Transcript of Food & Restaurant Podcast – A Funeral For Retail

Transcript of episode A Funeral For Retail or read the companion article by Adam Pierno.

[00:00:03] Adam Pierno: All right. Welcome back to another episode of Food and Restaurant Marketing. I am Adam Pierno. With me again is the effervescent and extremely happy, Daniel Thaddeus Santy.
[00:00:19] Daniel Santy: Hello, everybody. Good to be here again today.
[00:00:22] Adam: Dan is in a great mood because we have been attending a funeral for the past year, that just seems to never end. Last time, we talked about the funeral that has been going on for 10 years for television.
Today, we’re talking about the funeral. We’re both wearing black for retail and specifically shopping centers, malls if you remember those. It’s just that it’s sad there’s a dirge playing, there’s a black limousine out front, a hearse. What do you think sir?
[00:00:53] Daniel: We just put a outlet mall in the hearse, there’s a processional that will happen. [laughs]
[00:01:00] Adam: You know what? I wonder– I’ll bet you outlet malls are okay.
[00:01:04] Daniel: Yes, you’re probably right. Well, I have a theory if you want to kick this off really-
[00:01:08] Adam: Let’s go, yes.
[00:01:11] Daniel: -with speed, is I have a theory about malls in terms of their revolution because I think you’re right about they’re not dying, they’re evolving. We talked about that. There are going to be two successful mall types going forward and I think outlets will be one.
[00:01:29] Adam: Extreme discount, extreme value.
[00:01:30] Daniel: Exactly, because everybody likes cheap blank.
[00:01:36] Adam: Right, you could say the word. [Editor’s note: we swear a lot]
[00:01:38] Daniel: Almost as much as they like free shit.
[00:01:41] Adam: I think they like cheap better than free.
[00:01:43] Daniel: Sometimes, I think you might be right. Then on the other end of the spectrum is luxury goods. I think the worlds of Louis Vuitton and I’m talking really pretty much the high-end stuff, because I think people really want– if I’m going to go in and buy a $1,600 bag, either as a gift for my wife or my girlfriend, which I don’t have currently or if a woman is going to splurge, she’s a professional and she just got a bonus and she wants to go gift herself a beautiful new purse or some luxury item, I think they want to see, feel, and touch it. Ordering it online is not the same.
[00:02:30] Adam: No, and you don’t know what the real heft of it is or what the real shape of it is until you’re holding it in your hands. If it’s a bag, leather. I think for tech goods, even for assembling this. Last time, we talked about the all-new Food and Restaurant Marketing studios, I bought almost everything on Amazon and read reviews and clicked links and then when it all got here, this very microphone that I’m speaking into now didn’t come with a cord.
[00:02:57] Daniel: Fascinating.
[00:02:58] Adam: So, then I started thinking, I went online, and I thought, “Oh, I could just order this cord.” and I was like, “You know what? I just want it today and I don’t want to mess around.” I had already had to return some things, I just wanted to go get it. So, I went and found there’s a– I was like, “I don’t even know where to go to buy this.”
[00:03:13] Daniel: Right.
[00:03:14] Adam: There’s a guitar center over there and I went in and I found a person and talked to them and asked them questions.
[00:03:19] Daniel: There you go.
[00:03:20] Adam: And got all the answers and bought the thing and it was like 13 bucks.
[00:03:23] Daniel: Yes, amazing.
[00:03:25] Adam: So, I think that part is not going away. That was a major, major, major digression.
[00:03:30] Daniel: Yes, interesting. Interesting. Again, I think all these stories are validating your theory about evolution.
[00:03:39] Adam: Yes, I don’t think what looks like today is right and I don’t think that the CNN slideshow of 12 photos of dead malls is where it’s going. The real estate’s too valuable. Somebody, either an entrepreneur or somebody that’s already existing in the retail space, will figure out how to reuse those spaces, either knocking them down or just filling those big box spaces.
[00:04:03] Daniel: More than likely [sic]– more than likely. [sic] More than likely, a few of them, and I mean this seriously, will become evangelical churches. You see that a lot where they reuse of a old movie theater.
[00:04:20] Adam: Right, and it’s a good, big, empty box.
[00:04:23] Daniel: Good, empty box that’s inexpensive to–
[00:04:25] Adam: I’ve actually thought of maybe putting a school in.
[00:04:28] Daniel: Yes, there’s another fundamental use. There’s so much going on in the charter school space.
[00:04:33] Adam: Right, they’re expanding and they’re looking for real estate in markets like ours, too. It’s hard to find.
[00:04:39] Daniel: If you think about it, retail malls typically are placed based on the residential density. That makes it viable. So, that’s actually interesting.
[00:04:50] Adam: Yes, that applies to both malls and churches.
[00:04:52] Daniel: Yes, Simon and company, if you’re listening, there’s a couple ideas for you.
[00:04:57] Adam: Yes, send the royalty checks our way. This is important because for you guys that are listening, because shopping, malls, and retail is really the major source of a lot of spontaneous restaurant traffic that pops up every day. So, as we’re watching, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve been seeing these headwinds in the restaurant space while we’re watching these big box major brands close and go bankrupt. They’re facing challenges and people are shopping less and then therefore, there’s pressure on any other cottage industry around that activity.
[00:05:33] Daniel: Okay, imagine if you did the math, just take the last 90 days. Every week, sometimes two or three times a week, you read the article about restaurant chain X is closing 30 stores.
[00:05:51] Adam: Wow.
[00:05:52] Daniel: Think of the implication if those 30 stores tend to be pads at these malls that we’re talking about.
[00:05:59] Adam: Right, it’s a death spiral; one feeds the other.
[00:06:01] Daniel: Exactly.
[00:06:02] Adam: Because you know what it is with retail in general is always clustered. So, when we say mall, that might be a strip mall, it might be a huge shopping center, a traditional indoor shopping mall. But the restaurant that I might stop at next to the store I might go to buy shoes and next to the bookstore that I used to go to get books or whatever else, those are all related activities and so when Fridays closes or Ruby Tuesdays closes at the mall, like at PV Mall.
[00:06:31] Daniel: Right.
[00:06:32] Adam: Well, there’s one less corner of the place I’m going to walk into and each time that mall gets less useful, and until now, if you walk into that mall, it’s deserted.
[00:06:42] Daniel: Yes, it’s kind of like what the West Valley Mall was like but now it’s complete reuse.
[00:06:51] Adam: Scary stuff. So, why is this happening? What is happening and what are the experts saying? Why is retail dying?
[00:07:00] Daniel: I will tell you right now.
[00:07:01] Adam: You have some answers for me?
[00:07:02] Daniel: Well, and you know what? Anecdotal as this may be and literally happened this morning, my lovely bride reminded me that I’ve been wanting to get a new pair of running shoes. So, I said, “All right.” I’m going online right now and we’re having a cup of coffee, I go to the place where I have a loyalty program.
[00:07:25] Adam: Right.
[00:07:26] Daniel: It’s a retail store so I could literally go in, I hate going in and here’s why because they’re vultures. I want a pair of shoes I do not want insoles. I do not want socks. I do not want a cap.
[00:07:40] Adam: Where do you go?
[00:07:42] Daniel: What’s it called, Runners? Not runners.
[00:07:44] Adam: Road Runner?
[00:07:45] Daniel: Road Runner, yes. They’re ridiculous.
[00:07:48] Adam: Sorry, Road Runner,
[00:07:49] Daniel: Yes, sorry Road Runner
[00:07:49] Adam: Maybe we’ll bleep this.
[00:07:50] Daniel: So, I’m all the way– I’ve got the cart. I’m going to checkout. Liza goes, “Why don’t I check my Amazon Prime account and see if I can get that same pair of shoes?” Because I buy the same pair of Asics every time. I love them.
[00:08:07] Adam: I’m the same way, same pair of Adidas.
[00:08:09] Daniel: She goes and they were $35 less.
[00:08:14] Adam: Holy moly.
[00:08:15] Daniel: Thirty-five dollars, same exact shoe. Now, I would venture to guess that the guy or the gal at– what’s it called, Road Runner?
[00:08:23] Adam: Yes.
[00:08:23] Daniel: Road Runner would tell me that the ones on Amazon are the 2016 model or something like that.
[00:08:27] Adam: Who gives a rats?
[00:08:28] Daniel: Right, because what did-
[00:08:29] Adam: I don’t care.
[00:08:29] Daniel: -they do between 16 and 17 to make that thing different?
[00:08:32] Adam: No, the body of the shoe, it’s with the fashion. The colors change. Who cares?
[00:08:36] Daniel: Right. Right, and so boom, abandon cart and head straight boom, and used–
[00:08:42] Adam: Wow, that’s it. Free shipping.
[00:08:45] Daniel: Free shipping and they were offering me shipping because I’m a VIP member
[00:08:48] Adam: Okay.
[00:08:49] Daniel: But still, I mean that wasn’t even enough.
[00:08:52] Adam: So, you’re saying you weren’t going to go into Road Runner, anyway?
[00:08:57] Daniel: No.
[00:08:58] Daniel: But you’re saying there was a reason now that something that made it very convenient for you and very affordable for you to buy those shoes. What was that thing? What was the name of that store?
[00:09:07] Daniel: Interweb? Amazon.
[00:09:10] Adam: Yes, exactly.
[00:09:11] Daniel: Amazon, absolutely.
[00:09:12] Adam: So, Amazon is eating everything and if it’s not Amazon, it’s a store that’s exactly like Amazon that’s in a very tight vertical that is stealing your reason to go to the store. That’s number one and we saw this going back to when we think of it, it was Christmas of ’15. I wrote an article about this. Showrooming had been a big thing, but at that time, what we found was, people would go to a store like Best Buy or they would go to a place like Road Runner, they pull out their mobile phone, they would take a picture of the thing that they wanted, they would Google the thing that they wanted, they would not buy it on their mobile device, they would go home and they would convert on their laptop.
[00:09:54] Daniel: Interesting.
[00:09:55] Adam: So, what they saw was a spike in mobile traffic going to these retail stores, but not a spike in sales and a spike from desktop-
[00:10:04] Daniel: Interesting.
[00:10:05] Adam: -in that same seasonal period. Retail was down that year. Now, we’re seeing that people have finally figured out, “Oh, I can just buy it.” I’ve been trained to either buy it on my phone, which is getting easier and easier and easier, and Amazon has [crosstalk]
[00:10:19] Daniel: Amazon has made it very easy.
[00:10:21] Adam: Yes, and Zappos and a bunch of people have figured out how to make it one click, basically. They don’t– going to the store, just like you said with Road Runner, I don’t really want to deal with– I don’t want to get sold. The experience is very rarely fun or helpful, but there’s some key times when you need to and most of the time you just say, “I just need this thing in my mail box. I think I’ll be fine. If it’s free returns, I could send it back. I don’t need to lose a half a day to go to the mall.”
[00:10:51] Daniel: Yes. I really think that these– many of these retailers like Road Runner need to do a true audit on the customer experience in store. I get that sales is the holy grail, but there’s this fine line between what feels like fake and forced and I think they’re being incented to sell socks this week to–
[00:11:20] Adam: [laughs] That’s the worst.
[00:11:22] Daniel: Right. To genuinely helping me make a good purchase decision based on my needs. It doesn’t feel like that way. It feels like the corporation’s shaping how to sell versus how to understand my needs and then find the right product for me.
[00:11:40] Adam: Right, and you don’t leave there feeling a value.
[00:11:43] Daniel: No.
[00:11:43] Adam: You leave there feeling either A; “I just got sold socks and I don’t need socks,” or B; “Why did that guy keep bringing up insoles? I told them no. All I wanted to do was try on shoes.”
[00:11:54] Daniel: Especially when I have orthotics [laughs].
[00:11:56] Adam: Right, exactly. That’s a totally different thing. They don’t know who they’re messing with. I do think that applies to the restaurant industry, doesn’t it? When I go to a restaurant, I have a lot of choice, a lot of options.
[00:12:10] Daniel: Absolutely.
[00:12:11] Adam: Tolerating service that’s– look, bad service happens. People have bad days. That’s one thing and I think people are willing to deal with that or forgive that.
[00:12:22] Daniel: Right.
[00:12:22] Adam: But mean service, or service with someone who just does not want to be there, or someone who really doesn’t care or a restaurant where you just get the idea like, “They don’t care if I’m here or not.” That’s what is putting the headwinds on the restaurant industry.
[00:12:37] Daniel: Absolutely. Maria told a great story. One of our co-workers told a great story to me this morning about– she was at this local burger brand that had opened a new location up here by our office. Their original location, which is extremely popular, is pretty far away, it’s not some place you’re going to drive to on a workday for lunch.
[00:13:03] Adam: Right, too far.
[00:13:05] Daniel: So, she gets there. You could shoot a cannon through the place; number one. Number two; the server, she said she felt that maybe he was high. She said that it was just– the service was ridiculous. Listen to this story, the ending of the story, she writes– she goes online to their customer service function on their website, she tells them what happens, and she actually says, “Listen, you can use–” I think it was Facebook. I forgot what she recommended, “To recruit more qualified staff.”
[00:13:37] Adam: Yes, hire better people.
[00:13:38] Daniel: Yes, and she goes–
[00:13:39] Adam: I’m not complaining. I’m trying to help you.
[00:13:41] Daniel: Yes, yes exactly. The manager wrote back [laughs] and said, “Thank you for your information. I saw what you experienced. I was in the restaurant when that happened.” Now, can you imagine?
[00:13:53] Adam: Now, is that better or worse?
[00:13:55] Daniel: That made it like a debacle, in my opinion because like– so you– it’s like you just watched me get choked out on the street and you didn’t do anything.
[00:14:03] Adam: Isn’t that– yes, that’s how I hear it.
[00:14:04] Daniel: Yes.
[00:14:05] Adam: It’s like, “Thank you for your sympathy now.” Where was your sympathy then?
[00:14:09] Daniel: Yes. Can you imagine it getting me back in the store while I’m still in the store is much easier than saying, “Here’s a $25 gift card. I hope you come back.” Well, I don’t know, maybe. I’ll probably give it– She said, “I probably won’t go back. I’ll probably give it to one of the young’uns who 25 bucks to them is meaningful. Not that it isn’t to her but–
[00:14:30] Adam: Right. No, no, I get it. I get it.
[00:14:32] Daniel: Again, customer experience, I think it really comes down to that. I was talking about the high-end environment. I want that experience. The outlet mall is the experiences is I’m getting the deal. You feel lie ‘I’m an insider getting the deal.’
[00:14:49] Adam: You know when you walk into that outlet mall that the experience what you’re giving up in exchange for that 35% off, and that’s a trade-off you’re willing to make. I know when I go to QSR that there’s no white tablecloth. I’m good with that because I only want to spend $18 for me and my son to have a meal. He will always choose Burger King because he just loves Burger King.
But I think it’s funny you brought up the high-end brands because, in retail, we saw Radio Shack, we talked about this on our last episode, too, about cord cutting and cable. But the Radio Shack brand, for example, has gone bankrupt probably 10 times since the downturn started and they’re done for good now.
That was a dead brand for a long time, but high-end brands like Michael Kors, is a pretty high-end brand, a consumer brand. They are having problems.
[00:15:39] Daniel: They’re closing a hundred plus stores, I just read.
[00:15:41] Adam: Yes. Yes, Ralph Lauren is a brand we talked about before. Same deal. So, something is changing out there in the world that people are actually starting to think differently about shopping and what used to be the event of going to that store. Even just walking around and then, “Well, now we’re here, let’s buy something.” Nobody’s going around– going there to hang out, so then there’s less of those casual purchases that are off the cuff.
[00:16:10] Daniel: Right, yes. So much of retail for so long was that impromptu purchase. You just happened to go to the mall as a way to hang out and socialize and the buying. Now, shopping really is destination-driven. You went to the store to get that cord.
[00:16:32] Adam: It’s task-oriented much more. Yes, I think you’re right.
[00:16:37] Daniel: Yes. Got to get a birthday present for my wife. That’s very task-oriented.
[00:16:41] Adam: Yes, and you can’t leave without getting something because you probably waited until the last minute.
[00:16:47] Daniel: Pretty close.
[00:16:49] Adam: Exactly, but I’m sure it was a lovely gift.
[00:16:53] Daniel: I like going back to this what you– again, I credit you with this because genuinely, your strategic thought and that retail is not dying. Again, there’s so many funerals being– or so many deaths being predicted out in the media today including retail, but it is truly in its evolution and you talked about delivery. Now, tell me a little bit more about your theory, about how delivery is changing the retail environment as well.
[00:17:24] Adam: Yes. No, I’m glad and there’s an article that is going live. By the time this is up, it should be live, that talks about there’s a little bit more, but we think a lot about delivery here. We just see the size of the trend and we see all the players, the entrepreneurs that are trying to get into the delivery business.
What we’ve noticed anecdotally and also through some research is that if you’re let’s say– I can’t say Pizza Hut, but let’s say you’re like a Wingstop or something, that’s standalone, you don’t have delivery or Buffalo Wild Wings is a better example and you use UberEATS or you use any delivery service. Well, when that thing gets to you, yes, it might be in your box but the experience at the door is UberEATS branded, it is not Buffalo Wild Wings branded.
[00:18:15] Daniel: Yes, that’s a great point.
[00:18:17] Adam: That person is dressed in that brand, that person, that experience is their brand. So, if it’s a good experience, you really don’t get any credit. You know when you get the blame is when I open it and the order’s wrong which– that could happen anyway.
[00:18:29] Daniel: Absolutely.
[00:18:30] Adam: So, what we talk about is, “Hey, if delivery’s a trend and you want to make money in delivery and you want to continue thriving as a brand and growing, what can you put in that box or that order? How can you treat that thing differently to make it feel like I’m having a special experience, even if I’m just ordering because I’m working late and I’m ordering wings for my office and there’s six of us that are pissed off, we’re here late? Make something special happen for us that we say, “Oh, this is interesting.” Sometimes small things like Taco Bell and their sauce labels, the little stupid quips they put on their sauce packets. Dumb but–
[00:19:13] Daniel: On brand.
[00:19:14] Adam: On brand and every now and then I get a little snicker when I see one and I haven’t seen that one before and it says, “Oh, I’m going to make you sweat,” or something. All right, that’s pretty– that’s just the right-
[00:19:24] Daniel: To smile.
[00:19:24] Adam: -amount of chuckle that I expect from Taco Bell. It didn’t have to be this big surprise in the light like they gave me a free chalupa, just a little joke. I think about kid’s meals, you think about Happy Meals that come in that special designed box that’s designed to delight those kids, to make those kids have a good memory.
[00:19:42] Daniel: The food is just the function.
[00:19:45] Adam: Right, at that point, yes, it’s a side item. I think they should– for delivery, if I was a brand like that, that had that business, I would probably be thinking about how could I make this the real star of the show? How could I make the delivery package interesting, engaging, and fun? I mean pizza boxes are a pretty big opportunity.
[00:20:04] Daniel: Well, it’s interesting you brought that up. I think you know this. One of the clients we’re consulting with right now which is entertainment. I challenged the teams to think about how to bring the entertainment component into the carryout.
[00:20:21] Adam: Yes, how do we get it home?
[00:20:22] Daniel: How do you do that? It doesn’t have to– to your point, don’t overthink that, don’t make it, “Oh, we’ve got to deliver some crazy expensive game that they will play.” Make it very, very simple but it’s a reminder, that thank you for getting our product via carryout, but remember the next time you want to dine in, we’re the place that has great food with fun entertainment.
[00:20:49] Adam: Yes. So much of the retail brands that we’re talking about; Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, believe that– I’m theorizing right now, so this is all happening in real time, tell me if you disagree. They think that the brand– in a conference room, somewhere they know it’s not true, but when it gets down to the tactical level, the brand is the product on the shelves and hanging on the clothes, on the racks, and everything else is like, “Eh, it’s okay.”
I think a lot of restaurant brands think the brand can be dumbed down to just “Well, it’s the menu. It’s the food and the server better not be a jerk.” But that’s not true.
[00:21:29] Daniel: I agree with you 100%. My wife’s a big fan of Louis Vuitton and staying on the Kors example. When I’ve gone into a Louis Vuitton store with her and I see the way they deliver the sales process in that environment. I mean they put gloves on and open these drawers to get the item that she’s “Oh, I’d like to see that purse” and they go, they pull it out of this felt bag and–
[00:22:03] Adam: Right, it feels special.
[00:22:05] Daniel: It feels very special and it sure is heck better because the price tag reflects that, but you’re right. You go to a Michael Kors and it’s not anywhere near that level of experience and I do think, to a certain degree, resting on their laurels that the Michael Kors logo will carry the day.
[00:22:27] Adam: Walk out through that office. I mean everybody out there has some Michael Kors product. My son has Michael Kors sunglasses or something. I mean– [Editors note: My son just broke his glasses and replaced with Ray Bans]
[00:22:35] Daniel: Oh my gosh.
[00:22:35] Adam: Yes, it’s ridiculous. It’s everywhere. So, it’s funny if [crosstalk]
[00:22:38] Daniel: Styling.
[00:22:39] Adam: He’s a very stylish boy, but I think about the restaurant brands, it’s almost the bigger you get in scale, the further you get away from the center of your guest experience, and Jesus, we hate jargon and we’re not talking about making it just– what’s it? A customer journey map, I mean those things–
[00:22:57] Daniel: You don’t want to talk omnichannel right now?
[00:23:00] Adam: Omnichannel marketing, for sure all day. We don’t like the jargon. I think there’s value to the journey map, but honestly, we don’t have to overthink the customer journey when it comes to a restaurant.
In 70% of cases, they’re driving by, they’re hungry, and they pull in. I mean there’s not much more than that. They see an ad. They don’t even remember it and subconsciously, they see the sign and they go, “Oh, right. I’m hungry.” For whatever reason, that neuron fires and they go in. That’s the journey. If you let them down after that, they’re not coming back.
[00:23:28] Daniel: Well, and I think that– I’m very cynical about the whole customer journey because first of all, there’s millions of customers. How can you ever– if you’re going to dumb down the customer journey to, “Oh, it should be this,” that means you are missing so many opportunities because if I come in and I’m not following the journey the way you’ve been trained to deliver it.
[00:23:56] Adam: Then what?
[00:23:57] Daniel: What do you do? Especially in a environment where the sales individual or the server isn’t paid that much. They’re not going to know how to evolve and move with what I’m doing. So, I think the customer journey, quite frankly, is fraught with risk to commoditizing it all mostly like, “Okay. Well, 60% of our customers do this so therefore this will be the journey,” leaving 40% which is a boat load of people
[00:24:30] Adam: I wish– I want it to be that easy. I mean I wish it was. I would love to go sell journeys all day. I agree with you. I think they’re more– for most brands, there are some brands that can parkour their way around a journey and figure out how to shuck and jive and build on it versus being constrained. But I think for most brands, they barely have the bandwidth to build the operation they’re trying to build and it becomes a trap, it becomes a tunnel they’re stuck in.
[00:24:59] Daniel: Yes, exactly.
[00:25:02] Adam: Talking about brands, we talked about– we touched on the digital experience. We talked about Amazon who’s eating everything. Ultimately, I don’t think Amazon will be the only company in the world. I’m pretty confident. There’ll be other companies that also exist.
But another side of the digital experience is that people are spending much more time doing things that they think they’ll be able to share online, that’ll be share-worthy, that can be Instagrammed. Most stores at a mall are not that.
[00:25:35] Daniel: There’s no Instagram options in Dillard’s. Sorry, Dillard’s.
[00:25:40] Adam: No, it’s rather hideous, right?
[00:25:42] Daniel: Yes
[00:25:43] Adam: So, when we think about restaurants– who was it? There’s a few brands that do table tents that are shaped like picture frames. So, you can put your face in there and then do a selfie or take a picture of the person you’re with. It’s a dumb thing, but again, going back to that Taco Bell example, it’s something little, like just the right amount of interesting for I’m at this casual Mexican chain. That’s okay. That’s good. It doesn’t have to be much more intelligent or dynamic than that. If it is, that’s cool, but man, if you have a standee of the most interesting man of the world from Dos Equis and people can take a picture of it, they will. They will do it.
[00:26:26] Daniel: Yes, classic don’t overthink it, make it simple. Furthermore, as you know, all our stats our showing this, that user generated content is shared and consumed and liked so much more than the brand generated content because it’s not curated. It’s more organic. It’s natural. It’s more interesting because like-minded people are sharing these things and I think this example that you give, gives the user the opportunity to generate content-
[00:27:02] Adam: And control it.
[00:27:03] Daniel: -and control it and can potentially be shared because they’re friends are going to see it and then they’re going to want to say “Oh, you should see what’s going on here.:
[00:27:10] Adam: Right. Yes, that’s right. It’s more authentic in a way that the word is really intended to be used not in a way that a ’70s slide deck on authenticity for your brand-
-it brings to life the authentic side of it.
[00:27:26] Daniel: Be sure to be authentic.
[00:27:28] Adam: Oh, jeez. These millennials they love the authenticity.
[00:27:31] Daniel: That’s right.
[00:27:33] Adam: Any last parting shots you want to take on retail? Do you think that we’re in the midst of a funeral and almost will be close in the next 30 days?
[00:27:42] Daniel: I do not. I think it’s more like 45 to 60. No. [laughs]
[00:27:46] Adam: You think that’s good?
[00:27:47] Daniel: I subscribe to your theory. This is a major evolution going on, 25% of the malls are predicted to be closed in the next five years. I don’t doubt that. I think there’s probably a great deal of reality that I think like anything in these downturns, if you will, these evolutions, the strong will survive. The ones that are smart and in the right place and with the right mix of stores and offering new experiences within their malls instead of just resting on their laurels as to what’s been driving mall traffic for the last 20 years is not what’s going to drive mall traffic going forward.
[00:28:31] Adam: Yes, I agree. It will be new things. We won’t miss 25% of the mall’s closing. I don’t miss– I haven’t been to a mall. I can’t remember how long. You can close a quarter and nobody will miss them. I think they probably just had overbuilt.
[00:28:47] Daniel: Yes, major overbuilt. Absolutely.
[00:28:49] Adam: Yes, and so I think we’ll see what– as those really do close and are closed or knocked down and rebuilt into something else, the part of the evolution will be, “Okay. Well, which one of these restaurant brands is left standing when a major source of traffic closes?”
[00:29:05] Daniel: Yes, and it becomes the next big question for our restaurant brands as these malls close for those brands that have the luxury of expanding right now and there are many, where are they going to go? I think the real estate model and this is probably something we could do in our future-
[00:29:26] Adam: I think we should, yes.
[00:29:27] Daniel: -podcast is I think the real estate departments of all these chains are going to have to start really thinking about the model they’ve been using to select locations, I think in itself, probably it needs to evolve in the light of this evolution going on in retail.
[00:29:45] Adam: Yes, that’s a great point. I think we’re going to close on that and that’s a great place for us to pick up with our next episode. So, I think we can make a promise to do that.
[00:29:53] Daniel: Perfect.
[00:29:54] Adam: So, thank you very much for listening. If you have any questions, you can email us or or bug us on Twitter @FandRm. You can read the article I mentioned at and please comment, tell us what you like, tell us what you hate. We love to hear it all. We really appreciate it.
[00:30:18] Daniel: Take care, eat well.

Listen to the episode here.

retail, sales, traffic, restaurants
Things aren’t too busy in retail locations.

Transcript of Food & Restaurant Podcast – Steal Your Share

Transcript of Food & Restaurant Marketing Podcast – Episode: Steal Your Share

[00:00:05] Adam Pierno: All right. Welcome back to another episode of Food and Restaurant Marketing. We appreciate everybody tuning in once again. I’m here with Dan Santy joining me once again and I’m Adam Pierno.

[00:00:17] Daniel Santy: Good Afternoon.

[00:00:19] Adam: We are talking about a very fun subject for us because we read the most ridiculous articles in our quest for news and information. If you stack them all into one pile, I think this topic is probably twice as tall as the next closest pile. You want to tell them what we’re talking about today?

[00:00:41] Dan: The prediction of the demise of casual dining as we know it today. There have been so many articles on this topic and especially at the end of ’16 and the beginning of ’17.

[00:00:54] Adam: It’s just big building up steam like the old cartoon snow ball coming down the mountain. Right now, it’s got Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry fully enveloped in that snowball as it continues to roll down the hill just building energy in the media really.

[00:01:05] Dan: Yes. It’s quite fascinating to watch all the predictions about casual dining, to watch all the prediction about the success of fast casual, QSR. In some respects, I think every restaurant chain is facing enormous head winds going in to ’17 whether it be traffic, same stores sales growth and new competition.

[00:01:42] Adam: That’s the thing that always gets left out. I mean in the Miller Pulse study we go quarter by quarter, month after month if you’re looking. Traffic is down or flat. Sales are down or flat. For everybody, it’s up point one percent for a fast casual, which is the fastest grower.

[00:02:01] Dan: Right. You’re predicting 1% decline for casual dining but fast casual is getting 0.1% increase. It’s funny how the reporters spin the data to get their message out, that they want to get out there. They don’t want it to be negative about casual dining.

[00:02:22] Adam: They want to steer away the story, the narrative for some reason. That’s part of what we’re going to talk about today and then, as as always, we try to come with some solutions on how to stem the tide if you’re really facing this. But, my question Dan initiated this topic and it’s of interest to Dan in particular. So I want to hear his thoughts overall. I don’t think although casual dining has taken a pounding for a dozen years and I’m not saying it’s free and clear, people still do go.

[00:02:53] Dan: Oh my gosh. Absolutely. If your traffic’s down 1%, that means there’s still a lot of people walking through your doors and dining and spending their discretionary dollars. My attitude about it is if I owned a casual dining chain, I’d be fighting like hell right now to steal share. Not only from my direct competitors, maybe other casual dining chains theoretically. You would have to argue that that’s where you should start. But I’d be fighting like hell to get people to come in over fast casual and say, “Hey, up your game. Come get better food. Come get a better experience than beans and rice thrown in a foil bowl.”

[00:03:41] Adam: Don’t you dare. don’t you dare. don’t you dare besmirch my fast casual.

[00:03:45] Dan: [laughs] I’m [unintelligible 00:03:44].

[00:03:47] Adam: Well, that’s definitely part of the problem is — There’s an article that we’re writing right now for that talks about identifying your competitor to help you identify who you are and what your actual strengths are as a brand. I think what happens to casual dining is they were involved in an absolute slaughter just on the competitive casual dining front. Before, 15 years ago, before fast casual even came into the picture, and then all of a sudden the was just this new wave of competitors who was eating the bottom out of their business.

[00:04:21] Dan: Well, everybody — I shouldn’t say everybody, but I think people fail to remember though is that one of the reasons fast casual became so successful over the last, let’s call it a decade, was the recession. The great recession drove people’s behavior to the fast casual because it was less expensive. You didn’t have to leave the tip and so forth. You still could dine out. I wouldn’t call that dining but you could still go out or bring home a good meal.
Let’s face it, a lot of fast casuals are putting out really quality product right now. So there wasn’t a big sacrifice. Now, it’s time though. I mean the economy is back, in my opinion and it’s time for casual dining to retake the consumers’ mind. Retake the consumers’ desire to have a dining experience. I think everyone’s lost on that. People still love to eat out and be with their family, be with their friends, be with their co-workers what ever it may be. Casual dining has to quit lamenting the problems and seek to find where the successes are.

[00:05:40] Adam: Right. I think they have to really look at their own individual experience instead of the obsessing over the category failure. You know, if you’re solution is well, it’s how can we get more general than this. But fast casuals, millennials love it. So what else do millennials like? They like technology so we’re going to put a Ziosk on the table. Well, no don’t do that.

[00:06:05] Dan: Please don’t.

[00:06:05] Adam: Red Robin, I’m looking at you. Don’t do that and then that diminishes what happens at casual dining that’s actually a positive thing. Having four, five, six people at a table communicating to each other. Now, you’ve put something on the table to stop that? What are you doing?

[00:06:25] Dan: It’s that follow the trend mentality or any shining thing. I’m sorry.

[00:06:34] Adam: Quick solution.

[00:06:35] Dan: Yes. Quick solution, use technology some how or another. What I am preaching on a regular basis is look inside first. Look inside your four walls.

[00:06:48] Adam: What can we fix?

[00:06:49] Dan: What are you doing right too? What needs to be fixed? Do a true self-examination of what’s not working, what is working. Shed what’s not and focus on what is.

[00:07:02] Adam: Totally. Sometimes, the biggest innovations are not something like Ziosk. Sometimes the biggest innovation is somebody really paying attention to their menu and their mix and saying, “You know people really like this appetizer, our mac and cheese appetizer. I wonder if we could turn it in to a burger entree or I wonder how we can get that as a platform and sell more of it and make the people who like it really happy.”

[00:07:28] Dan: Yes. Or hoist it up. You could even be simpler with this.

[00:07:30] Adam: Put an LTO around that exact thing.

[00:07:33] Dan: Right, exactly.

[00:07:33] Adam: Sell it — bundle it with something else and just make it attractive and remind me that I like it.

[00:07:37] Dan: Right. It does two things. Number one, what you just said and it reminds your core customer that you like it. It reminds your lapsed customer who maybe hasn’t been in a little while, “Oh, I used to love that item,” and then finally it’s something that a customer that you’ve never had before goes, “Hmm, doesn’t that look delicious?”

[00:07:57] Adam: Right, right. But you know it’s going to get paid for by the people who already like it.

[00:08:01] Dan: Exactly.

[00:08:01] Adam: So that leads me to the fourth thing that it does well and that environment is it doesn’t cost you anything. If it’s an item you’re already selling, you don’t have to go and calculate the cost you just have to say I think we’re going to sell 10% more if we put this much promotion behind it or if we resell it or we train our servers to sell it in this way.

[00:08:20] Dan: Exactly.

[00:08:22] Adam: There’s your percentage off that you are on sales. Right?

[00:08:28] Dan: Exactly, exactly.

[00:08:30] Adam: I mean we can really go on and on about that, just optimizing and looking at your internal processes. But I think today, what we want to talk about is everybody is saying the demise of casual dining is coming. We don’t agree. I think there’s going to be some brands that shake out in 2017 and then we’ll have an article coming about which brands we’re predicting or will be gone.
But I think what we want to talk about today is really about, listen, is if you’re in the casual and dining environment, how can you steal share? It’s time to retrench yourself. Dig in. Let’s talk about some five steps to stealing share. Then if your outside the casual dining sphere, I think this is going to be interesting to hear. Some strategies you’ll be facing from the casual dining environment which I believe is actually going to turn around.
We’re not going to say 10% gains but I believe as we lose some poor performers, the category is going to look a lot different in comp sales and in category sales. When you get some of those B players and C players out of there. It’s going to change things a lot.

[00:09:38] Dan: I agree a hundred percent. The other thing that’s happened over the last two, three, five years I would guess, don’t have any hard stats on these but there’s a number of stores that have been closed which helps dramatically to we were overpopulated with locations. Now, seeing a number of different brands close 20, 30.

[00:10:01] Adam: 90.

[00:10:01] Dan: 90 stores which is good. Now, we keep seeing stores opening as well obviously, whether it’s new brands or fast casuals expanding or whatever. Regardless, when you have fewer locations, you’re going to be able to increase your margins at your best performing restaurants.

[00:10:22] Adam: Yes, the competition gets a little less fierce. You could argue that they were more — we were over saturated in casual dining locations before fast casual even started to blow up. I mean it was ridiculous for every good location there were probably three subpar, not brands but locations that just under delivered. Of course, that sets the sage for another category to come in and take business.

[00:10:49] Dan: Yes. It’s what I call the Cold Stone [Creamery] problems that many of them expanded too fast. Not being really disciplined about A locations, starting to accept for just to get stores open B and sometimes C locations. If you look across those brands that have shuttered stores, I would eventually guess you could argue that many of them were B and C locations and that’s why they were struggling or suffering in the first place.

[00:11:17] Adam: Yes. Well, what’s unfortunate is if you’re in the environment where you’re looking at closed doors, a lot of times you don’t get a choice about the A and B and C locations you would like to but a lot of times you just say, “Okay, well what leases are expiring,” and now you’re losing an A location in a prime spot that drives a lot of traffic because the brand is taking a beating. It’s hard to reconcile if a landlord who now says, “Well, I don’t know if I want your outdated brand in there when I could put a Yard House in here.” It’s an up and coming concept that will fill this 7,500 feet and have customers.

[00:11:54] Dan: The real estate game is so important that it’s probably something we should talk about on one of these broadcasts because I think it’s long been misunderstood on how important location is for a restaurant brand.

[00:12:10] Adam: Yes. Each brand has their own footprint or thumbprint that they need to make it work. That’s a great idea, let’s put them in the pipeline. I have a guest we can bring on for that. We’ll keep you posted. Let’s talk today though about stealing share. If we are in a casual dining brand, let’s talk about the five steps that we think we need to take to steal that share. We already kind of started talking about one. You want to dig in a little deeper?

[00:12:40] Dan: It’s what I call the cravable core. Again, this is examining a couple of things. One is your menu, you know through your sales data, what you’re selling. You know not only what only what you’re selling, you know where margin is. You have to find the cravable core and hoist them up like we mentioned earlier and really push them. Don’t think of it as, “Oh, all people are tired of this,” they’re not. It gives them a reason to come in. It reminds them why they come in the past.

[00:13:16] Adam: Yes. If you think of most brands, you can probably identify the cravable core without knowing the sales. Without seeing the numbers, it’s usually pretty clear and then when you sit down as a consumer you say, “Well, what are these? The last five pages of this menu don’t make any sense. Or, I’m looking at the board and the first three screens feel related and then there’s that fourth screen where it’s, what?”

[00:13:40] Dan: What is all this stuff?

[00:13:40] Adam: Why is there a Mexican item up there, like Green Burrito at a Carl’s Jr. Why is that happening?

[00:13:45] Dan: Yes. That falls in line with the same, not only the cravable core but the idea of simplification too. Remind people why they’ve loved coming into your restaurant for so many years. You started adding things, the thing got bigger a lot of times, we were adding things to think we were being competitive with someone opening up down the road or a new flavor profile or God forbid, we had to chase millennials with something specific. You’ve got to really look at the menu and simplify it so people understand what they’re coming in for and remind them why they like it so much.

[00:14:28] Adam: Yes. I blame that stretch of the menu on the success of Cheesecake Factory that looks and sounds a casual dining brand but it’s its own animal, it’s its own beast. It does things a lot differently than everybody else and the menu is a novel. It’s Dostoyevsky of a dining place with ads in it. I mean it has its own gravitational pull and I think it had a lot of casual dining brands. Well, we could expand. All of a sudden, we could do pasta. That’s an easy thing to do. Stop it right there, don’t you dare.

[00:15:02] Dan: Right. Please don’t. Please don’t.

[00:15:04] Adam: It’s time to retrench and focus on.

[00:15:06] Dan: Mexican restaurant adding hamburgers.

[00:15:09] Adam: Right, let’s not do that. That’s not why they’re coming. What about item number two here?

[00:15:15] Dan: Well I’ll go broader than just the LTO which is what I want to talk about in item number two. Before that, is to talk about spending measured media. You have got to spend to drive traffic. Awareness equals traffic, it’s just that simple. Retreating and not spending is not the way to go, especially if you want to steal share. We always believe in again, in the simple approach of saying LTO. So this limited time offer on a cravable core item is a really easy way to get traffic in the door. Your staff already understands that product. You don’t have to do anything from an operational stand point. Put the core price that you’ve always had or if you want to discount it go ahead.

[00:16:16] Adam: That depends on your business.

[00:16:17] Dan: That’s up to you. A lot of times, we’ll put LTOs together for clients and just say put the regular price on there. We just want to get people a reason to come in because do not forget, people are making that dining decision late. You have an opportunity every day to capture share by being out there and giving them a reason, reminding them that you’re here and get your share of their stomach.

[00:16:45] Adam: Yes, that’s an interesting point people are making that decision late. We know that they make it within under an hour in the most cases or some people don’t actually even consciously think about where they’re going. Our research showed us that 17% just end up at a restaurant not sure how they got there. It speaks to, you said measured media and that the climate, the environment that we’re in is for conversion and tracking and metrics and measurements which we wholeheartedly believe in.
But, the idea that every impression can be tracked to a purchase or it failed is ridiculous. We know that I have to be aware of the thing to consider it as a consumer and so if you don’t show me something that I can just background process, yes. Is it nice to have a coupon I click to or is it nice to have something that takes me to an experience that drives me to the store? As much as we can, yes, you want to do that.

[00:17:40] Dan: Yes. I’m glad you’re bringing that up about digital tracking and attribution. Listen, in that model and it’s great that we can track. It’s great that we can attribute sales in some cases to some of that activity. The truth be told is you still have to have frequency. You got to have an integrated plan. Now, that’s why I still as you know follow my sword for television when you can afford it. Now, we’re big proponents of streaming TV.

[00:18:15] Adam: We’re going to do a debate on television. Me versus you, I think it’s time. I think it’s time.

[00:18:21] Dan: Ding, ding, ding. Round one. I love it.

[00:18:22] Adam: That’s going to another episode or maybe that would be a good place to bring in another expert, another guest, because I agree with you.

[00:18:29] Dan: I think it would have to be a moderator to prevent us from duking it out.

[00:18:33] Adam: We’re doing an octagon, right. I do think I love the awareness play and I love that when the math works, when the economics works that I have the budget to do it in a market. I’m penetrated in a particular market. I love it and I love awareness. I want to — I think we really need to dig in on it. I think people would be interested to hear the —

[00:18:54] Dan: I think that’s fair. Clearly the landscape it should be but another time.

[00:19:00] Adam: Another time, yes. Put a pen in that. Put a pen in that. Your point is that LTOs can be used to drive traffic. It doesn’t have to actually be on sale or discount but it can be. I think the most important thing that we’ve seen is the LTO as your brand message, gives them both a reminder of your brand. That if you choose the right item from the cravable core, it’s telling them something, signaling them something about the brand and the experience based on what that food is. If it is a mac and cheese ante as we said earlier, I kind of get what I’m walking into. Then third, it’s a reason that’s what they need. They go, “Oh, yes, right, I want to go in and get that thing.”

[00:19:41] Dan: If priced right, under that 9.99, magical. What we like to think is that magical 9.99 if you’re bundling something up. Obviously, the mac and cheese isn’t 9.99. Regardless, make that very attractive and you’re going to — same thing, you get a credit with the consumer that, “Oh, it’s not as expensive as I remember.”

[00:20:01] Adam: That’s right. That’s right.

[00:20:02] Dan: Or as I think it is.

[00:20:04] Adam: Now, the awareness is buffered a little bit. You’re hedging on that just awareness play of let’s say your TV or digital display because you actually have an offer that you’re putting forward. It’s not just a brand advertisement that’s saying, “We make the best X. It’s proof point. We’re going to put our money where our mouth is. Come in and try this for this. It’s a bet.”

[00:20:26] Dan: Right.

[00:20:26] Adam: You’re going to like this.

[00:20:26] Dan: The LTO could be attacked, right?

[00:20:28] Adam: Yes.

[00:20:29] Dan: Depending on the unit type. Just sell the brand. Remind them why they like the brand.

[00:20:36] Adam: Then pay them off.

[00:20:36] Dan: Here’s the reason to come on in. The next thing I wanted to talk about, Adam, is because I didn’t — this falls under the category of why are we still doing this if it’s not working.

[00:20:48] Adam: Yes. This goes to the debate we were just starting to have.

[00:20:50] Dan: Right. Right. I think you have to really examine where you are spending your money. Is it really effective or are we just doing what is it we’ve always done? Is the agency just recommending what it knows? You’ve really, I think today because the landscape is shifting so dramatically so often, have to continually be auditing where you’re measured media dollars are going and use the data you have available to you.

[00:21:20] Adam: What is that? The medium is the message, is the cliche?

[00:21:24] Dan: Right.

[00:21:24] Adam: But if you’re investing hugely in spaces like couponing or FSI’s are just a killer.

[00:21:32] Dan: Right.

[00:21:32] Adam: If you’re not executing those flawlessly, they’re just eroding you’re same store sales. Because depending on how you’re doing, we’ve seen brands that are over doing those and training consumers or living the definition of insanity where they’re expecting consumers to start coming in and paying full price when twice a month they’re sending them coupons.

[00:21:52] Dan: Right.

[00:21:52] Adam: They’re never coming in for full price if that’s what your medium X is made up of.

[00:21:56] Dan: How many brands have we consulted with over the last three years, that when we inherited those great clients, they were on that coupon heroine, which is what we used to call it. Getting them to transition off it is tough. It’s difficult.

[00:22:14] Adam: It’s probably a year and a half process if you’re really, really — if the things are working as they’re suppose to work, you’re looking at an 18-month or two-year deal to comp over the really best periods.

[00:22:26] Dan: Right. But you can do it.

[00:22:27] Adam: Yes.

[00:22:27] Dan: We’ve seen it done now-

[00:22:28] Adam: We’ve seen it done.

[00:22:29] Dan: – a number of different times and a number of different ways.

[00:22:32] Adam: It’s a commitment.

[00:22:33] Dan: Yes. It is.

[00:22:34] Adam: It’s a commitment from everybody all the way up. If you don’t have the commitment of the people at the top you can’t, you will not pull it off. You will be replaced sometime in the first six months when they start looking at the end of the year.

[00:22:45] Dan: But the message has to be, if you’re going to go down that path is that, this is going to change the makeup of the our consumers’ mindset. This is going to allow us to actually drive sales without giving things away, which means we can start getting our margin back.

[00:23:01] Adam: That’s the name of the game.

[00:23:03] Dan: You’ve got — traffic’s one thing. Same store sales is another and then the Holy Grail. Are you getting margin on that?

[00:23:09] Adam: Right.

[00:23:10] Dan: Or are you giving up margin just to get somebody to walk through the door and they won’t walk through again unless you give up more margin again.

[00:23:17] Adam: That’s the problem. Yes. But also, I picked on FSI’s and couponing. But, I mean awareness equals trial, as we said earlier. So is your — we’re talking about looking at media plans as they exist. Are you even hitting the right people and getting them aware or are you spending in a way that’s missing the target? Sometimes we see that brands are doing something because they always did it but meanwhile the markets moved and they just didn’t even notice that their audience is not the same audience or somebody’s already come and eaten that audience up.
You can’t have many more because five guys has that audience now. Now, we have to find a new audience and here’s the media we can use to get that.

[00:23:56] Dan: Yes. Please, please do not say we need to reach millennials.

[00:24:02] Adam: There’s only 80 million of them. I hope you have a lot of money if your goal is to reach them. You really can’t do it with TV for half of them.

[00:24:10] Dan: I think marketers have been mislead dramatically about trying to put all these millennials in a bucket and characterize them all to have the same seven traits. I think the work we do around personas and defining the range of different types of people coming into our clients’ establishments is much better because then we go find look like customers. That takes more work. The millennial push is simple, say, “I’m going to target millennials.” Are you really? Is that a demographic? Is it a mindset?

[00:24:46] Adam: Right.

[00:24:47] Dan: What does that even mean?
[00:24:48] Adam: Yes. I think you want to be as specific as you can with your target. A lot of times, that makes people uncomfortable to get more specific because if I’m shooting at 80 million people it seems like a bigger and a bigger number I can go get. But honestly, you want to get it as well defined as you can and then as Dan is saying, test different look alikes that differ on smaller variables and the media will participate.
I mean, there are ways to target geographically. If we know — if we look at each location and we target. We just start with the one or two locations and you figure out this is the zip code that drives the most traffic to this stores. Then you find the zip codes that are just like those.

[00:25:31] Dan: Exactly.

[00:25:31] Adam: Or where are they coming from? Well, a lot of our traffic comes from this mall.

[00:25:35] Dan: Right.

[00:25:36] Adam: Okay. Now, we know that we can use that as a target. What can we do to drive more traffic from that space?

[00:25:40] Dan: The other thing to avoid, especially now that we have more data available to us, is it’s not a concentric circle.

[00:25:50] Adam: Right.

[00:25:51] Dan: The whole idea of a one-mile radius, a three-mile radius, a five-mile radius. That’s not how it works because traffic patterns don’t work that way. Everything is not — you’re not the hub of the city. [laughs] I think the geo targeting work we’ve done using some of our proprietary tools have really helped cut clients see that some people are actually driving a relatively significant distance to get to the restaurant.

[00:26:20] Adam: Right.

[00:26:21] Dan: Which means let’s make sure we target the other people in that zip code.

[00:26:25] Adam: Man, and I understand why they’re willing — why are those people willing to drive.

[00:26:28] Dan: Exactly.

[00:26:29] Adam: Which goes to your next point here in the outline, interest.

[00:26:33] Dan: Right.

[00:26:34] Adam: Right. What about — why are they treating it differently? You have those people in almost every brand we’ve ever consulted with that are willing to go an extra half travel distance to get to the place. Why? What do they see about it differently than the locals that are right inside your standard trade area?

[00:26:55] Dan: It’s your product.

[00:26:56] Adam: Right.

[00:26:57] Dan: It’s your experience that you’re putting out. Nobody is going to travel an extra mile or two or whatever the number is because they had a bad experience.

[00:27:09] Adam: Right, because it’s average.

[00:27:09] Dan: Right. They go, “Let’s go to the average restaurant.”

[00:27:12] Adam: That’s right.

[00:27:13] Dan: No. “You know what, I love this menu item. Let’s go there.” That’s that craving thing.

[00:27:19] Adam: Yes.

[00:27:21] Dan: It breaks the barrier, quite frankly.

[00:27:24] Adam: Really, unlocking what it is about the experience or what they’re interested in particular. Let’s just build a bigger audience to go test against.

[00:27:32] Dan: Yes, testing is obviously another thing that we preach extensively especially as it relates to digital media today. I think a lot of brands are a little bit nervous about digital media and I don’t blame them. It’s an emerging landscape or evolving rather landscape. There’s been all kinds of talk about its efficacy but the bottom line is test, test, test, test, geofencing. Test, interest based ads and see what works because not every message it — just putting one message out there anymore, you’re not going to attract –

[00:28:15] Adam: No.

[00:28:15] Dan: – every audience that’s available.

[00:28:16] Adam: Yes. Especially when we go back to measurement, we’re talking about testing and measuring and optimizing so you’re being efficient with any investment that you’re making. But if it’s the online media to an offline experience tracking that through. I mean there are definitely ways to do it and tracking threshold crossings and tracking parking lot arrivals and tracking coupons and all that stuff. I think that’s where it gets uncomfortable for people as they’re trying to navigate the spaces, “Well, I can track it and therefore I will be measured by the success of testing this.” Well, maybe.
[00:28:51] Dan: I think the —

[00:28:52] Adam: But testing it at standing still is not a good strategy.

[00:28:55] Dan: Right.

[00:28:55] Adam: I’m just not doing that.

[00:28:56] Dan: Right. I think that brands have to be willing to change things up and not change things up in a reactive way like, “Oh, sh*t.” Sorry. “Oh, shoot.”

[00:29:10] Adam: I can cut that out.

[00:29:13] Dan: Traffics down and you do that knee jerk reaction. You can’t do that because then you end up putting programs together that are not strategically thought through.

[00:29:24] Adam: Right. We have to be on Snapchat.

[00:29:25] Dan: Right.

[00:29:26] Adam: No, you don’t.

[00:29:27] Dan: Please.

[00:29:27] Adam: Some brands do but you probably don’t, whoever you are listening.

[00:29:31] Dan: Right. [laughter]

[00:29:34] Adam: All right. Well, I think we’ve run the gamut on this topic. You may see a repeat of this as we dig back in. I have a feeling the articles will not stop on casual dining’s demise.

[00:29:45] Dan: No. No.

[00:29:46] Adam: As we predict, you’re going to see some brands falling off. So each new tombstone is going to bring another ream of articles about the demise of the entire category.

[00:29:57] Dan: We welcome you to have a counterpoint. Maybe you believe that casual dining is absolutely in a death spiral. If you do, please let us know. We love to go back and forth-

[00:30:10] Adam: Absolutely.

[00:30:11] Dan: – with people and debate things. Thanks again for listening.

[00:30:15] Adam: Absolutely. Thanks for listening.

Transcriptions by Go Transcript.

targeting, share, experience, brand, LTO, daypart

Listen to the Episode.

Another Challenging Year for Restaurants

If you thought 2016 was challenging you better hold on. 2017 is not poised to get better. Even with Republicans controlling both the Congress and White House and the opportunity for reduced regulatory burden on businesses, the outlook is tough for a host of competitive reasons and a continued over supply of eateries.

Chicago-based NPD expects restaurant industry traffic to remain stalled in 2017. Traffic to dine-in brands AKA casual dining, will continue to fall at a rate of 2%. They do however bode slightly better for quick serve brands with traffic projected to grow 1%, hardly a panacea in light of the expanded competition from grocery. And to further cloud the traffic picture, gas prices are projected to continue to rise again.

Innovation is critical to continued success and a way to stay competitive.

Consumers’ apetites for dining out continue to be stymied by the prepared foods industry. And the competition is not just coming from traditional grocery stores. Increased options and improved quality at C-Stores will continue to provide viable options for consumers. Take into consideration the attractive value proposition of better quality, more options, less expensive and convenience and you have a cadre of tough competitors for share of stomach.

So what’s a quick serve and any dine-in brand to do? First and foremost make sure to deliver on the basics. Create superior dining experiences. Immaculate restaurants and food quality are ways to win consumers for that next dining out occasion. Our research shows how important the customers the last visit plays into future decisions on a return visit to the same brand. Training or retraining staff to surprise and delight the customer is an inexpensive way to deliver that superior dining experience.

Innovation is critical to continued success and a way to stay competitive in a challenging environment. And I’m not talking about building an app. App downloads are down significantly as people are demanding apps that provide utility and it’s unlikely a restaurant brand can provide the kind of utility Uber provides, which is the standard by which most apps are judged. Instead, consider innovation on your menu with flavors from the season or capitalize on popular flavor profiles that consumers crave. Millennial customers are fond of bold interesting flavors you can’t find just anywhere.

Test different options in a few units before rolling out to the entire system. Our research show customers love the opportunity to weigh in on what their favorite brand is testing. Utilize a high performing store with a strong manager, this guarantees a meaningful test that can be replicated over and over. It also helps refine the preparation and presentation for a highly effective roll out.

We are also seeing technology playing a key role in innovation. Although probably the more expensive route it’s necessary to stay ahead of the curve on collecting critical data to analyze and leverage to better understand your customer’s habits and behavior. Once you know who your best customer is and what they like you can leverage that information to go get more of them.

Mobile ordering is growing exponentially and if having that feature makes sense for your brand make the investment. We are seeing many brands generating significant incremental sales and ROI on mobile ordering by leveraging intelligent upsell opportunities.

It’s not the apocalypse but these are challenging times for restaurant brands and prepared food in general. You’ve been in business a while now and you know it’s cyclical. Stay focused on the fundamentals of delivering great hospitality. Innovation is critical to staying competitive and technology will keep you ahead of the change curve.