How do you survive in the restaurant business for twenty years?

“Don’t change for the sake of change, change for a reason.” Those are the words of Brian Sullivan, the President of Clover Restaurant Group/Cafe Deluxe. This June marks the 20th anniversary of the Cleveland Park location, where they have established themselves as a neighborhood landmark. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Sullivan about the achievement and perfecting the Cafe Deluxe brand.

Guest Mentality

“We treat each customer as a guest in our home, we are more than a restaurant – we are a second home.”

With the local Georgetown dining scene so close to the Cleveland Park location, the secret to gaining customer loyalty is to treat each patron as a guest instead of a customer. Incorporating this guest mentality has led to patrons electing to have Cafe Deluxe host everything from special wedding proposals to funeral receptions.

Reward Guests – Offer Exclusives

“We invite our loyalty members in for tastings. We reward customers with access to special occasions and opportunities.”

Offering exclusive catered items or memorable experiences has strengthened customer relationships. A unique offering by Cafe Deluxe is their point-based spending loyalty program. Loyal customers sign up to receive free and exclusive items based on their reward status. This formula has produced a lucrativeincentive-based program that also influences marketing endeavors. Their evidence-based approach to rewarding customers has increased customer engagement over the years.

Sustainability Requires Social Responsibility 

“We let management teams work with organizations within their specific market. Dining for Dollars, certain percentage of revenue for that day will go specifically to a local school.”

Cafe Deluxe teaches each employee that giving back to the community goes beyond writing checks and donating goods. Donating time and volunteers to local causes such as DC Central Kitchen allows the business to be transparent. Transparency is important when harvesting communal relationships that last. Cafe Deluxe has done a great job of letting the community know that they care.

Celebrate the Culture – Celebrate Your Family

Is social media marketing important? Mr. Sullivan explained that it has become vital in a unique way. How? By expanding online content beyond entree pictures and mouth-watering beer glasses. Social media is used to celebrate life’s moments. Employee milestones are one example.

“We use social media to celebrate our employees. We have employees that have been with us for 18 years. When people come into the restaurant and see familiar faces over the course of years it really makes them feel comfortable. They feel like it’s a family.”

Mr. Sullivan revealed that the ability to “listen” is the key. He expressed that you must be open to hear what your colleagues have to say and also your customers. However, you should not make changes for the sake of chasing trends. Instead, consistently execute strategy that enhances the customer experience.


This week, please join Cafe Deluxe for the 20-year celebration. The Cleveland Park location will have the following events/specials available June 15th-21st:

Monday, June 15th, patrons signed up with the frequent diner program double their loyalty points. The program is free. It’s quick and easy, 1 point per dollar spent and you start reaping the rewards immediately!

Tuesday, enjoy $2 off “throwback” appetizers and drinks.

Wednesday, with a special combination—Two Burger Days of Summer Burgers and Two Beers for only $20. The Burger Days of Summer menu features something for everyone—from the Philly Cheesesteak Burger to the Salmon Burger.

Throwback Thursday will feature Draft beers at 1995 prices.

Friday freebie raffles will take place throughout the day. There will be hundreds of dollars in great prizes and winners will be announced via Facebook.

Saturday, Cafe Deluxe will celebrate the big 20th birthday on June 20th by giving free cupcakes to the first 100 guests at the Cleveland Park location. Cupcakes provided by local wholesale bakery, Uptown Bakers.

Saturday and Sunday and will feature a 20th birthday two-course brunch with mimosa or bloody Mary for only $20. The special two-course brunch menu will be available at all DMV Cafe Deluxe locations.

For additional info visit the Cafe Deluxe site.