What’s it like to have more than 21,000 “family members?” “It’s awesome!” says Jim Engel, COO of the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Engel’s family members are actually members of the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Restaurant’s extended family, the Perks Club. Founded in 1999, the Perks Club is one of the largest private loyalty and rewards programs in the country.
“Many people have told us how they came to Frankenmuth as children and are now bringing their children and grandchildren,” Engel says. “As we continued to hear this from our guests, it became evident that we needed to reward these guests for coming back all these years and being loyal to us.”
What prompted a private loyalty program as opposed to a third-party version? “We knew we had loyal guests of the Bavarian Inn and we knew we saw them frequently, but we truly did not know who they were,” states Nancy Sommer, Perks Club manager. “Recognizing these guests was important for our business and rewarding them for their loyalty was even more important. By creating our own program, we were able to tailor our rewards more to individuals because we learned more about them as people, not just as membership numbers.
“All of our members have their own unique spending patterns,” Sommer continues. “It is very important to appeal to each member of our Club. While most overnight with us, some only dine with us, while others are primarily shopping guests. We offer benefits that appeal to the varied interests of our members and encourage them to visit more frequently.”
Most of the Bavarian Inn Perks members have been in the Club for years. There is very low attrition, with thousands of new member referrals coming from existing members. “We have been studying loyalty clubs of other hotel chains and airlines for years,” stated Engel. “We have not been able to find a significant independent resort running a club like ours anywhere else in the country. With a 16-year history, we believe we are pioneers in offering a diverse and robust loyalty program for a single location.”
Perks Club members pay a small fee for membership, with 10 points awarded for every dollar spent on all purchases within the Bavarian Inn companies: Bavarian Inn Lodge, Bavarian Inn Restaurant, Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, Castle Shops, Covered Bridge and Leather Gift Shop and 14 company-owned shops within Frankenmuth River Place. Reward certificates are generated at each $200 level. Members also receive priority dining reservations at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant whenever possible and priority status on lodging waitlists as well as a complimentary dinner at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant during the month of their birthday along with a complimentary dinner for the second adult member on the same account during that member’s birthday month. For the fun of it, miniature golf at the Lodge is also free for members on Wednesdays.
Six informational Perks Club newsletters mailed each year play an additional part in the success of the program. “Our newsletters are packed full of special benefits, member-only promotions and reduced offers for lodging, dining and shopping. Our office can always tell when the newest edition of the newsletter has reached members’ households. Our members are calling to make reservations for dinner and special events as well as reservations for lodging at reduced rates. We definitely know they are reading them,” laughs Sommer.
“We are very proud of the success of our Perks Club” says Judy Zehnder Keller, owner and president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge. “Having a formal loyalty program has helped us find out who our best customers are and we have developed long-term, personal relationships with them.”
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About the Bavarian Inn Lodge, Restaurant and its sister Perks Club properties
Bavarian Inn Restaurant: (bavarianinn.com) Celebrating 125 years of service in 2013, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant has become a Michigan landmark. Generations of diners, lodgers and tourists from around the globe have discovered true Bavarian hospitality thanks to Dorothy and her late husband William “Tiny” Zehnder. Guests experience the old-world European charm of the Bavarian Inn – whether it’s the famous chicken dinners, fresh baked goods or Michigan’s greatest selection of German beer. Bavarian Inn also prides itself on being one of the top consumers of Pure Michigan agricultural products. Nestled within a backdrop of authentic German architecture, a variety of shops and other fun activities, a trip to Frankenmuth would not be complete without a visit to the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. [Press Room: http://www.logos-communications.com/bavarianinn/]
Bavarian Inn Lodge: (bavarianinn.com) Nestled along the Cass River in one of Michigan’s top tourist destinations – Frankenmuth – is one of the state’s largest Indoor Water Park Hotels! The Lodge has 360 European-themed guest rooms, including whirlpool and family suites, an adult-only pool and whirlpool, two gift shops, two lounges and two restaurants — all under one roof. The expansive 35,000 square feet Family Fun Center houses two dramatic waterslides, three pools and two whirlpools, over 100 video and redemption games, a two-story children’s play village and Willy’s Kingdom indoor mini-golf course. Guests can also enjoy live, year round, nightly entertainment and test their own musical skills during weekend family karaoke shows. In 29 years of business, the Bavarian Inn Lodge has been an important destination for travelers, evidenced by the 1.25 million room-nights that have been booked there since its opening, along with its top rating on TripAdvisor®. [Press Room: http://logos-communications.com/bavarianinnlodge/]
Frankenmuth River Place Shops: (http://frankenmuthriverplace.com/) is an authentic re-creation of a Bavarian village located just minutes from the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Lodge. The outdoor mall features more than 40 shops and attractions at one location. Visitors enjoy architecture, floral gardens, streams and waterfalls and, of course, great shopping opportunities.