Restaurants Find Value Connecting Mobile Payments, Loyalty, and Ridesharing

December 21, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

It’s a place that most of us have been at one time or another in our lives. We go out to eat, and we have a little too much to drink with dinner to comfortably drive home. Calling for a ride in such a situation isn’t exactly difficult or unexpected, but it can still be a bit awkward. However, some restaurants are taking advantage of this concept to augment their loyalty programs, offering rides home as part of the package.

One company working with restaurants on this front is Freebird Rides, which is helping restaurants establish a link between themselves and ridesharing operations, amounting to what its CEO Kurt Brendlinger calls a “two-sided marketplace.” This puts customers on one side and businesses on another, and effectively provides infrastructure required for the businesses to access the consumers.

In Freebird Rides’ case, the consumers download the app and log in with their Uber credentials. Then, users can access a slate of offers backed by individual companies designed to make that ride cheaper. Sometimes, a bar or restaurant might offer a $10 credit for a ride. Such a plan is designed to take some of the risk out of the restaurant experience; there’s no more risk you’ll overindulge and get stranded or have to take an expensive ride home.

This comes at a good time for restaurants, especially as customers increasingly turn to delivery options for their dining out; delivery actually hurts restaurants somewhat, because while it increases the amount of food sold, it doesn’t open up much possibility for alcohol sales, which are commonly high-margin items.

Yet in this, restaurants open up the possibility to make those who stuck around even more loyal. Knowing that they’d have a ride home would likely be comforting for many, and given how many restaurants are already using mobile payments systems—even at-the-table point of sale (POS) platforms for those without smartphones—it opens up a possibility to provide extra value. Better yet, this is likely to spread quickly; when one does it, most everyone else will have to or risk losing ground to competitors.

Rides for loyalty could be quite the program, and while only time will tell how it catches on, it’s likely to catch on to at least some extent.