HuHot Puts Loyalty on the Menu with Paytronix

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Regional chain HuHot Mongolian Grill, which got its start in Missoula, Mont., in 1999, has seen a dramatic expansion since it first launched a loyalty program in 2005. The company now claims 60 restaurants in 16 states, the majority of them in the Midwest and Mountain West states; 48 of those locations are franchised, and 12 are company-owned.

Its old points-based rewards program was “very inexpensive,” says Monica Minford, HuHot’s digital marketing director, but couldn’t do much beyond basic loyalty functions. It had limited information on customer activity, since customers often had to print out paper coupons or codes to redeem special offers. HuHot also needed tools that would allow it to glean sharper insights and target customers without having to filter data manually, through Excel sheets and the like. “We were looking for a vendor that would be able to provide us with a dashboard and tools so that we could target our offers very specifically, based not only on demographic information—which wasn’t too difficult for us to do previously—but also with visit history,” Minford says.

HuHot opted for the Paytronix Rewards solution, a good fit for the chain because it integrates with Aloha’s POS system, which HuHot uses across all of its locations. The link between these technologies allows HuHot to better track what people order and how much they spend, as well as tailor offers based on how frequently a customer visits.

Minford says that the implementation, which began in June 2016, was complicated by the fact that the data in its POS systems was not consistent across all locations. “Item No. 1 in one store might be item No. 10 in another store, so we had to physically go into each store and upload the software,” Minford says. “That took a lot of leg work on our end, and Paytronix’s end.” But the transition was otherwise smooth; no information was lost in the migration of 100,000 existing loyalty cards. “We didn’t really run into any people who lost the value on their accounts or anything like that,” she says.

With boosted confidence in the new system, HuHot’s teams were more inclined to promote the loyalty programs. “Our store-level employees and everyone involved really pushed it on our guests, making sure everyone was aware of the program, whereas previously there were some issues and it wasn’t running as smoothly, so they were less inclined to promote it,” Minford says.

Paytronix’s integrations with third-party agencies helped HuHot streamline its digital campaigns. Most recently, the company teamed up with SlashLab Social to set up a series of Facebook quizzes with rewards, which required that people sign up for the program as they progressed through levels of the game. Paytronix’s software enabled users to sign up for memberships by entering their name, phone number, and favorite store locations, without having to leave the quiz pages.

Six months later, “we’re at about 180,000 members,” Minford says, which is significant, considering that registered loyalty members tend to spend 10 percent more per check than unregistered diners.

The technology has improved the customer and staff experience. “Prior to working with Paytronix, redeeming a coupon was kind of an arduous type of thing—we had to either have them print it out or give us a coupon code,” Minford says. Now, “it’s automatically loaded into their account so they just need to give their phone number or swipe their card and are able to redeem their offer, and we’re able to tie it back to the specific person who redeemed it. We know who is redeeming stuff and who isn’t. That whole process is a lot easier for everybody.”

With the new system in place, HuHot has been able to generate reports to see which messages are having an impact on customer behavior and will help drive visitor frequency, Minford says. And increasing the frequency will continue to be a priority for the company in 2017.

The Payoff

Since implementing the Paytronix Rewards platform, Huhot Mongolian Grill has:

  • increased membership from 100,000 users to 180,000 users;
  • improved in-store experiences for both staff and customers; and
  • achieved a better read on the marketing messages that drive visitors to return.

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