Mark Guzzardo showed up late to the interview after his waffle maker caught fire. This is the kind of comment that makes fellow restaurant operators shake their heads with empathy. “There’s just a lot of stuff going on,” laughs Guzzardo, the owner of the Bierkeller Tavern in Taylor, Michigan. When it comes to managing a full-service operation, Guzzardo is preaching to the choir, so to speak, when he expresses concern about the legion of moving parts in a restaurant’s day-to-day grind.

“This is my selfish comment,” Guzzardo begins, launching into a self-described rant about his new rewards program, which, among other details, satisfies that worry to a tee. Detroit-based Jetti Systems recently finished a six-moth pilot test of its new rewards program—created specifically for full-service units. Guzzardo is one of the five restaurants deploying the platform so far, and he’s been thrilled not only with the results, but also by its unobtrusive nature.

“You know when you’re trying to run a business, it’s really overwhelming. There’s just a lot going on,” he continues. “Typically in the restaurant industry, the operating hours are insane, the amount of variables are insane. I kind of laugh when people pitch me a product and they’re telling me all of the things I need to do to make the product work. Sometimes I’m thinking to myself, ‘I can’t even listen to you because I’m thinking of the 30 things I need to do while I’m listening to you.’ It’s freaking me out.”

Let’s start with a few vitals. Guzzardo has had the program four months. In that time, the 70-seat restaurant has 185 members signed up for its Jetti Rewards program at a rate per seat of .66 per month. The percent of check-ins resulting in an upsell is 48.

That last part, co-founder Will Orlewicz explains, is the platform’s true “secret sauce.” To paint this point, he dips into a personal memory involving a large chain. When they launched a new rewards program, sales took a hit since the servers were promoting the program instead of upselling products, such as discounted appetizers, larger beers, and so on.

“What actually happened is that the stores that they launched that program, they saw a decrease in revenue and a decrease in sales. That’s because upselling does work,” says Orlewicz, who founded the company with Chris Collins. “We saw that and went, ‘Hey, this is going to be an issue in a full-service environment. So what we did is we built in this feature so staff could both promote the program and upsell simultaneously. And the results have been way better than even I expected. Especially when restaurants buy in, the results are really phenomenal.”

Guzzardo raves about this feature. Here’s how it works: Jetti Rewards provides a physical display for each table (customizable by the brand). There’s an NFC chip, QR code, and URL provided, which allows customers to quickly scan or tap in with their mobile devices. Guzzardo says that he often sits back and watches how effective this simple interaction can be. In many cases, when a diner arrives and sees the sign, they’ll scan the code just to fill empty time, and out of simple curiosity.

“The problem with conventional apps that some of these other restaurants have had is that users won’t download them because of the permissions that are required,” Orlewicz says. “About 90 percent of people who download an app delete it shortly thereafter. So conventional apps have a big problem. There’s a user onboarding barrier there that ours doesn’t have because ours is a web-based app. Once the user connects, it loads up the program immediately.”

The study showed that the sign-up process takes an average of just 7 seconds. “And my favorite part is I’m not doing anything. I paid for the table they’re sitting in. I’ve got the lights on so you can read it,” Guzzardo adds.

Once a customer logs in, they’re presented with a button asking them to check in. After clicking, a guest is validated and earns points. Next, another screen will offer upsell items for additional points. Jetti Rewards is point-based, not spend-based.

Guzzardo has integrated this into his typical table pitch. “When the customer sits down they say, ‘Hey, do you want to join our rewards program? When you do, you can earn an additional 20 points if you order an appetizer,’” Orlewicz says.

Another benefit: the server doesn’t have to touch the guest’s actual mobile device. There’s a daily passcode that Guzzardo displays on a board in the restaurant for members to easily locate and type in.

Outside of the upselling, the information is invaluable, Guzzardo notes. Similar to other apps on the market that track consumer preferences, like Untappd, which allows for users to share their beer choices to a network, Guzzardo has an idea of who’s eating at his restaurant, and what they’re adding to the bill.

“So our biggest thing is that we give you a dollar off an appetizer if you check in,” he says. “We just want people to know that you’re hanging out at our place, and we hoping you’re having a good time. That’s been by far the most popular thing we’ve been doing with Jetti Systems. We’ve changed what our points go toward as the seasons change and the priority of our business changes.”

One example is Bierkeller’s popular growler program. Guzzardo built incentives into his Jetti Rewards to offer discounted refills and $5 off the purchase of a growler. Around Christmas, the restaurant sells “a ton of them for gifts.” However, when January arrives, the numbers naturally digress. Guzzardo adjusted his Jetti Rewards accordingly to reverse the downswing. “So guess what? We also sold a ton of gift cards and these people with growlers are coming back in. So in January we regroup and say, ‘Let’s give everybody a buck off their app just to check in because we’re busy in January. People are turning in their gift cards; they want to fill their growlers. Now our numbers are through the roof in regards to checking in on social media and telling people, ‘Hey we’re at Bierkeller. We’re having a good time.’ Again, you can’t put a dollar amount on it.”

Bierkeller’s growlers are double-walled stainless steal and carry a price tag of $35. That can jump another $12 to $35 depending on the beer selection. The Jetti Rewards program, and its $5 discount, easily pays off, he explains. “You’re earning points toward something—you just got $5 off your growler. You’re paying me $30 and you’re not going to walk out with an empty growler,” he says. “So I know, at minimum, I just got a $42 ring that I can promise you didn’t exist before that person came in, and before the system.”

Orlewicz says Jetti Systems has been conducting beta systems for around a year and a half. He sees the platform in independent restaurants as well as larger chains.

“If you can imagine, we sign up on average about 115 customers per month, per location. So if you’ve got a restaurant that’s got 100 locations, they can add up to 10,000 sign-ups per month. The marketing value of that is just tremendous,” he says.

Other stats from the study include: 115 monthly sign-ups per store; a 23 percent repeat user rate; 142 monthly check-ins per store; a 43 percent rate of upsells per check-in; and 99.97 percent valid emails obtained.

The full pricing proposal currently sits at $126 per month per location, which includes a custom-branded mobile rewards program, custom-printed table displays, an upselling table PC terminal for each store; full strategy session with the operator’s corporate team; concierge-style service and support; quarterly conference call and strategy session; free upgrades and account maintenance; an API for the website; and full hardware replacement every 12 months.

Danny Klein

Industry News, Technology