Whether it’s the selection of ice cold beers on tap, the nightly beer specials, the famous wings, plenty of TVs to catch the game with friends, weekend entertainment, or a laid-back lunch, there’s always something for everyone at P.J. Whelihan’s. With five locations in South Jersey, P.J’s is a local favorite for food and fun. Heady Times sat down with Jake Karley, Director of Beverage & Special Projects for the PJW Group, to learn more about what sets P.J.’s apart from the competition.
Heady Times (HT): Why do people love P.J. Whelihan’s?
Jake Karley (JK): People love P.J. Whelihan’s because we treat everyone like family. From staff members to customers, we look at everyone as part of the P.J.’s family tree. It starts with the people we hire; they’re our family. In turn, they treat our customers like family. Customer service is critical in this business and our focus on treating everyone like family is a large part of our success and growth for almost 35 years.
HT: Wow! P.J.’s has been around that long? Tell us more about the history.
JK: P.J.’s dates all the way back to 1983 in an old hotel in Lehighton, PA called Platz’s Inn. Bob Platz, the owner of the P.J.’s group, lived above the restaurant with his wife. When it would get busy, they would go downstairs and bartend. It was a humble beginning. The “original” P.J. Whelihan’s opened in nearby Allentown, PA over two decades ago, and the first P.J.’s in New Jersey opened in Haddonfield in 1995. We currently have five New Jersey locations, 11 restaurants in Pennsylvania, locations in event venues like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, the Wells Fargo Center and Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, along with a wing trucks for special events.
HT: P.J.’s is known for the great beer selection and specials. With so many craft beers available, how do you decide what to put on tap?
JK: It’s tough; there’s so many breweries. We do market research, work with the breweries and Kramer Beverage and other wholesalers, and listen to customer feedback. We know that beer drinkers can be very different. Mass domestic drinkers are very brand loyal, while craft drinkers like variety. We carry the staples like Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Yuengling Lager because they consistently sell well. We also have three Sam Adams lines at each location, but other craft brands vary. Local craft was huge in 2017 and continues to do well as 2018 winds down, so we bring in products from Flying Fish and Sly Fox. IPAs are the best-selling style of craft beer.
HT: How has the rise of craft changed your business?
JK: For years, the lines were the same year-round. At most one or two rotated. Now we see the customer expecting a new selection with each visit. If they see the same beer on tap they assume it’s getting old, not that it was a great seller and it’s the third keg. We are always looking for new ways to balance the craft customers’ desire to try new beers and styles with the tried and true.
HT: What else has helped P.J.’s continue to grow year after year?
JK: We invest a lot in marketing. We have an in-house marketing team with a Director of Marketing and Social Media Director that work together to create a unified message for all our locations and get our customers engaged on social media. We also use our TVs to do in-house marketing to promote our nightly specials. Community involvement is a big factor as well. We sponsor. various school clubs and sports teams within the vicinity of our restaurants. We have seen a huge payback from those sponsorships.
P.J. Whelihan’s Cherry Hill · 1854 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill · 856-424-8844
P.J. Whelihan’s Haddon Township · 700 N Haddon Ave, Haddonfield · 856-427-7888
P.J. Whelihan’s Maple Shade · 396 S. Lenola Rd, Maple Shade · 856-234-2345
P.J. Whelihan’s Medford Lakes · 61 Stokes Rd, Medford Lakes · 609-714-7900
P.J. Whelihan’s Washington Township · 425 Hurffville – Cross Keys Rd, Sewell · 856-582-7774