Chick-fil-A Follows Starbucks In Making a Move Customers Will Hate

The beloved chicken chain has made a rare misstep which may anger its very loyal customer base.

While Chick-fil-A creates numerous political controversies, its customer base really loves its chicken. The fast-food giant routinely tops the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which gauges how happy people are with various quick-serve restaurants.

In the most recent version of the survey, for example, Chick-fil-A scored an 83, putting it well-above second-place finished Jimmy John’s at 79. That score also put some big distance between the chicken chain and its chief rivals Yum Brands’ (YUM) – Get Free Report KFC (79) and Restaurant Brands International’s (QSR) – Get Free Report Popeye’s (73).

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In a broad sense, on a local store-based level, Chick-fil-A has built its business around customer service. The company uses a franchise model where owners only own one store and are hands-on operators. That helps them build a connection to the community that goes deeper than the traditional relationship between a fast-food chain and its customers.

Now, on a corporate level, the company has done something that’s not likely to be well-received by customers.

A bag of food from Chick-fil-A.

Image source: Mandel NGan/AFP/GettyImages

Starbucks Made a Loyalty Change First        

Loyalty programs have become an important part of the fast-food industry. Starbucks (SBUX) – Get Free Report was the pioneer in that space using the prospect of free drinks and food to get customers to download its app.

In the early days, before mobile ordering, it was a simple proposition. If you put the coffee chain’s app on your phone and registered for the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, you earned “stars” toward free drinks.

Those members became even more important when Starbucks added mobile ordering. Once that happened, customers could bypass the line by using their phones to order and pay. They could also heavily customize their orders without having to actually interact with a person.

Recently, however, Starbucks made a move that downgraded the value of the “stars” customers earn for each dollar spent at the chain. The coffee giant kept its ratio of one dollar spent equals one star, but it raised the number of stars required to redeem various rewards.

It used to cost 50 stars to get a free basic coffee or tea. Starbucks has doubled that to 100 while raising the redemption cost of “fancy” beverages from 150 to 200 stars. The numbers varied a little, but they went up across the board.

Chick-fil-A Makes Its Loyalty Rewards More Expensive

Messing with rewards programs can undermine the point of those offers in the first place. Making it more expensive to earn free food puts customer trust at risk, but Chick-fil-A has followed Starbucks’ lead in doing it anyway.

“On April 4, 2023, point values for some rewards will increase,” the popular chicken chain shared in an email to customers.

Chick-fil-A tried to justify its changes in an email sent to Restaurant Dive.

“There are also changes coming based on feedback from Chick-fil-A One members that we hope our guests will be excited about,” the chain’s spokesperson shared. “We’re adding the ability to redeem entire meals and more menu items to the rewards store.”

And, while adding more redemption options may be seen as a positive move by some customers, it’s unlikely that anyone offered feedback telling the chain to make items more expensive. 



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