Loyalty is core to 7 Brew’s DNA, according to head of strategy Nicole Miller Regan. It’s a company line shouted often by restaurants across the industry, but for the beverage chain, it’s quite literal.

Since the beginning, when a customer drives up to 7 Brew, an employee asks for a phone number. Once the guest provides that, they’re in the loyalty program. Across roughly 220 locations, there are 3.2 million loyalty members, and 92 percent of transactions have a customer ID associated with them. When a loyalty member returns, the employee can pull up the person’s most recent order or suggest something similar.

“That’s the identifier for everything about that person,” Miller Regan says. “How often they come, what their favorite drink is, what their favorite size is, how they customize. … The program is embedded in the ordering system in the transaction nature of itself. And I think the only difference between us and then our peer group very widely is there’s legacy brands that have a lot of stores that need people to adopt a different behavior. And they will. We’re seeing consumers adopt this behavior. It’s just that ours was adopted early on because it’s everybody’s first visit to the brand. This was a part of it.”

7 Brew has recently taken it a step further by proactively sending text messages to customers, reminding them of specials, the launch of new items (cold brew for example), or unique events, like the company’s seventh anniversary celebration on February 14. The main standing offer is that loyalty guests who buy 10 drinks get the 11th free. Miller Regan says the free drink provides a value proposition, but so does the size of 7 Brew’s beverages and the ability to customize without price attached to it.

“We want the affordability factor of the actual price to be achievable to have entry into the brand,” Miller Regan says. “That’s a really big deal. And I say that because if we pull that off effectively, and we have been, we don’t have to come behind it with discounts or LTOs. Not that we won’t do special things with products. We have feature products every month, feature flavors every month, but we don’t have to get into the idea of creating that day in and day out, month in and month out, quarter in quarter out, if we just have it embedded.”

Currently, customers can check the status of their free drink by clicking a link via text message. However, 7 Brew is in the process of developing a mobile app to house the system.

The budding loyalty program is fueled by a lightning-fast growth strategy that’s seen the chain grow from a single-digit shop count in 2021 to more than 200 in three years. The company’s FDD states there were 2,000 store commitments as of December 2022. The brand’s current trajectory began in January 2020 when it was acquired by Brew Culture, a parent company formed by CEO John Davidson and a group of entrepreneurs. A year later, the brand initiated its franchise program and back-to-back record development years followed in 2022 and 2023. Last year, the brand opened roughly 140 units, or about a 350 percent increase year-over-year. Earlier in 2024, 7 Brew announced it received a growth investment from Blackstone.

Because an overwhelming majority of customers have opted into the loyalty program, the company doesn’t have an accurate baseline to determine whether being part of it leads to higher average check or other behaviors. But the chain has used text communication to reach lapsed guests and increase frequency. Miller Regan emphasizes the importance of a strategic approach, describing the program as a stage-gate process. 7 Brew can segment customers based on frequency and geography using phone numbers, although she acknowledges this method is not highly sophisticated.

As the brand gathers more user data, it aims to enhance its interactions with customers. The company will initially operate with bands of consumers, but the long-term goal is to understand and engage with each customer individually. The executive adds that 7 Brew must balance this future with its brand culture. She notes that while the chain can become more sophisticated, it should consider whether this aligns with the brand’s ethos of simplicity and human interaction.

“We’re just getting into the ability to look at everything that way to say, ‘OK, well, how do we want to dissect our customer base and how do we learn about them? What’s the architecture of everything that we do?’ and get really smart about it in all the ways that everyone else is,” Miller Regan says.

She also assures that employees gathering phone numbers or asking about previous orders doesn’t impede accuracy and speed in the drive-thru.

“A lot of times the customer is ordering what’s in that system,” Miller Regan says. “So when you and I transact and I’m taking your order and I’m like, ‘Hey, are you getting the same? Are you getting the Blondie half sweet, extra shot, extra hot?’ and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m getting medium today.’ Boom, we’re pushing a button. It’s so fast that it leaves time to visit, to have the connection if that’s what the customer wants that day, or let them move on. And so we have a calibration of visiting a lot, visiting a little, taking the information. We’re saving the time on putting the order in most of the time. So it’s leaving us time to be hospitable and then send someone on their way. So we haven’t found any speed traps with this yet.”

Beverage, Franchising, Growth, Marketing & Promotions, Story, Technology, Web Exclusives, 7 Brew