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Partner Spotlight: P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant
With 26 locations across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the PJW Restaurant Group operates a series of unique concepts geared to beer fans—everything from sports bars and pour houses to a fine dining steakhouse, taco concept, and pizza bar. But, the majority of their locations fall under the P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant concept, a sports bar known for the perfect blend of good food (such as PJ’s Famous wings), great beer and drinks, and fun in a relaxed atmosphere.
Operating a high number of establishments poses its own unique set of challenges. From a beer perspective, each location has its own drinks menu that needs to be constantly maintained and updated.
For about the last year and a half, to help organize and implement each location’s beer and drinks menu, P.J. Whelihan’s has been leveraging Untappd for Business. From creating custom digital and print menus to curating bespoke training materials for its staff, P.J. Whelihan’s has partnered with Untappd for a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution.
So far with over 300k menu views, almost 15k check-ins, and just under 10k unique users, P.J. Whelihan’s experience with Untappd for Business has been overwhelmingly beneficial for a majority of its businesses.
We sat down with Kristen Foord, Marketing Director at PJW Restaurant Group, to chat about how Untappd has helped a large number of their high-volume restaurants and sports bars operate its variety of menus more creatively and efficiently.
Grace Weitz: Who Is the PJW Restaurant Group?
Kristen Foord: Our overarching restaurant group is PJW Restaurant Group. We are headquartered in South Jersey and operate six unique concepts, ranging from sports bars all the way to a fine dining steakhouse concept. The majority of our locations, 19 out of the 26, fall within our P.J. Whelihan's Pub + Restaurant concept.
As it relates to Untappd, we have currently four out of the six concepts utilizing Untappd - P.J. Whelihan’s (17 locations), Pour House (3 locations), Central Taco (1 location), and most recently we brought our Treno Pizza Bar concept (1 location) onto the platform as well.
GW: How did you first hear about Untappd?
KF: The partnership between PJW and Untappd began in 2017 with our Pour House concept, which is a craft beer bar known for offering an expansive beer list and great pub food. As you can imagine, the 3 locations we have operating under this brand were continuously making updates to their beer list as a way to stay relevant with customer trends and demands. Bringing them onto the Untappd platform made making these updates much easier and allowed them to ensure that they were communicating the most up to date options to guests through print & digital menus.
GW: I know you’re utilizing the digital menu boards, print menus, and also some custom-made one-pagers and training materials. Walk me through exactly how you’re leveraging the Untappd app?
KF: One of the great things about Untappd is that each one of our concepts is able to leverage the variety of services offered in their own way. As mentioned, our Pour House locations have had great success in using Untappd to manage their ever-changing beer lists that are both printed for customers to view while dining as well as published to digital menu boards that are prominently displayed on-site.
Seeing the success of the Untappd platform within the Pour House locations, about a year and a half ago, we made the decision to bring the majority of our P.J. Whelihan’s locations on Untappd. Given that this would be a new platform for most of our managers, I worked really closely with our Enterprise Account Manager Tara [Ellington] to pull together a robust training guide and materials to help ensure our teams had a solid understanding how to manage their beer lists through the Untappd platform, including: creating menus, editing menus and publishing menus. This process made the initial onboarding process an overwhelming success and is also useful as new team members join the organization.
We also worked to create a custom branded template to help ensure that the print and digital menus aligned with the P.J. Whelihan’s brand identity. We were able to incorporate our brand-specific fonts, logos and key messaging that helped promote particular categories (i.e. local brews) or items, such as our signature PJW Copper Lager, to guests.
Beyond the various backend benefits for our operations teams, we have also been able to use Untappd as a way to engage with new and existing customers by pushing specific messaging about our locations, communicating upcoming events and look forward to continuing to drive more engagement.
GW: What have been some of the specific advantages for P.J. Whelihan’s using Untappd for Business?
KF: One hundred percent it’s the ease of use. That is definitely the key factor. I think the ability for our location managers to easily make updates to their drink menus in real-time has been critical. Anywhere our drink menus are published - whether that’s print menus we hand to guests, digital boards displayed on-site or listings on our websites, is all tied back to Untappd. The fact that our teams only need to make their updates in one place (the Untappd platform) in order for everything to be accurate, makes their lives so much easier.
[Our staff is] able to, even in the middle of dinner rush when a keg kicks, go to the back office, update the Untappd menu, and print out new, updated menus right on the spot. It has been great.
GW: I’ve seen some of the statistics you reached last year. You had over 300k menu views, almost 30k impressions, almost 15k check-ins, and just under 10k unique users. So it seems like, from a guest perspective, people are interacting with your digital menus and P.J. Whelihan’s locations on the platform. How have consumers responded to the tools you’ve leveraged on Untappd?
KF: The fact that we are able to communicate our drink offers on a platform that consumers are already actively engaged on is a huge benefit. When a potential customer is looking on Untappd for locations that offer a particular beer, we want to be sure that we are part of that conversation and that they are able to continue to gamify their Untappd experience at our locations by checking-in beers, sharing photos, etc.
We are excited about the engagement we’ve seen to date and look forward to working with the Untappd team to continue to increase these numbers.
GW: Looking ahead to this year, are there any new features of Untappd that P.J. Whelihan’s has taken advantage of in 2021 or that you’re interested in leveraging soon?
KF: With all that’s happened over the past year, we are really focused on getting our operations and teams back to ‘business-as-usual’. From a beverage perspective, this means increasing the number of draft beers we have available, bringing back events, etc.
When we look ahead, we’re excited about continuing working with the Untappd team to strategize how we can continue to drive traffic and engagement through our beverage offerings. The Untappd team has been great at proactively bringing these opportunities to our attention to ensure we’re maximizing our partnership. Just this morning I spoke with a team member about new data available to us that would allow better insight into beer trends, popular breweries/brews, etc. all within the particular geographies that our concepts are located in. We’re excited to explore this type of information further and see how it may allow us to ensure our mix is tailored to what our guests are looking for.
GW: Having used Untappd for Business at P.J. Whelihan’s locations for the past year and a half or so, is there anything that you wish worked differently on the app or areas that we can improve?
KF: I think the one area of opportunity we continue to focus on is the overall design of our print menus. We want to ensure that our teams can fit as many items and categories onto one page as possible, while not sacrificing legibility, etc.
The Untappd team has been great in terms of their willingness to recreate the wheel, change fonts or really anything we want to pursue from a design perspective. It has been great to work with a team that’s not only flexible to meet our needs, but also very responsible when questions or issues arise. Our teams are very pleased with the ease of use and the way the platform has worked to date.
Overall, we’re in a really great place.