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Craft brewery and local eatery, Jack’s Abby, used Widewail’s “Invite” and “Engage” online reputation management solutions to dramatically increase customer review volume and positive customer sentiment as part of an overall strategy to help return their business to pre-COVID levels, and beyond.
While 2020 was a year we’d all just as soon forget, it was especially challenging for the restaurant and hospitality industries - and remains so. A craft lager brewery boasting one of the largest outdoor beer gardens in the Boston area, Jack’s Abby was eager to return to their Framingham location’s pre-pandemic level of hustle and bustle.
Far from being yet another American microbrewery, Jack’s Abby focuses on craft lagers exclusively. Out of roughly 8,700 brewers in the country, only a dozen or so are strictly larger-centric which allows for a greater focus on that style. In addition to a beer selection worth traveling for, they also pride themselves on an exceptional lunch/dinner menu, host events (tastings, lectures, festivals, etc.), provide brewery tours, and even offer a private function room.
It could be said that there’s something for everyone at Jack’s Abby, but lockdown left them feeling like a fond local memory - and they were primed for a Rocky Balboa sorta comeback. While brewery operations and a curbside pickup takeout option maintained momentum during the downturn, it looked like spring would be accompanied by a return to semi-normalcy which had to be taken full advantage of. In terms of online marketing, their focus and next steps would be mission-critical.
The founding family members knew it was time to focus on every conceivable way to get the word out: Jack’s Abby was back in business at full strength for summer 2021. The team also understood the “social proof” provided by a comprehensive feedback management strategy had immeasurable value and would have to play a big part.
The first post-lockdown summer season also marked an important anniversary for the brewery/eatery. Jack’s Abby first went into operation over 10 years ago on July 21st, 2011 and there was a traditional marketing push planned. This would make encouraging the online voice of their happy patrons even more important with local interest spiking as a result of this multi-channel strategy.
It was time to get the word out, but with a universal reduction in staff came new challenges requiring considerable adjustments to the way things had “always been done.” Rob Day, Sr. Director of Marketing for Jack’s Abby, recounted their path to working with Widewail: “Circumstances made us start researching tools and services we didn't need prior to COVID and wouldn't have considered. We used to handle customer review response internally, but that was no longer going to be an option.”
Realizing the strength of the Jack’s Abby brand, however, Rob remained optimistic about a return to previous business levels. “It’s a level playing field, as everyone in the local food and beverage vertical is now rebuilding in unknown territory.” They would just have to add some new components, and first-time outsourcing, to their marketing machine. “Innovation is born out of obstacles, after all.”
As Rob considered the best way forward in terms of online reputation management options, he received a well-timed phone call and eventually requested a demo of our tools and services. Widewail’s Hospitality Account Executive, Justin Essner, remembers their first conversation: “It was apparent Jack’s Abby had critical needs and expectations all too common in hospitality today. And Rob didn’t need convincing - in fact, he may have taught me a thing or two about the importance of review management to local businesses in 2021,” Justin admitted. “I knew we had the formula he’d been looking for and, after a couple of long conversations, it looked like Widewail was going to get the chance to prove it.”
Based on their business requirements it was mutually decided a combination of Widewail’s “Invite” for SMS/text review generation and “Engage” for people-powered review management would be the best option for Jack’s Abby.
The benefits of the new partnership became evident almost immediately. Engage launched in February 2021 and to date has helped decrease the number of monthly negative customer reviews by 86% and strengthen their Google star rating. This service, which sees a team of human review responders writing custom, brand-aligned responses to every positive and negative review, has also contributed to increased Google My Business activity and likely even local SEO visibility.
Invite’s automated and customizable review request functionality launched on June 1st, 2021 and through August 31st exceeded the intended spike in monthly volume. By the numbers, and with both solutions complementing each other, combined progress since launch includes:
1494% increase in monthly customer review volume.
86% decrease in negative sentiment/reviews.
GMB KPIs: 24% increase in calls, 152% increase in directions, 25% increase in website referrals.
The only folks more encouraged by this upturn than Widewail are the executive team at Jack’s Abby. “The improvements associated with Invite and Engage have been undeniable since their respective launches,” Rob remarked. “We have been blown away by the numbers for both.”
Everyone loves a happy ending, but the dividends of our partnership continue to pay off month-over-month. While world events left many in hospitality hoping for a miracle, the dust is settling and the opportunity to recover lost patronage, and even exceed former revenue levels, can still be realized. The proof is in the case study pudding: The way back is paved with the social examples provided by exceptional customer sentiment and feedback optimization. At Widewail, we refer to this as review management and growth strategy.
If Jack’s Abby’s tale rings true, and you’re looking for help with your own return to normalcy, we’d love to have a conversation. There’s truly no time like the present as we all fight to bounce back. Our full collection of online reputation management case studies is available if you’d like more examples of our solutions in action.
Please contact us with questions or go straight to scheduling a demo today. We look forward to meeting and helping you get back to business.