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Money Savers: Its not your parents' loyalty punch card

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Published on Oct 31, 2012

Loyalty rewards points are getting a digital make-over.

Sawatdee Thai Restaurant in Maple Grove is giving frequent diners special perks through Belly, a free digital loyalty program.

"This is something where every time they come in they get recognized," says Sawatdee general manager Cyndy Harrison. "They can accumulate points which then are used for different fun things."

Each visit to Sawatdee earns you five points. If you save up enough points you can redeem some pretty unique rewards, such as a free Sawatdee cookbook for fifty points or a free cooking class for five hundred points.

"Definitely our loyal customers come in and they're excited to scan their card," says Harrison. "It's great because they can use it at other places, too, besides here."

Other places like Birdtown Cafe in Robbinsdale.

"I was kind of in the market looking for something to do other than the old style, you know, grandma and grandpa, the old punch card thing," says Birdtown Cafe owner Brad Eagles.

Like Sawatdee, Birdtown Cafe also offers quirky perks that aren't just limited to free food.

"You don't even have to give away things," says Eagles. "You can make it where after so many points they can name something on the menu or something."

You'll find crazy and traditional rewards offered at about eighty Twin Cities shops and restaurants participating in the Belly rewards program. You can only redeem points at the locations where you earned them.

"If you got 10 different loyalty programs from 10 different stores that you shop at, you're going to have a pocket full of those cards," says Eagles. "Their concept is to try to get that down and streamline it to where you only have to have one card to go to all the businesses that you shop at."

Belly users can use a traditional card that goes in a wallet, a smaller card that goes on a keychain or a smartphone app.

Belly began in Chicago and has grown to more than 3,000 locations across the country since it was first introduced in August 2011. The program came to the Twin Cities a few months ago. Two other Northwest Metro Belly locations include El Toro Mexican Restaurant in Robbinsdale and Mort's Delicatessen in Golden Valley.

Sawatdee offers the Belly program at four of its Twin Cities locations. So far more than 850 people have signed up for Belly at the Sawatdee locations. Harrison says each of the four locations registers about a thousand Belly card scans a month.

Birdtown Cafe started offering Belly rewards points about a month ago. So far, 110 customers have signed up through Birdtown Cafe.

As an added bonus to loyal customers, Eagles wants loyal customers to weigh in on what rewards he should offer.

"The more they come here, the more money they spend here, the more we're willing to give them and show them that we appreciate their business," says Eagles.

Renee Banot

http://twelve.tv/
http://www.facebook.com/12localnews
http://twitter.com/12LocalNews

12 News is on Comcast cable channel 12 in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis and includes the cities Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Maple Grove, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth and Robbinsdale.

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