The Loyaltees Awards highlight leading and innovative brands in the restaurant and retail industries. When it comes to incredible guest engagement strategies, this year's winners set a new standard of excellence.


An Interview with Paul Emmett, CEO of Duffy’s Sports Grill

Paytronix chats with Paul Emmett, CEO of Duffy’s Sports Grill, about his chain's industry-leading MVP program.


Paul Emmett, Duffy’s Sports Grill CEO, Shares Why its MVP Program is Critical to His Business.

Paytronix chats with Paul Emmett, CEO of Duffy’s Sports Grill, about his chain's industry-leading MVP program.

Paytronix: Tell us a little bit about Duffy’s Sports Grill.

Emmett: Duffy'sWe operate 24 casual-dining restaurants in southern Florida. Our concepts offer a distinctly upscale sports environment.

Paytronix: What caused you to believe in loyalty before launching the Duffy’s Program?

Emmett: Before Duffy’s, I was the president of Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse in New Jersey. Their loyalty program worked well and I learned a lot from it. It gave them a competitive advantage. I believe having the loyalty program compelled guest’s decision to dine at Charlie Brown’s rather than at our competitors.

When I joined Duffy’s, we only had a few locations. I waited until we had 6 or 7 locations before launching the M.V.P. program so that we had some critical mass. We needed to spread the costs of the program across more locations and with more units the program gained some economies of scale.

Paytronix: Why did Duffy’s choose to develop its loyalty program?

Emmett: The loyalty program gives us a competitive advantage. It also enables us to create guest segments based on behavior so that we can communicate relevant messages to them with offers that make sense to our cost structure. We know which guests spend a lot and which ones spend a little. Our time and effort spent on each tier are relative to the guests’ spending level.

With the competitive advantage comes price flexibility. The loyalty program adds value to our guest experience that gives us the ability to set our prices a bit higher than the competition.

Paytronix: You’ve been running your program since 2003. How do you measure its success year to year?

Emmett: We don’t. Loyalty is an integral part of our culture. We don’t look at it every year to determine if it’s a good investment. We know it is. We do however; take a look at it on a quarterly and annual basis to make minor tweaks to it.

Paytronix: Your program has multiple tiers: MVP, All Star, and Hall of Fame. Tell us what prompted you to create three tiers.

Emmett: Multiple tiers encourage members to spend more. Guests are constantly checking their balance on our kiosks to see if they’ve made it to the upper levels of the program.

Our loyalty members drive 70% of our transactions. We have 350,000 M.V.P. members. To reach the All Star member level of our program, guests have to spend $1,000 during any 12 month period. We currently have 6,000 members in this tier who drive 11% of our business. Those few members become an important focus for our marketing team. Reaching our top tier, Hall of Fame, requires members to spend $3000 per year, these 600 members drive 1.7% of our sales. We pay close attention to these tiers and are able to offer them greater incentives as members’ spending levels increase.

Paytronix: Aside from your own program, which rewards program do you most envy?

Emmett: There really isn’t another restaurant loyalty program I pay attention to. Restaurants tend to tiptoe into a program. We had a competitor attempt to duplicate our program recently but ended it after about 6 months. I think most jump into it without thoroughly understanding the commitment and costs associated with it. We do like the American Express Black Card and we study some of the airline miles programs.

Paytronix: What advice would you offer to other restaurants who are considering launching a loyalty program of their own?

Emmett: Don’t do it. I want to maintain my competitive edge with the MVP program.

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