How One Flourishing Chain Inspires Loyalty Through Community
Being a good neighbor is simply good for business. When I joined the restaurant group, I was overwhelmed at the level of involvement in each of the local communities and the goodwill and loyalty those efforts generated. Today, community outreach remains one of our guiding principles and is fully ingrained in our culture. This slow and steadfast approach isn’t just about once-and-done type profits. Instead, it fits into a bigger picture internally and externally, solidifies our brand strength and restaurant as the local gathering spot for friends and family.
Below are the top three ways we immerse ourselves as the authentic and thoughtful company we are within in the neighborhoods we serve.
Connection means more than providing a comfortable place to eat and drink. It is one of my greatest missions to ensure all of our 22 restaurants employ and maintain a level of collaboration on local levels that give back to the surrounding area.
We find ways to connect with our customers outside of traditional giving. Several of our locations host fun runs and yoga classes as part of a branded athletic club. These are very organized and strategic efforts specifically created to extend relationships with customers beyond food service and into active lifestyles.
Hyper-local newspapers cover Little League, high school, and adult intramural sport teams. Team sponsorships can generate great headlines—especially winning ones, which are priceless. Celebrating our initiatives through positive word of mouth accomplishes many things. It shows existing and potential new customers that we care immensely about the area, while at the same time supports a positive day-to-day work environment for our employees. Retaining efficient, happy employees and consistent, repeat business are two of the many challenges the hospitality industry faces daily. It should also be noted, we have never, ever had to shutter a restaurant. I’m quite proud of that and believe our commitment to community is a huge part of our success.
On the micro level, I love sitting down at one of our restaurants and watching Philadelphia Eagles games with customers—many of whom I’m happy to call friends. Over time, relationships grow stronger with our neighbors and I’m happy to buy a few rounds and offer their kids a job when they get old enough. Hiring the neighborhood kids has been a great way for us to strengthen those local bonds and gain business when their family and friends come in to eat and visit them.
Dedication to creating valuable relationships is not limited to writing a check or just providing in-kind donations. Getting employees to buy in to a cause-related experience and overall philosophy fosters a genuine attitude and community-focused mindset. Whether it’s through our participation in Habitat for Humanity, or our corporate hockey team, we take our initiatives seriously. We are all in.
This summer, one of our locations hosted an awe-inspiring Dine and Donate, a company-wide program where organizations can invite supporters in for dinner at a specific location and receive 15 percent of all sales. One evening our restaurant was the final destination of a motorcycle caravan of over 150 people, who were then joined by several other diners who came out to support a local Deputy Sheriff, who is battling cancer. We responded by not only swiftly accommodating this large influx of customers, but by extending the promotion until closing so more customers could become part of the effort. Our restaurants host hundreds of Dine and Donate and help raise thousands for worthy groups and individuals throughout Southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The initiatives aren’t just part of our philanthropic efforts, they’re critical in keeping our concepts top of mind and developing the loyal fan base which ultimately contributes to the bottom line. I’m proud to say organizers at some of our non-profit and charity partner organizations, like the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, have all become regulars at their neighborhood P.J.’s and constantly help grow our business by bringing friends and family with them week after week.
Promotion of our support and participation levels—no matter how large or small, aligns our charitable efforts with who we are and reinforces our key messaging within our company. Our long-standing Shamrock fundraiser for The Ronald McDonald House is one of the most recognizable efforts that are promoted within each restaurant. Customers donate, and the shamrock is added to the sea of shamrocks that line the walls in the months of February and March. Proceeds in the end are donated to Ronald McDonald House. Friendly competition among locations compete to out-fundraise each other. We were blown away by the generosity of our customers when we were able to present a $136,000 check last year. Our patrons care deeply about their communities and we’re proud of the long-term partnerships we’ve built with local charities to support them. By creating a festive, fun environment and presenting a simple vehicle for customers to participate, we are able to raise funds and engage customers at a different level. Involvement with well-known and reputable organizations allows our team to feel good about the work we’re doing inside and outside of the restaurants, contributing to the company culture and morale.
As a final note, the P.J.W. Restaurant Group has cumulatively supported hundreds of groups over the course of our many years. From the very start, our founder, Bob Platzer, realized the importance of getting personally involved in our communities to create an atmosphere where friends and families gather to share a good meal and celebrate being together. His honest and sincere approach is evident at every one of our locations. By supporting causes and groups that our customers care about, we’ve gained an enormous amount of attention, respect and all-around trust.
Jim Fris is the Chief Operating Officer of the P.J.W. Restaurant Group, which owns and operates 22 restaurants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is responsible for establishing all operations encompassing strategy, growth initiatives, profitability, purchasing, marketing and supportive corporate culture. Under his tenure P.J.W. Restaurant Group has opened over a dozen new restaurants, increased revenues and created synergies with local sports teams, the Wells Fargo Center, Comcast Sports Net, Temple University and many others. His keen eye, unbridled enthusiasm and across the board standards for quality service and commitment to the community has served him and the group well. Jim is the incoming Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.