerful digital presence and some key takeaways to implement. 


Yes, our last post offered a more in-depth look at Chipotle’s digital strategy, but their program has been so successful it’s difficult to leave them out of this blog. Chipotle just began “Guac Mode”, a promotional campaign that provides certain members of their rewards program with free guac on a specific day. Members receive messaging when guac mode has been activated for them, which varies across the customer base. Incentivizing customers to add incremental items to their order is a powerful marketing tool. As someone who usually skips paying the additional two dollars and change for adding guac, I can say from firsthand experience that this promotion has led me to include guac in my order more often, even when I don’t have guac mode ‘activated’. 

Another tactic employed by Chipotle has been their wildly successful “Lifestyle Bowls”. Each bowl is an entrée option that follows a different dietary guideline. For example, there is a Whole30 Salad Bowl, a Keto Salad Bowl, and a Paleo Salad Bowl. These bowls can only be ordered via Chipotle’s digital channels, incentivizing more customers to use these channels. 


The Starbucks rewards app creates one of the best loyalty experiences out there. Their Star Dash challenges are always fresh and exciting, and encourage customers to explore the vast menu of items Starbucks has to offer. Encouraging menu exploration through digital channels is key to success. There’s no one in line behind them, and they have more time to add additional items to their order. Providing a small incentive, can be a great way to begin raising a customer’s average order value and entice them to make additional purchases. 

Another smart strategy implemented by Starbucks is their Happy Hour Promotion, which drives traffic during non-peak hours, by rewarding rewards program members with a BOGO drink offer. Oftentimes when you walk into a Starbucks in the morning it’s packed to the walls; stroll in after 2 o’clock, and it’s not the same scene. According to Restaurant Dive, Starbucks saw an 11% increase in foot traffic during the Happy Hour time period, and a 15.6% increase in traffic during the 6PM block. Another promising aspect of the promotion is that it incentivizes customers to explore their food menu, as it’s a popular time period for customers to want a snack or something more. 


Wingstop is a digital success story. According to Restaurant Dive, digital sales represent nearly 40% of total sales and tend to be $5 higher on average than non-digital orders! Customers can place orders through the Wingstop website, app, or through Wingbot, an SMS text ordering platform. Not stopping there, they’ve begun to test ‘dark kitchens’ in the UK, and pick-up lockers in the US to provide more convenience. Additionally their Wing Calculator provides recommendations for customers based on the size of their crew, and how hungry they are (snacky, hungry, starving). Their digital prowess has led them to be one of three restaurant brands to enjoy double digits of growth, according to Restaurant Dive

Noodles & Co

Noodles & Company is another restaurant brand that saw their digital efforts pay off. According to Restaurant Dive, digital sales grew 46% in 2019, and now make up 23% of total sales. The brand has utilized a number of tactics to grow their digital strategy. Delivery, ordering ahead, and a new points-based rewards program have given Noodles the boost they were looking for. Additionally, a personalized nutrition calculator on their website and app helps customers easily create nutritious and delicious meals. 

Becoming digitally-focused is a key area for restaurants of nearly all shapes and sizes. The ones that made an investment towards the end of 2018, saw their investment have a significant positive impact on their bottom line. Whether it’s creating unified messaging across all channels, eliminating wait times and delivery costs, or building a powerful rewards program, the brands that push the envelope on their digital transformation will likely end up on our list of good examples next year.