Which Pizza Loyalty Program Reigns Supreme?
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Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Domino's. These venerable brands represent three of the four largest pizza chains in the US, and all of them offer a loyalty program (Little Caesars, the third biggest, doesn't have one). With the weekend set to kick off, we at TPG thought it would be a great idea to investigate which program deserves your loyalty by offering the highest return on your next pizza night. Today, I'll give a basic introduction to each program, describing how you earn and redeem points and then comparing those point values to the cost of menu items you can order for free.
Domino's — Piece of the Pie Rewards
Every time you place an order of at least $10 with Domino's (tips and donations excluded), you'll earn 10 points in the chain's Piece of the Pie Rewards program. You can only earn points on one order per calendar day. It then takes 60 points to earn a free medium, two-topping pizza, but you don't have to redeem points once you get to 60. You can continue earning points and cash out for multiple free pizzas if you wish. However, points expire after 180 days of account inactivity.
A medium, two-topping pizza is $12.99 at full menu price. This means if you ordered six times with exactly $10, you'd spend $60 and get a reward worth $12.99, a pretty good return of 21.65% on your spending. In reality, however, the vast majority of people won't order exactly $10, and you can often get medium pizzas for as little as $5.99 if you do a carryout order. This diminishes your return significantly versus the "perfect" 21.65% noted above. It seems odd not to incentivize your customers to spend more money by offering additional points or rewards for higher order totals, but this model probably keeps the overall costs of the program down.
Papa John's — Papa Rewards
Unlike Domino's, Papa John's uses a revenue-based scheme for its Papa Rewards program, where you earn points based on how much you spend. You'll earn 1 point for every $1 you spend not including tax and delivery, Papa Priority or other fees, though you'll need to wait one business day for the points to show in your account. For every $75 you spend (75 points you earn), you'll receive $10 in Papa Dough food towards any menu item — excluding alcohol. Points expire after 12 months with no earning or redemption activity, and Papa Dough expires six months after you receive it.
The program essentially means you get $10 cash back towards your next pizza order for every $75 you spend. That's a flat 13.3% rate of return for every Papa John's order you make (excluding taxes and fees spent) — not a bad deal, especially when you consider its simplicity.
Pizza Hut — Hut Rewards
Pizza Hut's Hut Rewards program is the most complicated of the three major chains. It too is revenue-based but has an award chart of different items you can get for free using different numbers of points. You'll earn two points for every dollar spent (including delivery fees but excluding taxes and tips) with no limit to how many points you can earn. Points expire six months after inactivity.
When it comes to redeeming those points, here are your options:
This doesn't give you much information without knowing the menu prices of these items, so here's a breakdown of these costs and a percentage return on the spend required to earn the points:
- Breadsticks cost $5.99, giving you an 18.4% return on the $32.50 spend required to earn 75 points.
- A medium, two-topping pizza at regular menu price is $13.99, giving you an 18.65% return on the $75 required to earn 150 points.
- A medium ANY pizza (which means any toppings, recipe and choice of pan, hand-tossed or thin & crispy crust) is $10.99 at my local store, giving you a 10.9% return on the $100 in spend required to earn the 200 points
- A large ANY pizza is also only $10.99 at my local store giving you an 8.8% return on the $125 spend required to earn the 250 points
On the surface, the medium, two-topping pizza may appear to offer the best return, but like Domino's, you can often get this pizza for much less using a carry-out coupon or other meal deal. In addition, the Hut Rewards program offers some solid specials, including Gameday offers during football season, promotional point offers and a birthday reward — free breadsticks last year.
Stack Your Savings
On top of the loyalty programs offered for each chain, you should use a variety of methods to increase your return on your pizza savings. Here are a few of my favorite:
- Pay with discounted gift cards. You can easily acquire these from sites like Raise.com and CardCash. Discounts of up to 9.47% are available for Domino's gift cards.
- Go through an online shopping portal to buy the discounted gift cards. For example, at the time of writing, Mr. Rebates is offering 4% cash back on Raise.com purchases.
- Use the right rewards credit card to earn cash back or bonus points & miles on your dining purchase — like the American Express® Gold Card (4x points at restaurants, an additional 8% return) or the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x points at restaurants, an additional 6% return).
- Use Amex Offers and Chase Offers to earn additional points or statement credits on your pizza purchases. I currently have an offer for two additional points per dollar spent at Pizza Hut on my Amex Gold card, increasing the total earning rate to 6 points per dollar (12% return).
The Supreme Pizza Loyalty Program Winner
With it's straightforward, revenue-based program, Papa John's Papa Rewards effectively gives you 13.3% cash back towards free menu items, no matter what you buy, how much you spend or how you redeem your points. It's simple and doesn't require any comparisons between the rewards you've earned and the redemption option you're considering. On the other hand, Domino's doesn't tie its rewards directly to spending, and both it and Pizza Hut typically offer reward menu items at deeply-discounted prices. As a result, they just can't compete with the consistent return from Papa Rewards.
At the end of the day, many readers will use pizza preference — not the loyalty program — as the primary factor in selecting a chain. Others may prefer a more local pizzeria than a mass-market option like the three above. That being said, if you're open to any of them and want a simple way to make the most of your purchases, then Papa John's — which does deliver an enjoyable pizza — should be your go-to chain for maximum loyalty return.
Regardless of which one earns your business, don't forget the above stacking techniques to save even more when you embark upon your next pizza night.