This appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 14, 2016. Consumers are serious about their rewards and can get quite upset when massive changes are made. We’ll see more and more of this as restaurant rewards programs become more pervasive. Restaurant companies must be much more careful about how they implement changes and should isolate their current membership from the negative impact of changes.
A Cook County man is suing Four Corners Tavern Group, which has 11 restaurants in Chicago and another one coming to Maggie Daley Park, after the company allegedly switched rewards programs and left “hundreds or thousands” of customers with no way to redeem credit accumulated toward rewards.
Micah Riskin, a regular customer of Highline in River North and other Four Corners establishments, filed his class-action complaint in Cook County Circuit Court last week, alleging the restaurant group violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Last March, Riskin signed up for the “Spring Rewards” program offered through Highline, but Four Corners left him and others with no way to transfer credit toward rewards when it switched programs in January, the lawsuit said.
“It’s something they do to bring people in the door. They should live up to their obligations, in our minds,” said Aron Robinson, Riskin’s attorney, on Tuesday.
Anna Treiber, a spokeswoman for Four Corners Tavern Group, said the company is declining to comment on the lawsuit.
Four Corners operates its taverns — Highline, Fremont, Benchmark, Schoolyard, Westend, Kirkwood, Gaslight, Sidebar Grille, Ranalli’s, Steak Bar and Federales — primarily in the Loop and on the city’s North and Near West sides, but has a vision to “open an establishment in all of the unique neighborhoods throughout Chicago,” according to Four Corners website. The group’s also been approved to operate a restaurant in Maggie Daley Park that’s slated to open next year.
Each Four Corners location had its own distinct program and rewards didn’t transfer between taverns. At Highline, under the “Spring Rewards” program, customers were to be awarded a $10 credit for every $250 spent, according to the lawsuit.
By the time Four Corners announced the change — from Spring Rewards to My4C Points — in January, Riskin had spent $240 of the $250 needed at Highline in order to receive the $10 credit, the complaint said.
Four Corners communicated the change to customers via email on January 15, stating that rewards had to be redeemed by the end of February. But there was no way for customers like Riskin to transfer credit to the new program, according to the lawsuit.
“It’s nice to move on to something better, but you have all these people who have accrued these points,” Robinson said.
Four Corners was founded by Andy Gloor and Matt Menna, principals with real estate firm Sterling Bay.