Sandwich Chain Didn’t Mind Rewards Members Hacking Their Program. Now They’re Out of Business

One of the ways to earn frequent flyer miles is to eat out at restaurants that are part of ‘mileage dining’ programs run by Rewards Network. You pay with a credit card linked to your account, they scan and identify the charges, and reward you with miles.

Rewards Network, which offers this, used to be called iDine (and before that Transmedia). I first started earning miles for eating out when their program with United was only open to elite members. So the first thing I did when I made Premier status after college was register to earn miles at restaurants.

In 1997 I received an offer for 5000 bonus miles if I ate at (4) different restaurants during the promotion period. I scoured the terms and realized there was no minimum spend. I ate at a few restaurants any way, work expenses, and then drove by a participating Chinese restaurant and ordered a soda.

This same technique was being deployed to leverage the rewards program of a sandwich chain that has just gone under. (HT: Joe H.)

Taylor Gourmet, which some may know from its outpost at Washington’s National airport, has gone out of business. The DCA outpost is the only remaining Taylor Gourmet spot this week.

Some speculate that the reason for their fate was the owner’s visit to the Trump White House. Apparently sales spiked after the owner visited the Obama White House. More likely is that they expanded too rapidly and wound up with bad locations.

It’s unlikely that their overly rich rewards program led to their demise, bu DCist is now covering how you could spend $60 and get $250 in value: credits in the program were based on visits, and you earned a visit just for buying a soda or cookie and even for redeeming free items.

Downloading the app netted a person $5 off a regular-sized hoagie or salad on your first visit. With 15 visits in a year, a person became part of “Team Taylor” and scored a free regular-sized hoagie, salad, or cheesesteak. After 30 visits, the customer was deemed a “Hoagie Addict,” which translated to free Taylor Gourmet swag, plus a free starter on the first of each month for a year. A customer became an “Official Hoagie Head” after 60 visits in a year, scoring a free catered party for 10. Taylor would sprinkle extra perks throughout the year as well.

The company was aware of this. Their response? “If people want to hack through and get cookies, that’s fine.”

I was right by a Taylor Gourmet when I lived in Arlington. Their sandwiches were pretty good. And so was their rewards program.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve never understood restaurant reward programs. Well, I know they exist but no one talks about them. Are they ever a good deal? Why all the fuss about savings 5 bucks at Sbux but not the local pizza joint. I suppose it’s due to their hyperlocal nature.

    On that note, the Margarita’s chain up here recently had a great targeted promo: come in on x day and get a free entree, no strings attached! Over in San Diego the Boathouse does lobster for 12 bucks every week. And in Boston, our gracious host mikeef always chooses Kinsale to earn rewards. Would be interesting to compare all the programs nationwide. I wonder if such a resource exists.

  2. I never cease to be amazed at the people who will KILL themselves to get some freebies but will snub their noses at other freebies or discounts. While I never dumpster dived, I am not ashamed to admit that I collected all the spare cups I could from tables at Wendy’s for the Airtran promo years ago which was my first venture into travel rewards…at the gate for the free flights, they talked both me and my (now) husband into Airtran cards and a few millions points/miles later I’m a junkie. I’m a junkie forALL kinds of rewards programs…Regal movies has a wonderful rewards program and we’ve gotten some rather expensive concessions from them, some folks don’t but I’ll take $30 worth of free popcorn & soda instead of paying for it. Restaurant.com gift “vouchers” save you a fortune at some places, Mypoints.com has given me a few THOUSAND dollars back in gift cards in the last 15 years, my favorite clothing store gives me free shipping for the rest of the year once I’ve spent $500…and rebates me with a $10 gift cards every time I spend $100 now! The best part about these programs? TAX FREE FREEBIES! Cash back programs are great, but free merchandise/gift cards are better because there is never tax due on them!

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