Case Study: How a local pub keeps the college crowd coming back for more

From BBQ coals to digital goals

Nestled within the quaint town of Kutztown, PA, the K’Town Pub Taphouse & BBQ isn’t the average watering hole. It’s a 5-star gastronomic experience of wood-fired authentic BBQ, juicy burgers and craft beer favorites that keep the local set coming back for more. The challenge, however, is that every year, half of the town’s population leaves, replaced by a new set of faces months later. 

That’s because Kutztown is also home to Kutztown University (KU), which swells the population with nearly 5,000 students nine months out of the year. To keep its local scene prominence, K’Town Pub has to find smart ways to amplify their brand amidst the tech-savvy college crowds every Autumn. The key is finding marketing mediums that aren’t just seen, but engaged with. 

Enter digital Cards. With just a quick QR code scan or a link click, users can instantly add these cards to their smartphone wallets. Brands can customize the front of the card like any other marketing asset, displaying general ‘About’ information and contact details. On the flip side, the card’s back can be used as a gateway to various utilities – from connecting with a broader community to accessing other brand programs and more. K’Town uses the back of its card for its contacts and location information, as well as to keep its regulars up to date on operating hours and connect them to its Facebook and Instagram groups. It also gives them the ability to personalize the types and frequency of alerts they want to receive.

Digital cards, K'Town's secret sauce

As the management at K’Town noted, “Everyone’s face is in their phone all the time.” Unlike the transient nature and active seeking out that social media engagements require, using the digital card ensures the pub’s promotional messages pop up directly on students’ screens.

And for a business that was prudent in its marketing spends, choosing to deploy digital Cards wasn’t just about cost-efficiency. It was the potential of the Cards to serve as a consistent but unobtrusive beacon, allowing K’Town to send out real-time prompts like “Don’t forget, we have trivia tonight.” 

Timed to go out at the end of a long day of classes, a message like this provides a welcome prompt to put the homework aside for a bit and have some fun with friends. And by keeping the messages relevant and timely, the management team has seen zero drop in Card ownership. 

“It’s a cool idea,” has been a common sentiment among their patrons.

Given the initial rollout success, K’Town is looking to expand and explore some novel approaches next. For example, they’re planning to make some strategic, inconspicuous drops of the Card QR codes within KU’s library stacks – a fun little Easter egg for students.

Bring on the sammies

K’Town’s strategy of offering incentives like “15% off all sandwiches from 4 pm to midnight” for digital Cardholders has not just driven sales of those sandwiches, but has catalyzed an uptick in orders across their menu. The numbers speak for themselves – within a year, their database has burgeoned with an addition of nearly 1000 new patrons.

While many might rest on these laurels, K’Town is already charting out its next digital move. They’re interested in turning the digital Card into a loyalty punch card. This would ensure their patrons no longer need to juggle paper punch cards and can effortlessly earn their way to that tantalizing “buy 9 get a 10th sandwich free” type of scenario.

For businesses on the fence about embracing digital strategies, K’Town Pub Taphouse & BBQ’s journey stands testament to the tangible benefits of marrying tradition with technology.