Penn Station Subs president Craig Dunaway is confident that, once people try one of his company’s subs, they will become loyal customers.

What’s more, Dunaway said that the customer journey is a critical part of the company’s brand loyalty.

Dunaway talked to Loyalty360 about this and other customer loyalty-related topics.

Can you define what the phrase “customer journey” means to Penn Station Subs?
Dunaway: At Penn Station, we want the customer journey to be focused on the experience. Not only is our food a deliciously satisfying meal, but we prepare it to order right in front of you so you can hear, see, and smell the food being made. From our USDA choice beef that creates the Philly Cheesesteak, to our fresh-cut fries and made daily fresh-squeezed lemonade, the customer journey is what keeps our customers loyal.

How is customer loyalty being prioritized in your organization?
Dunaway: We are convinced that once you try Penn Station you will become a loyal customer. It isn’t so much about prioritizing loyalty but prioritizing trial. We have a great product that people crave once they’ve had it. Offering loyalty programs is just one more way to entice hungry people to our restaurants.  

Can you talk about how Penn Station’s loyalty program has evolved in the past year, particularly from a customer engagement perspective?
Dunaway: In the past year, we went from having very low-level loyalty programs to having an all-inclusive app that tracks rewards, offers in-app payment and gift cards as well as notifies customers of promotions. Having something as easily accessible as an app on their smart phone has made Penn Station stay top of mind with our customers.

How do you measure customer loyalty?
Dunaway: We are in the business of selling sandwiches. Loyal customers come back multiple times a month, utilize their app, and share our great food with friends. We offer them rewards for being a loyal customer and for referring their friends to us. With the app analytics, we can easily see how many app downloads, registrations, users, and repeat customers we have.

How are you leveraging mobile to create better customer experiences and drive loyalty with your audience?
Dunaway: Not only did we launch our mobile app this past year that rewards loyal diners, but we now offer in-app payment, gift giving, location finding, games and other great features. Additionally, online ordering will soon become a feature to make the customer experience that much easier.  

What is the biggest challenge and/or opportunity you see in mobile?
Dunaway: Online ordering is something we want to get right. We have spent a lot of time looking at the right platform to introduce this feature to our customers. The experience needs to be easy and fast, but also executable in-store to flawlessly integrate with our dine-in experience. 

What trends are you seeing in Loyalty / Customer Loyalty / Marketing?
Dunaway: In addition to ease of use and time-saving functionality, trends are focused more on realistic versus hype. We are moving away from overly stylized photography and fluff promotions to get real with our customers. They crave the small business feel and want to see loyalty rewards that are truly useful them. Personalization is another trend that customers desire.

What is the challenge of personalization?
Dunaway: Penn Station has prided ourselves on personalization since our inception. The fact that customers now want personalization, we don’t see as a challenge, but it rather puts us ahead of the curve. Not only in seeing their name on the app or having the ability to save favorite orders in online ordering but being able to customize their made-to-order sandwich. We offer 14 sandwiches on our menu that are each offered with an array of choices to make it the perfect sandwich for you. How do you like your Italian Deli Classic?  

What are the biggest benefits you receive and challenges you face with surveying and/or listening to customers? Is how you listen to your customers changing? If so, how?
Dunaway: How we listen to our customers is always evolving. We offer many platforms for our customers to provide us feedback. We wouldn’t be in business for over 30 years if we didn’t listen, learn, and adjust. Today, with social media and online presence being a part of nearly everyone’s lives, it is extremely important to have a constant voice on all platforms engaging our customers.  

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