Loyal customers are the driving force of any restaurant business, as the regulars add more flavor and fun than the best margarita. No one knows loyal customers like Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, which has been around for a whopping 62 years. The family Mexican eatery currently boasts 9 locations in Arizona, Utah, and Idaho.
When founders Olivia and Julio Garcia started the business, they used family recipes to create their famous dishes. As the business has grown, it’s continued to bring even more of that family-friendly feeling to the table. Garcia’s is a neighborhood favorite, a place where people have been coming with their parents and grandparents for many years.
We sat down with Ashley Stockton, Marketing Manager at Garcia’s, to learn how the restaurant has tapped into their incredibly loyal customers and staff, to help them build a wildly successful customer loyalty program in just a few months.
Can you share the story of Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant?
Garcia’s is located in Phoenix, Arizona and we’ve been around for 62 years. Olivia Garcia and Julio Garcia, our founders, started the restaurant using family recipes. Since then, we’ve carried that tradition along, as a lot of our dishes come from Olivia’s original recipes. We make all of our food fresh every morning.
Our restaurant is a family-friendly place that’s been a mainstay in the area. Many of our customers have been coming with their grandparents and parents for many years. We celebrate birthday parties, engagements, retirement parties, graduations, and many other important life moments. When people are celebrating a big family event, they often come to us.
It’s not just our customers that are loyal, either. We have employees that are incredibly loyal and have been with the company for a long time. For example, I now work as the Marketing Manager at Garcia’s, but I started when I was 15, and have done everything from bussing tables to making drinks — I’ve been at the restaurant for 17 years.
Did you have another customer loyalty program before you chose Thanx?
Before we started using Thanx, we used those old-school punch cards. We had them for a long time, so long that they may have been around for longer than me. We had them, but we never used them or promoted our program.
Some of our loyal guests knew about the punch cards. However, our servers never mentioned the program. It was a bit like the secret menu at In-N-Out if you knew about it you would ask for it, but if you didn’t know about it then nobody was going to tell you.
Obviously, punch cards didn’t provide us any data, insights or customer feedback. We didn’t know how much people spent and what kinds of rewards would be ROI-positive to give away. They certainly didn’t help grow our business.
How did you choose Thanx?
Garcia’s never had someone in marketing management before, so no one thought about how to draw in customers and keep them coming back. But when I became the Marketing Manager, it was something that was a big priority for us. I knew engaging customers in a personal way would help grow the business.
I learned about Thanx when a member of the sales team reached out to me. He told me about all the benefits that Thanx could offer Garcia’s and it was everything I had been looking for. Having robust customer data including things like how often our customers visit, how much they spend, and even their lifetime value is a game changer for us. It almost seemed too good to be true so I wanted to do my due diligence. I explored a few other customer engagement and loyalty solutions to compare them. None of the checked all the boxes that Thanx did. I knew what we were looking for, and Thanx offered everything we wanted and more.
You’ve signed up a ton of members really quickly! What’s your secret?
Our program is very new– it’s only been around for a few months. However, we already have thousands of members, and it’s growing like gangbusters! It’s been a smashing success.
Part of the success is due to the fact that we have an extremely loyal customer base as well as a loyal and dedicated staff. When I worked as a manager, I’d always go in early to say “hi” to the people we knew at the bar. Our servers knew which customers drove what car, and even the spots they liked to park in. They knew what they would order. We have loyal people and they were thrilled when we introduced a loyalty program. They couldn’t wait to sign up and membership is effortless. They don’t have to carry around any annoying cards or remember any extra steps. They simply link their credit cards they use to pay and everything happens on the back-end. It’s effortless for our members and my team. A total win-win.
Getting the word out about the program was a full-court press. We sent out emails to our email list subscribers, used social ads that the Thanx team provided for us, used table tents on every table, and put flyers in every to-go order. We also have posters in all our locations to let folks know about it and encourage them to sign up.
How did you train Garcia’s team?
When it came to training the team, I made it my personal mission to talk to every busser, server, hostess, and manager. I used the excellent training resources and video that Thanx provided. I think having someone from “corporate” come out to train them sent a loud and clear message that this program was important to our success. I even filled in for them while they watched the video if they needed me to. Afterward, I sat down with each person and explained what we were doing and why. That way, they could understand the value, and if they had questions I could help them out.
How do you communicate the success of the program to your team?
I know how competitive my managers are, so every Monday we get together, and I send out a detailed email about how many signups each location has. I include what their report card is, what reviews we’ve gotten, and I send positive reviews companywide. It’s competitive, and people want to be included and have the best performing-location. I’ll also send out reminders about our goals and new programs.
What do customers think of the program?
One of the rewards in our program is a free dessert on your birthday. But instead of just coming in and getting their free dessert and leaving, we find people come in with an entire party of people to celebrate. They all order entrees, drink and eat and it more than covers the cost of the free dessert. It’s part of the appeal of Thanx, we generate incremental revenue and grow the business and keep it ROI positive. We give rewards to our best customers who reward us with their loyalty. It’s great for both the merchant and the consumer. Our customers love it and we do too.
Garcia’s rewards its best customers, and in just a short time, has seen positive results from engaging their loyal customers while growing the business