Hot on the heels of news of the Individual Restaurant Group’s bold move to ditch their points-based loyalty scheme in favour of an experience-led rewards system, we caught up with group CEO Andrew Garton to find out why he believes points are pointless. He also gave us a taste of some of the VIP rewards loyal members can expect to enjoy in 2024 and beyond with the new look Club IR.
With Restaurant Bar & Grill and Piccolino just two of the iconic brands within its large portfolio, Individual Restaurants are certainly amongst the UK’s big hospitality players. When CEO Andrew Garton joined the business back in January 2023, he decided it was time to shake things up, and the brand’s popular loyalty scheme has just undergone a remarkable transformation.
Gone are the points and in exchange for a whole host of exclusive benefits ranging from VIP sporting experiences to a bottle of Champers on your birthday. It’s a change that guests were looking for, with 60% stating they didn’t value points as part of a loyalty programme.
The IR membership card is one of the best of its kind and especially popular with those who regularly entertain clients – what prompted the change?
Just because something was a good fit for our business for the last 5 years, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work in the future. After listening to a broad range of our guests extensively, it quickly became clear that many of them found our points system to be a little tired.
In fact, only 2 out of 5 guests felt points were meaningful. Exchanging points for cash and rewarding our guests in a monetary form was all good and well, but it did nothing to make them feel extra special.
It’s clear a lot of research and investment has gone into revamping the scheme – how did your team go about it?
We simply asked our guests how they saw the future. By asking them how they’d envisage a more modern approach to loyalty, we found that making the system personal to them as individuals allowed them to connect with our brand in a much deeper and more meaningful manner – both in and out of our restaurants.
New benefits include tickets to sporting events, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and invites to international events – can you tell us more about some of the highlights of the new system?
One of the major changes is simply how guests are made to feel when they visit our restaurants. It’s all about hospitality. Guests are made to feel hyper special, and can book their favourite table in advance, even during peak times. They can be greeted with their favourite drink and whilst the points system may be gone, there are still monetary benefits within the scheme.
We’ve also lined up some amazing things outside of the restaurant but within the wider brand. We have partnered with E.J Churchill who offer premium clay pigeon shooting, and there’s opportunities for VIP boxing and football events for our most loyal members.
It’s also possible for wine lovers to book a home sommelier experience, and our diamond members can claim 10% cashback on their spending. We’re the only hospitality business to be doing this level of cashback.
The new scheme has different tiers – can you tell us more about that and how customers access their account?
It’s simple, we have three levels of membership depending on how much the customer guest spends – club, black and diamond. Club allows guests to enjoy a variety of discounts and benefits, whilst black unlock more personalised offers. Diamond is of course the top tier and unlocks our most esteemed range of VIP experiences.
And, to make things easier, we’ve launched a multi-faceted app that allows members to book tables with ease and track the progress of their membership status.
The concierge service sounds particularly interesting – what are the main advantages of this?
Our concierge is only available in the diamond tier and delivers a speed connection to the guest. They will always get a table no matter the time of year, guaranteed within 30 minutes with their favourite drink at the bar while they wait, and can expect VIP treatment for themselves and their guests at the drop of a hat.
Learn more about the benefits of Club IR here.