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ChefStable Launches Loyalty App

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The local ChefStable restaurant group and the Boulevard software development platform have just launched a free mobile app that could change how you dine. Chew Dining Club is a sort of loyalty rewards program for 15 of ChefStable's 16 restaurants (Ox isn't participating), and ChefStable founder Kurt Huffman says, "At its core, Chew lets our loyal customers know that we appreciate them." But Huffman has many more plans, including a system by which waiters can rank diners.

Right now, the Chew Dining Club works like this. First, download the app, which, if you time with a visit to one of ChefStable's restaurants, involves free food (currently, you can get free fries at Lardo; a plain baguette at Philippe's Bread; the contorni of your choice at Grassa; an order of fried chickpeas at Oven & Shaker; a small fry at Foster Burger; a craft beer at Hamlet; a frites order at La Moule; and an appetizer or salad of your choice at PREAM). Now, whenever you dine at a participating restaurant, you'll notice a four-digit number on your checks. Plug this number into Chew, and the app keeps your dining data—theoretically, with the intent to offer personalized rewards and offers down the road.

Huffman says he wants to move away from what he calls "caveman thank yous"—things like punch cards in which everyone gets a tenth cup of coffee for free. Huffman envisions more personalized and elaborate forms of giving thanks, such as giving a valued customer a free glass of their favorite Belgian ale upon arrival or letting them know about a special dinner, event, restaurant opening, or cooking class involving their favorite food. But Huffman was quick to say that Chew isn't just about free stuff: It's a way to for diner's to know more about their favorite restaurants and for ChefStable to know more about its diners in order "to offer better service in our restaurants."

For now, that's where the app's capabilities end, but Huffman says the second edition of the app, which could roll out as soon as six month from now, will let diners reserve tables, and this might help loyal diners skip waits and get better seats. "If someone has spent $20,000 at your restaurant, wouldn't you want to know," asks Huffman. "If I knew that someone went to St. Jack like 20 times, I'd help them get a seat."

The second incarnation of Chew would also add a component to let diners give feedback. Huffman says this component would provide an alternative to Yelp and help restaurants fix problems more quickly—ideally while diners are still in the restaurant. Huffman also says Chew isn't just for his restaurant group. ChefStable and Boulevard aim to eventually let restaurants outside of ChefStable join the app.

Think that's it? Not just yet. Huffman shared one last component slated for Chew's third incarnation: Chew would create a system to let waiters rank customers, just like Uber drivers can rank passengers. So don't get skimpy with the tips.

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