Noodles & Company uses Uncommon Goodness to drive guest engagement

Noodles & Company is currently testing Asian Broths in select markets.
Noodles & Company is currently testing Asian Broths in select markets. /

Across cultures, noodles are a classic comfort food. From the penne smothered in grandma’s gravy to a long noodle slightly dressed with a pad Thai sauce, the pasta is the centerpiece that brings together all the flavors in the bowl. As Stacey Pool, CMO of Noodles & Company, explains that craving for flavorful, well-executed noodles drives customer loyalty for its restaurant brand.

The fast casual restaurant chain, Noodles & Company, has been a mainstay for a wide variety of guests. From the families who know that kids will love that mac & cheese to the culinary adventurous who want to try the newest menu innovation, the depth and variety of the menu brings guests back for more.

While customer loyalty is key to a restaurant brand’s success, people need a reason to place order after order. Reward programs have created that incentive. Whether the program focuses on surprise and delight, achieving levels, or something unique to the brand, scanning that code needs to become the purchase driver, not the afterthought.

During a recent conversation with Stacey Pool, CMO of Noodles & Company, the importance of the loyal, returning customer is apparent in the brand’s business plan. While “goodness” is woven into every aspect, there is always a little extra waiting to be discovered.

When asked about Noodles & Company’s reward program and what makes it unique, Pool shared, “The Noodles Rewards program and Noodles Rewards app have been a large part of the Noodles & Company’s brand identity for years; however, the core of the program is driven by our brand platform, Uncommon Goodness. Our unique guest experience can be defined through Uncommon Goodness and by engaging with the Noodles Rewards program new members can experience Uncommon Goodness from the inside out.”

Offering that special or unique guest experience needs to be more than a single occasion. Pool mentioned that the calendar turns the page on reasons to drive customers into the restaurant.

Pool said, “Through the Noodles Rewards program, we pinpoint key moments to optimize throughout the year including national food holidays like National Mac & Cheese Day, seasonal times of year like back-to-school, and key holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and more. Through these key moments in time, we provide our reward members with Uncommonly Good deals, freebies, offers, and exclusives, which in turns drives traffic and frequency to our restaurants.”

While the idea of free food or a special offer entices, the guests need to be able to easily navigate the experience. No one wants to jump through too many hoops to enjoy that extra side or 50% off offer.

Speaking to the app’s navigation, Pool said, “The Noodles Rewards app is also a unique, user-friendly experience that engages our members and makes it easy for them to order, redeem, and earn points seamlessly. We also built our loyalty program using a three-tier system, each one with its own delicious perks. These tiers include classic, signature, and premier. The more a member gets their noodle fix, the faster they reach the next tier and the farther their earnings go towards member exclusives.”

Although the initial sign-up might come with a special, one-time benefit, restaurant reward programs need to drive purchase after purchase. If that app falls off the main screen, it can be easily be forgotten.

For Pool, the Noodles Reward program is never stagnant. “This year, to enhance and expand the Noodles Rewards program we launched, Extra Goodness a new loyalty perk that offers daily, “always-on” rewards to every member. We created Extra Goodness to deliver on our mission to make our most loyal guests feel valued and appreciated through an uncommonly good loyalty program that continually gives back.”

Since few people will turn away that “extra,” this concept seems to have resonated with users. Pool commented, “Extra Goodness is available within our existing Noodles Rewards program and allows our members to redeem new freebies, exclusive offers, and discounts once daily. Rewards members can apply their Extra Goodness offer to their order at checkout in the Noodles Rewards app, online, or in-restaurant by scanning their rewards barcode. New perks may include a percentage or dollar off their total order, a free upgrade, or a free add-on. Like no other loyalty program around, Extra Goodness never takes a day off, which means once a daily perk is issued and redeemed, it is replenished the next day. It’s an overall eccentric offer that our guests can’t find at any other fast-casual restaurant and keeps them coming back for more.”

While that daily offer can bring purchase after purchase, the menu offerings can never be stagnant. At the same time, the food offering cannot go too far off the menu. Getting feedback from the restaurant brand’s loyal customers is vital.

Pool explained, “At Noodles, we take our guest feedback into great consideration to ensure we’re aligning with our guests’ wants and needs before launching a new product. Three of our largest campaign launches to date came about through feedback we received from our Noodles Rewards members, and we delivered. The Noodles & Company menu has something for every dietary preference and we heard our guests when they noted that they desired more health-conscious menu options. From that, we launched Impossible Panko Chicken, a new plant-based protein option. We also launched our very own proprietary, first-of-its-kind noodle, LEANguini, due to guest feedback for more fresh, light menu options. LEANguini has 44% fewer net carbs and 50% more protein than traditional pasta noodles and has become a fan-favorite.”

Noodles & Company menu offering
Noodles & Company is currently testing Asian Broths in select markets. /

These ideas are seen in recent offerings, as well. Pool commented, “after the successful feedback we recently surrounding our 3-Cheese Tortelloni dishes, we recently began testing four new Stuffed Pasta dishes in select markets in response to guest demand for more premium stuffed pasta options.”

From new menu items to returning dining guests, the Noodles & Company Rewards Program has proven to be quite successful. According to Pool, the company currently sas “4.6M+ Noodles Rewards members, however, our rewards platform attracts an average of 50k new loyalty members per month. Our rewards members also spend 50% more than non-rewards members, with a spike in traffic and sales during national food holidays, as most recently seen with National Mac & Cheese Day campaign. Through our National Mac & Cheese Day activation, we saw the highest number of signups and redemptions we’ve ever seen for a single initiative.”

Those food holidays are only one segment driver. Pool said, “This summer, we also brought back our popular value menu, 7 Delicious $7 Dishes. This tailored menu features seven full-sized, classic, and fan-favorite dishes for only $7. We also launched an all-new $10 Mac & Cheese Meal Deal, which was well received by our guests. While these menu deals are not rewards member exclusives, they do provide our guests with a dose of what being a rewards member is like, and aid in driving sign-ups and guest frequency.”

When a restaurant brand can blend value with flavorful menu items, the scenario drives success. Still, the food brand needs to stay fresh. As seen with other restaurant brands’ rewards programs, challenges can seek an increase in guest interaction over a particular period of time.

Pool explained one recent program. “When we launched our proprietary noodle LEANguini, we welcomed it with a fun guest engaging campaign, the January Healthy Options Challenge. With this, we offered our rewards members double the points when they opted for a LEANguini noodles swap into their dish. We offered this as a way for our guests to try the benefits of LEANguini while also being rewarded for their choice. In the past, we have also offered member exclusives when welcoming a new menu item nationally, making that new dish or item available to reward members only for a limited time.”

Even though Noodles & Company seeks to seat diners at tables, there needs to be a buzz about the brand, new menu items, and the engagement that food and brand have. Social media is often that component.

Speaking to their social media presence, Pool commented, “We turn to social media to elevate our key campaigns and holiday promotions to drive reward member sign-ups. We also share our key perks and exclusive offers on social media and customer testimonials to encourage additional member growth.”

“Influencer collaboration is also a large part of our rewards program strategy. When collaborating with influencers, we make sure that they prominently feature link clicks and Noodles Rewards messaging in their content across Instagram and TikTok. The inclusion of these links is crucial for Instagram story content as it guides our followers to a user-friendly landing page where they can easily place orders or join Noodles Rewards with just a few steps. We also work with influencer partners to showcase our key promotions for holidays like National Mac & Cheese Day and National Noodles Day, which further drives awareness and sign-ups to our rewards program. This approach helps create a sense of urgency and excitement among our followers, and a call to action to participate in a rewards platform that’s like no other on the market.”

Noodles & Company celebrates National Mac & Cheese Day
Noodles & Company is going extra for National Mac & Cheese Day with free Wisconsin Mac & Cheese for Noodles Rewards members, 2022 promotion /

Although everyone has their preferred or go-to menu item at Noodles & Company, a discussion with the brand’s CMO would not be complete without asking about Pool’s favorite food choice.

Pool said, “My favorite dish is our best-selling and most popular dish, Wisconsin Mac & Cheese! I actually had the opportunity to put a twist on my favorite dish a few years ago when I led a major limited-time-only campaign in partnership with hot sauce brand TRUFF, to launch TRUFF Mac. TRUFF Mac combined our best-selling Wisconsin Mac & Cheese dish with a decadent drizzle of TRUFF’s Signature Black Truffle Hot Sauce: an ultra-unique blend of ripe chili peppers, organic agave nectar, real black truffle, and savory spices. Our craveable and creamy proprietary cheese sauce sprinkled with cheddar and jack cheeses coupled with delicious TRUFF sauce was the ultimate combination of flavors.”

Next time that past craving hits, head over to Noodle & Company. Pull out that rewards app and discover another helping of Uncommon Goodness. Ready to dig that fork into the bowl?

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