Why Restaurant Loyalty Programs Are Now Less Rewarding

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You’ve probably noticed shrinkflation at the grocery store, but the concept of getting less is popping up in another place: your favorite restaurant loyalty program.

The New York Times reports that restaurants such as Dunkin’ and Starbucks are requiring you to spend more before you can redeem loyalty program rewards.

Some programs are growing more complex, and now include various tiers. Others have increased the amount of points you must accumulate before you can earn a reward, according to the NYT.

The NYT cites the example of Dunkin’ to illustrate the trend:

“In October, Dunkin’ drew criticism across social media when it made changes to its loyalty program. Customers who used to earn a free beverage, including fancy premium drinks, after spending about $40 now have to spend about $90 to earn a signature latte.”

In another example, Chipotle customers could earn a free entree in 2019 by earning 1,250 points. But the point threshold rose to 1,400 in early 2022, and again to 1,625 later in the year.

At Starbucks, the number of stars you need to earn a free basic drink such as coffee or tea has doubled, and you now need 200 stars — up from 150 — to get a free latte or Frappuccino.

The NYT says the restaurants are blaming the changes on inflation that is causing their costs to rise. The restaurants also are aware of the risk of alienating customers with the new approach, and some of them are trying to head off hard feelings by offering bonuses to their most loyal patrons.

If you want to keep your restaurant bill low, make sure you are aware of the “8 Ways Restaurant Menus Trick You Into Overspending.”

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