Business challenge

To grow its share of the UK casual dining market, TGI Fridays aims to inspire guests to keep coming back for more. How could it bring the uniqueness of its restaurant experience to the digital channel?


TGI Fridays uses IBM Watson Campaign Automation to identify the individual profiles and preferences of its guests and whet their appetites with highly relevant marketing communications.


30% rise

in loyalty program sign-ups thanks to targeted, compelling communications

61% increase

in loyalty customer visits, building long-term brand engagement

66% boost

in loyalty customer revenues, enabling business growth

Business challenge story

Differentiating through experience

When it comes to casual dining, consumers in the UK have more choice than ever. Because expectations around food and service quality are always rising, the guest experience is becoming the crucial differentiator.

Steve Flanagan, Chief Marketing Officer at TGI Fridays, explains: “TGI Fridays was built on creating great experiences. As the digital channel has taken off, the experience increasingly starts before our guests even walk through the door. For that reason, it’s vital to offer consistent, high-quality journeys across every touchpoint—from our website and mobile app to our social media channels.”

To enhance the guest experience, TGI Fridays created a fresh look and feel for its digital channels. As well as relaunching its website, the brand engaged with long-term marketing partner Punchh to create a gamified loyalty app, enabling guests to unlock compelling rewards as they spend.

“We knew that if we could encourage more of our loyalty members to come back and visit us again, we’d deliver a massive benefit to the business,” Flanagan continues. “Our newly improved digital channel represents a valuable opportunity to reach our guests wherever they are. We were confident that connecting with our guests as individuals would be a powerful way to encourage them visit—but there were some tough technical challenges to overcome first.”

TGI Fridays had a wealth of data on its guests, but gaining insight into their unique preferences demanded complex, time-consuming and resource-intensive work. Because the company lacked a straightforward way to segment its digital audiences, it was restricted to generic, catch-all email campaigns—reducing the effectiveness of its marketing strategy. To realize its vision for a new digital experience, TGI Fridays looked for a more automated approach to engagement.

We plan to build on our close collaboration with Punchh and IBM to create even more compelling, relevant and exciting digital experiences for our guests.

Steve Flanagan, Chief Marketing Officer, TGI Fridays

Transformation story

Enabling one-to-one marketing at scale

TGI Fridays selected IBM Watson Campaign Automation—an AI-powered solution that empowers marketers to deliver engaging, personalized multichannel communications via email, mobile push, SMS and social media platforms.

“Because we’re a lean marketing team, automating everything from loyalty program registration to our regular drumbeat of customer communications has a big impact on our ability to execute personalized campaigns at scale,” comments Flanagan. “From the guest perspective, that means we can reach out with more highly tailored messages in a consistent way across multiple channels.”

He continues: “The beauty of IBM Watson Campaign Automation is that it will grow with us. At the moment, we’re using the solution to drive our email marketing program, but we see great potential to drive mobile push notifications on the platform in the future. Consolidating more of our marketing activities on the IBM platform will help improve our productivity, reduce our operational costs and allow us to gain even deeper insights into how guests are engaging with our content.”

Working together with IBM’s Account Direction Services Team, TGI Fridays ensured that its existing guest data was fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“IBM Services invested a significant amount of time up-front in understanding the way we work, and our partnership with the team continues to be a great experience,” says Flanagan. “IBM went above and beyond to help us understand the steps we needed to take to comply with the requirements of the GDPR, and the result was a tremendous piece of work that IBM led on our behalf.”

To enrich its understanding of what motivates its individual guests, TGI Fridays integrates a wide range of data feeds from a wide range of sources into IBM Watson Campaign Automation.

“We can now create a 360-degree view of our guests based on their booking histories and browsing behavior on our website and Punchh mobile app,” explains Flanagan. “By incorporating contextual information such as point-of-sale receipts and Wi-Fi data from our restaurants into the mix, we can gain a clearer view of what’s most relevant for each guest. For example, if we know that someone has visited us within the last six months and ordered from the kids’ menu, we can ensure we’re sharing offers and incentives with a family theme.”

Chris Clapham, Account Direction Leader for IBM in EMEA and Rest of World comments: “TGI Fridays are ambitious and know exactly what they want to achieve, with a well-thought-out vision and roadmap designed to offer the best possible experience for their guests online. We put a great deal of focus into ensuring we were collecting the right data to allow TGI Fridays to more sophisticatedly target and personalize their marketing communications.”

Results story

Welcoming guests back time and again

With IBM Watson Campaign Automation at the heart of its digital strategy, TGI Fridays is shaping relevant, compelling moments of engagement that attract guests back to its restaurants again and again.

“We see that when we reach out to someone with content that resonates with them as an individual, they’re more likely to engage with the brand,” explains Flanagan. “Whereas in the past we were unable to identify the types of messages most likely to appeal to each member of our audience, we can now precisely target our outreach based on hard data. Within a matter of weeks, we were already measuring extremely positive results.

“We’ve increased repeat visits from members of our loyalty program by 61 percent, boosting revenues attributed to those customers by 66 percent. Those customers are also becoming far more likely to recommend us their friends, and we’ve seen a dramatic 300 percent boost in the number of guests referred by loyalty customers.”

As TGI Fridays builds a large following on the digital channel, it is introducing a new generation of customers to the brand. Unique guest visits have increased by 51 percent, and the company is measuring a 30 percent increase in loyalty program sign-ups.

“Because IBM Watson Campaign Automation makes it so fast and easy to segment our guests, we can be more creative and agile with our campaigns,” comments Flanagan. “As a result, it’s far easier for us to jump on trends quickly when they emerge—something that just wasn’t possible with our previous approach to digital marketing.”

TGI Fridays is now planning innovative ways to use IBM Watson Campaign Automation to nurture long-term loyalty. Working with media partner Reprise, the company is targeting its social advertising campaigns at guests who have recently visited a TGI Fridays restaurant and opened an email from the brand.

“Our journey with the IBM solution is just beginning, but we’re already moving the needle when it comes to engagement,” Flanagan concludes. “IBM Watson Campaign Automation has become one of the key pillars of our strategic roadmap for digital, and we are very impressed with the results we’ve achieved so far. Looking ahead, we plan to build on our close collaboration with Punchh and IBM to create even more compelling, relevant and exciting digital experiences for our guests.”

TGI Fridays logo

TGI Fridays UK

Headquartered in Luton, England, TGI Fridays UK is a leading casual dining restaurant chain. With more than 80 American-styled restaurants across the country, TGI Fridays offers authentic, contemporary, and full-flavored American food, signature cocktails, and a lively, personalized experience.

Solution components

Take the next step

To learn more about IBM Watson Campaign Automation, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:

Headquartered in San Mateo, CA, Punchh is the world leader in innovative digital marketing products for brick and mortar retailers, combining AI and machine learning technologies, mobile-first expertise, and omni-channel communications designed to dramatically increase lifetime customer value. To learn more about Punchh, please visit:

View more client stories or learn more about IBM Watson Customer Engagement