Read the vision statement of some of the top dining brands and you’ll notice something quite odd. It’s focused solely on the success of the brand, and not at all on the people the brand exists to serve.
For example, Chili’s vision statement is “Chili’s love by 2020.” What on earth does that mean? To guests, absolutely nothing. Applebee’s is a list of corporate values. More of an appeal for shareholders than guests. Chipotle? “Change the way people think about and eat fast food.” It involves guests, but isn’t clearly about improving things for them. Panera Bread says “A loaf of bread under every arm.” Technically guests have arms, so we’re getting warmer.
The ideal vision statement is about the company and the specific thing it will do for customers to reach its big goal. Or at least a reference to what customers get from the brand that will help the brand get there. When the vision statement is solely inwardly focused, it’s telling. The Chili’s vision reads like the experience many guests have when they go to Chili’s; more about the brand moving customers than the guest’s visit. How do they hope to achieve Chili’s Love? Also, what?
If you are in the restaurant business, you exist to serve people.
McDonald’s vision is a very long and winding paragraph that includes references to the experience, their number one product and their guests. It feels very much like what you might believe McDonald’s is striving to achieve. Starbucks leaves out guests but puts a heavy focus on top-tier quality, integrity and corporate growth.
If you are in the restaurant business, you exist to serve people. If taking care of people or trying to give people a good time is not of interest to you, do something else. This is why it’s critical that any vision be centered around the guest. What will you provide your guest to grow your brand? That may sound difficult to define, but that’s the key. It’s the difference between independent restaurants and chains.
The sole proprietor or chef-led restaurant is still focused on guests. On delighting them. On pleasing them. On earning their next visit. Chains tend to lose this focus as they grow and expand into new markets. Corporations add words like integrity and supply chain to their visions to appeal to shareholders. Independent restaurants work for every visit and successful locations never lose site of the guests. To be fair, independent restaurants do not have a vision statement.
That’s part of the problem for large or growing brands. The vision statement is meant to direct the entire company towards a goal. A big goal. It’s interesting that many (most?) audacious futures don’t have customers. Chili’s Love by 2020. The vision statement should definitely include customers if only to identify the party that will fund this future state. But that’s a copout. A focus on the ‘love’ of the brand is not a destination that can ever be reached. It’s incredibly heady and vague. NPS and sentiment data are valuable tools, but neither is an effective way to measure the vision of the brand.
[00:00:05] Adam Pierno: Welcome back to another episode of Food and Restaurant Marketing. I am Adam Pierno, and with me as always, Mr. Daniel T. Santy.
[00:00:14] Daniel Santy: Hello. Hope you’re doing well.
[00:00:15] Adam: We are coming to you today from our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it is typically sunny but today cloudy, and we’re actually happy about that.
[00:00:25] Dan: Yes, enjoying the dreary weather.
[00:00:27] Adam: We’re not roasting for one day. Let’s all enjoy it, to token it. Today we are going to talk about something a little different. We are going to a have a little bit of a different format. We are both excited as Cinema Files and people interested in the restaurant world. This movie coming out called The Founder. The questions it’s asking of its viewers and the question that it spring boarded for us. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it is the fictionalized story of Ray Kroc who was the famous “founder” of McDonald’s, who actually discovered the McDonald brothers’ hamburger stands and built on that, and turned it from the hamburger stand into the hamburger empire that we all know and love.
[00:01:17] Dan: Yes. It’s such a great story and so near and dear to me, I mean I grew up on and which I met a lot of people, dude, but it was relatively new. I remember that when we used to go to at Des Plaines, Illinois. It was the original, and you know the big arches going through it, just a tiny little sitting area inside and real clean, or talk about a simple menu.
[00:01:40] Adam: That one was more of the hamburger stand model with like a smaller restaurant inside. Oh, that’s funny. You still see those and now they’re repopulating those a little bit. Yes, that small dining room.
[00:01:52] Dan: It was so simple and it survived so long. It’s amazing. My dad and I, we’d go get the McDonald’s for the family and we’d always get an extra order of fries, and he and I would pound them. [laughs] Having fries on the way home. Otherwise we’d end up eating everybody else’s fries, and then would be that bad.
[00:02:15] Adam: Those were the originals. Those were the beef tallow fries. Those were the real good ones. There is a place in my hometown called All American Burger, that is still a hamburger stand with the chrome exterior. Looks like a diner, and I think there’s a few tables. It’s almost no dining room and you just queue up and you go through and you order your hamburgers and you bring them to wherever you are going. Something about that hamburger stand experience, and I don’t know if McDonald’s captured it. If they are still doing that, it’s a much more different brand experience. But just something about that experience, just an All American experience.
[00:02:53] Dan: Well, the company they built around that. You see so many brands like of McDonald’s that have a meteoric rise and then they fall out of grace and they just diminish, but without storing.
[00:03:05] Adam: Keeping up for this long.
[00:03:07] Daniel: It’s just phenomenal. It’s equally phenomenal in light of other competition it has faced since its inception. Think about the restaurant industry since, what was that? 1950 something?
[00:03:20] Adam: Yes, ’55, I think.
[00:03:20] Dan: ’55? Yes.
[00:03:22] Adam: What’s interesting about the movie itself, it’s not a movie about the history of McDonald’s and it cuts to today and the new CEO stepping up and saying, “Yes, everything is great,” or, “Here is what I’m doing.” Nope, not at all. It stops around 1961 before there was ever a Ronald McDonald, before they changed their market focus or had one. Initially it was just American consumers. Before all the things they have been facing, and before our awareness as consumers about some of the downside of just eating fast food or not a balanced diet. That’s how dense and rich their brand story is.
They can make a movie that essentially is a ten year story about the founding of it. It is interesting enough to lure an Oscar winner Michael Douglas to be– or Michael Keaton to be in it. A story that is going to captivate people and I’m going to go see it. I don’t know if all Americans are as geeked out about it as I am. But I am. The question that Dan and I were debating and talking about today, and we’re doing this a little different format than we usually do, there is no outline for today’s conversation. For most brands – what would the movie be?
[00:04:47] Dan: Great.
[00:04:47] Adam: McDonald’s is lucky to have this- not lucky, they have earned this long legacy and something’s good and something’s bad. You can look at two sides of even Ray Kroc himself, there’s positives or negatives. That Founder story is such a magical, you think of Walt Disney’s and you think of Steve Jobs, and like the garage story and the whole stupid mythos that goes around all the huge companies.
[00:05:11] Dan: The Hewlett Packard guys. Those are wonderful made in America stories.
[00:05:18] Adam: So we are thinking, never mind just The Founder story. Through the lens of a consumer what would most brands, what would the movie or the story of that brand be, and using that as a tool for them to perpetuate that story that they would love people to take away.
[00:05:35] Dan: You know what brand I think would make actually probably a very good movie, we have to get a good director though, is the story about Denny’s. Denny’s is a lot more like McDonald’s. They have survived a very long time.
[00:05:52] Dan: They are on an upswing now. I drove by one of the other day and I literally almost went in. I need to get in one because I haven’t been in a while.
[00:06:01] Adam: A new one.
[00:06:01] Dan: Yes. A new one, yes. I think it’s a great story. I think the story of the Denny’s could be less about the founder and more about all the experiences that happen Denny’s over the years. Families and stoned out kid.
[00:06:18] Adam: Yes. There is millions of stories you can do it, like that would be such a fun way to tell the story over time. Maybe it’s one booth and generation after generation something different happens and the background changes.
[00:06:30] Dan: We should call them up [unintelligible 00:06:31]
[00:06:36] Adam: Yes. Exactly. Love to bring it up. That’s funny that you bring up Denny’s. There is one that just opened here north of the office and seeing that brand opening new stores. I mean, 10 years ago did you think they would be opening up new stores?
[00:06:51] Dan: Their demise has been predicted for a number of years now.
[00:06:55] Adam: Right? Like everybody in casual dining. I guess that’s the space they fit in.
[00:07:00] Dan: Absolutely that’s casual dining.
[00:07:02] Adam: If I ask, Denny’s is a great one because I can go outside into the office here and just shout, “Hey. Does anyone have a funny story about Denny’s,” or, “Does anyone have a memory about Denny’s.” I know from those 40 people, I will get 10 stories at least I can count on. McDonald’s the same thing. Can i get the same thing at Pei Wei? I don’t know, it’s a different animal.
[00:07:28] Dan: I don’t think so. I don’t think they have the– well, of course, they don’t have the heritage, Pei Wei, as the example. They don’t have a heritage yet. At the same time they were a little darling brand that’s just plateaued. You don’t really hear much about them as much.
[00:07:43] Adam: Struggling to find itself and figuring out where it’s going, and trying to reorganize. What do you think if we say that consumers have good stories about it? Consumers can already tell a story about the brand and that’s part of what the movie would be. That’s part of what the brand story would be. I think that The Founder is a powerful story because I have such a knowledge of McDonald’s that anything they add to it or plug into it, it’s like– we know that attention is a something that people are fighting over and it’s something that at least 100 million Americans know pretty well and eat at. They have plugged into that. They have co-opted that interest that I have in McDonald’s to some level, awareness of it, which is really hard to do. I don’t know of other brands, most brands don’t have that capability to have that mass shared awareness.
[00:08:45] Dan: I agree and when you look at what they are doing with their coffee offerings now and the whole McCafe, pretty powerful. They didn’t go at Starbucks. They just said, “Look, there is a coffee culture out there, and we are not going compete with Starbucks, we don’t want to. We are not going to sell our $3 cup of coffee up. Obviously that’s not who they are as a pricing strategy, but why can’t we up the quality of our coffee and our coffee offering still make a value play with it.” Now all of a sudden probably pretty powerful penny profit for the franchises in their products, in that core offering from McCafe.
[00:09:26] Adam: Yes. It gets folded into the greater understanding of the brand because they are so masterful at the marketing angle of it and passing that information through and building it up over time. I mean that platform we still think of as new but I think it’s 10 years old.
[00:09:39] Dan: Yes, you are right. I think they’ve been putting a lot of money behind with the whole breakfast thing.
[00:09:44] Adam: Now they are on a value. Now they are actually saying, “Hey. Coffee is four bucks a cup at Starbucks. We are at quarter of that. Come on in.” Which is smart. The question of what would the movie be, what would be the story be, is really about, to me, what was interesting, Dan and I read an article that was on the Ringer about the Ray Kroc movie, and we’ll put a link in the show notes. It’s really about how consumers understand the brand. They know how to use the brand. They know how to move around inside the brand. People have their own customization strategy and their own kind of approach. I was just talking to my father last night, and he was telling me, “Oh yes, I went to McDonald’s at the airport, and I did this, and I always do this. I order these two sandwiches and I mix them up in this way.” Everybody has that thing. So does your brand have that? That’s the question. I’m trying to think of another brand that’s out there that’s in the world- let’s talk about Ruby Tuesdays.
[00:10:44] Daniel: In a QSR category?
[00:10:45] Adam: No. Let’s talk about something like Ruby Tuesdays, that’s again, is in a place where it’s trying to find itself. You couldn’t make a movie about Ruby Tuesdays. I’m sure on the inside they say, “No, no. Here’s what the movie would be.” But it’s not going to be about the garden bar. Will it? I guess time will tell.
[00:11:07] Dan: Well, I think the question you’re posing is when you hear the phrase “Ruby Tuesday”, when you said it, nothing came to mind.
[00:11:17] Adam: I threw it out there to see what reaction I would get.
[00:11:21] Dan: Yes, and the only reason I know about the garden bar is because I’ve read about it.
[00:11:26] Adam: It’s an industry thing, it’s not consumer thing.
[00:11:29] Dan: There’s a brand that is in decline, and I think it’s in decline because it doesn’t know what it is, and hasn’t articulated that to consumers.
[00:11:39] Adam: That’s it, and consumers don’t know how to enter the brand.
[00:11:43] Dan: If I being go back to Denny’s, Grand Slam. That’s a great entry point for me.
[00:11:50] Adam: That’s right. We wrote an article about- I’m trying to remember which article from Food and Restaurant- well, we’ll link to everything we mention here in the show notes- about ‘do people know how to use your brand?’ Buffalo Wild Wings is another example. I don’t think you could make a movie about or tell a story about Buffalo wild wings because now it’s the opposite of Ruby Tuesdays. When I say Buffalo Wild Wings, tell me what’s the occasion that you think of? It’s their tagline.
[00:12:23] Dan: I’m going to watch sports, and eat wings with my-
[00:12:26] Adam: What are you going to drink?
[00:12:27] Dan: -Some of my buddies and I’m going to have a beer.
[00:12:29] Adam: Beer, wings, sports, right? We were laughing yet just yesterday we were doing an audit of that brand for another projects we’re consulting on, and they’ve nailed it down so much, which is normally we preach that. Nail down your occasion, nail down your visit. That they’ve hemmed themselves in in a way that they can’t tell an expanded story. If someone says to me, “Hey, let’s go to Buffalo Wild Wings.” I go, “Well, what game is on?” “If there’s not a game, I’m not going. I’m not interested.” Luckily for them, there’s a lot ESPN has serve to put on a lot of games. But I mean a game that is interesting to a casual fan like me. I’m hardly ever going out just to watch college basketball or something.
[00:13:08] Dan: By the way, what restaurant doesn’t have television on right now? I mean, obviously McDonald’s doesn’t or I could be wrong, and I don’t know if they do or not but-
[00:13:18] Adam: A lot of them do.
[00:13:20] Dan: That’s like the old- remember when Quiznos came out, and they said, “We toast our buns.” Subway just started throwing toasters, and you could meet that competition. Well, same thing, “Hey, come watch sports here.” I can watch sports just about at any restaurant where I would go, and sit down like that.
[00:13:35] Adam: Buffalo Wild Wings too is funny because wings were the late ’80s, early ’90s appetizer du jour, or I guess du decade, and- I don’t know French enough to know decade. They just said, “Okay. That’s going to be our offering. We’re just going to be the masters of that.”, and they were able to grow on that because of the popularity of that entree over that appetizer, that dish, and that flavor profile, kudos to them. It’s still a strong business even though they’ve been in a little bit of decline for the past two quarters. But now, what do you do now they introduced hamburgers, and to me that’s what Dan and I talk about is, what’s the move of desperation, and that’s it. When they say, “Well, now we’re going to expand to this.” Now people are freaking confused. Because you’ve been telling me for 15 years that you are beer, wings, sports, and now what’s this? I don’t want pulled pork from you. I don’t want it.
[00:14:34] Dan: I got another place I can go get that. A really good-
[00:14:37] Adam: A really good one. So you better-
[00:14:39] Dan: That I trust and know.
[00:14:40] Adam: Yes, and it’s not cheap. They’re not delivering out of value. That place, you can get into the triple digits on a bill without even ordering beer there.
[00:14:49] Dan: That does go under the idea, “Let’s expand them menu. Maybe that’ll expand our sales.” In that article you mentioned, that we both read, I love what they tested or piloted. It was fascinating. Wraps, fancy coffee, I heard some burgers, but did any of that make- none of it, none of it.
[00:15:16] Adam: No. The McDLT. You remember that thing? Do you have the stat up about their core menu? I’m scrolling through the article now to find it, which I’m sure people love to listen to.
[00:15:26] Dan: You mean what their sales are?
[00:15:27] Adam: Yes, that core, craveable menu that we were talking about.
[00:15:32] Dan: I think it was a Big Mac, fries and McMuffin.
[00:15:35] Adam: Yes, that’s 40-something percent of sales?
[00:15:37] Dan: That is correct, yes.
[00:15:39] Adam: Oh, good. You got it. And that’s part of the story of that brand. Does the McDLT get included in that the famous ad with Jason Alexander? I don’t think so. You can tell the story without that. You don’t need to go into the failings of the McWrap, and some of the other things that they’ve tried. Because they’ve done a few things really well.
[00:16:02] Dan: Now the McRib, I think they’ve been smart about, because they only have it once a year. For a limited time. They don’t try to make it be successful, 365.
[00:16:15] Adam: Well they play the market. That is actually a product, as I understand it, that’s a product of availability at the price that works for them, of the ingredients for that.
[00:16:25] Dan: Those little fake riblets?
[00:16:27] Adam: Yes. So when they can get that pork product, that’s when they release it. It’s not a calendar timed thing. Although I’m sure they’re disciplined in their planning and know when it’s going to happen, but it’s when the price is right, we buy it, and we issue it as an LTO, and they’re just masters of it because the McRib is part of the story, I think, for a lot of people. They know how to use that occasion and when it comes out, there’s a buzz about it, which is not a fake influence or campaign on Instagram. It is real people saying, “Oh, this thing is back. Oh, I’m going to go get one.” Every third year, I’ll go get one, and get caught up in the madness of it.
[00:17:04] Dan: What a great way, though, to actually pull in traffic, then. You’re not a regular McDonald’s guy, but what pulls you in-
[00:17:13] Adam: It’s another way to get me in.
[00:17:15] Dan: It’s what we talked about, that craveable–
[00:17:18] Adam: They also have the benefit, you said it right off the top of this which surprised me that, “Hey, I grew up with this. It reminds me of my childhood.” Every time you go in there, subconsciously, some sense memory happens for you, so that you have your own individual story. Do you think everybody has a story like that for-
[00:17:37] Dan: For McDonald’s? Or a lot of brands?
[00:17:39] Adam: For McDonald’s, yes. For Denny’s, a large population does. For Mr. Goodcents Subs, a local population probably does. But for Applebee’s? Is that a real thing or a manufactured thing? I don’t have any thoughts about Applebee’s it’s like a blank slate.
[00:17:59] Dan: Again, what is Applebee’s? There’s something coming out here in this conversation, and that is McDonald’s had Ray Kroc, the founder, and the Big Mac, and these really successful things like that. But how many brands have that? You know Denny’s has the Grand Slam-
[00:18:25] Adam: They have things they own.
[00:18:26] Dan: Things they own. Say, Applebee’s, what does Applebee’s own?
[00:18:30] Adam: They got all their operators to buy into the grills that they installed, and they put all this money behind it. I didn’t know what they were before, but I sure didn’t know what they were after. Because I’m not going there for a steak. Because in my mind a steak is going to be 25, 30 dollars, as a consumer. So I was just more confused. I think it made me go to Outback.
[00:19:00] Dan: It reminds you you want a steak.
[00:19:03] Adam: Beef is good. I’m going to the place that does beef, Lonestar. I’m going to the place that will do that there. You’re dead-on. I don’t think Applebee’s has a story to tell or I’m sure they have a story to tell. I don’t know people that can articulate that story. That people know how to use that brand and I think the sales and the traffic are reflecting that because I don’t know where it fits into my life. We did a project last summer for another brand that is kind of turning over, and rebooting itself, and we got to do some research for them. It was a lot of fun and very interesting.
We did some social media listening where we looked at the time and day that the people referred to the brand. We thought, “All right, well, let’s just see if there’s a pattern or anything.” And there was a pattern, and it was very low comments, which was not surprising because its traffic and sales were low and we knew that, but the time and day of week was basically the same pace, there were no spikes. When we compared that just for fun we compared it against Subway, we compared it against Outback and for Subway at noon every single day there’s a spike. If you look at it on a seven-day chart it’s like a heartbeat, right, it keeps the brand going. Lunch time I know how to use it and on the weekends it drops. So five days a week, lunchtime that Subway’s business, intuitively you know it but the social media backs it up.
For this brand it was essentially low and flat throughout because people didn’t know how to use the brand. They don’t know where it fits into their life. They don’t know the story it’s going to tell. So they don’t know do I go there for happy hour? Do I go there for dinner? Do I go there breakfast? Do I go there for lunch? So they just stopped going altogether. Probably if we look at Applebee’s and we haven’t done that and created that chart for them.
[00:20:57] Dan: You’d see something very similar?
[00:20:59] Adam: I think so.
[00:21:00] Dan: Yes.
[00:21:00] Adam: Don’t you think it’d be diminished?
[00:21:01] Dan: I think you’d see that flat pattern for a lot of brands out there. Ruby Tuesday we were talking about a while ago. I bet you if you do it for Cheesecake Factory you’ll see spikes.
[00:21:14] Adam: Yes, what do you think those spikes would be?
[00:21:16] Dan: I think it’s a dinner place. I definitely think– and it’s a celebration place too.
[00:21:23] Adam: Yes, it’s transcended casual-dining into that next — actually it’s not quite, it’s not white tablecloth. It’s not fine dining, but people do, it’s a special occasion place. You go there after something happens.
[00:21:34] Dan: Right. I noticed that it’s not just like a big event too like graduating from high school or anything. It’s even the smaller things that people want to celebrate, maybe a good day at work, more on a little bonus or something.
[00:21:50] Adam: That’s part of what fast-casual has stolen from casual-dining as a category. If that’s my every day in casual dining it’s like that’s, ‘Okay. It’s little bit of a bump and then the pinnacle of casual dining which is Cheesecake Factory probably and some other players, steal the special occasion space, well then if you don’t have a story when do I go there. Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesdays and Chili’s are learning lesson. We don’t know. We don’t know. Please come in. Please eat here.
[00:22:25] Dan: Look at the people in my commercial they’re having a good time.
[00:22:28] Adam: Yes, look how happy they are. They’re toasting and they’re ordering all these add-ons, please won’t you do that? Average check needs to go up.
[00:22:36] Dan: I was saying — what we’re asking you about the brand story and it seems like the thread then we keep referring back to is there’s this famous, famous is probably the wrong word, but this very memorable food item so Grand Slam, Big Mac even Cheesecake for Cheesecake Factory.
[00:22:59] Adam: Something ownable.
[00:23:00] Dan: Doesn’t Cheesecake sound good right? i wouldn’t mind that.
[00:23:03] Adam: It never doesn’t, yes.
[00:23:04] Dan: Right. So if you have a chain today, casual dining or otherwise, find the product that can be a pinnacle for you. Can be something that you can point to consistently and it represents who you are. The type of offering you have and build around that’s because that’s, now you build story around that item.
[00:23:28] Adam: Right, and you can — it’s almost that you could make a list of the– I bet if we looked by stock price or by sales for the non-public brands we could probably say, “You don’t have one, you don’t have one, you don’t have one. A signature dish or a signature. Even Chili’s has shifted cuisines from- it was modern southwestern cuisine now they’re doing more of a Mexican play.
[00:23:55] Dan: Is that right?
[00:23:56] Adam: Yes. It’s more of a Mexican influenced cuisine, more tacos and that kind of thing. How the hell can they switch that? How can that — how can you be the brand and make that change and feel good about that if you really do have the story to tell? You know what I mean?
[00:24:13] Dan: Yes, I agree. I don’t know if this is– it feels right, but you one chain that’s really struggling is PF Chang’s, but they have an item.
[00:24:23] Adam: What’s the item? The lettuce wraps.
[00:24:25] Dan: It’s the lettuce wraps, and they’re good for you, oh, yes, not good for you —
[00:24:32] Adam: They don’t have carbs.
[00:24:35] Dan: The whole idea, but lettuce wraps they is fresh–
[00:24:36] Adam: They are good. I love them, yes.
[00:24:38] Dan: They’re very good. You can get it as an appetizer. You can get it as an entree. A attorney friend of mine asked me to meet for lunch last week and said PF Chang’s, I’m like, “No, okay. I’ve been here in forever and I knew exactly what I was going to get but you could have shot a cannon through this place and they were not six tables.
[00:24:58] Adam: No, the last time I was there too, but what’s the story of that place?
[00:25:02] Dan: That’s a great question they just lost its way. Maybe, it expanded too fast.
[00:25:11] Adam: That brand I feel like has a story they just haven’t told it yet. The way they figured it out how to put a real twist on American Chinese cuisine they did some new things to it. That brand has a story. They could make an interesting story about that.
[00:25:30] Dan: I would venture to guess that the recession didn’t help them at all. As casual dining goes that’s– on that price-wise on that brand of casual dining.
[00:25:41] Adam: Right. Then you’re competing with Cheesecake Factory and there’s no veto there. They have everything you could want. That’s interesting. Yes, I think they could have a story, but I think on top of —
[00:25:53] Daniel: I think I’m going to call them today.
[00:25:56] Adam: I think on top of the recession hurting them. I think they’re spread pretty thin. They have that Hard Rock [Cafe] model where they’re not concentrated anywhere. They have a national footprint, but it’s more like dots on the map.
[00:26:06] Dan: Right, they can’t do a significant TV campaign.
[00:26:11] Adam: They don’t have critical mass anywhere. It becomes this tourist destination for lazy tourists who will you say “Oh, I don’t want to try some local, but I know that place.” That doesn’t last very long. See Planet Hollywood it fails over time people get bored of it. All right, well, this has been an interesting conversation. Thank you for humoring our experiments to see where that conversation would go.
[00:26:35] Dan: I do think we’re going to- we should float this movie idea about the booze inside the Denny’s December.
[00:26:42] Adam: I texted Scorsese already so we’ll see.
[00:26:44] Dan: Oh, perfect. Let’s see what he says.
[00:26:45] Adam: He hasn’t responded yet.
[00:26:47] Daniel: Yes? Send it to Bobby.
[00:26:48] Adam: No, I’m on it. I love it. So if you have thoughts or questions you want to debate us on our movie ideas here please do. I’m adam [at]foodandrestaurantmarketing.com. You can get to Dan at dan [at]foodandrestaurantmarketing.com or hit us on the Twitter @FandRM. Thanks for listening.
[00:27:08] Daniel: Eat well.
[00:00:05] Adam Pierno: All right, welcome back to another episode of Food and Restaurant Marketing, I am Adam Pierno, your humble servant and host, and with me today is?
[00:00:14] Daniel Santy: Your arrogant servant and host Dan Santy.
[00:00:17] Adam: [laughs] We are back, we have a great topic today. We wrote an article about this a couple of weeks ago but this is something we’re talking about basically non-stop.
[00:00:28] Dan: Pretty much, yes.
[00:00:29] Adam: Pretty much. I don’t think it’s fad. Today’s topic, Is your brand really digital? Is the way you should pronounce that when you read it.
[00:00:39] Dan: Yes.
[00:00:39] Adam: What we want to know, today everything’s online, everything’s mobile, I have the power of a supercomputer in my pocket in the form of my phone. I can pretty much accomplish anything I want. Brands all think that they are on the leading age or doing ‘digital’ but are you really digital? Are you really understanding the principles of digital that make results happen, make things change and capitalize on behaviors that consumers are leaving every day.
[00:01:12] Dan: Yes, I think many many brands are way behind the curve in this area and I don’t know if they think they’re ahead of the curve, I don’t know if they think they are current or what the case may be, but the vast majority of brands really are behind the curve when it comes to the digital space, and part of that is, and that’s me being a jerk, part of that is the landscape, the ecosystem as I like to call it is in constant flux. So it becomes very difficult to really say, ” Hey, we’re ahead of the curve”.
A good friend of mine is a digital director at an agency, he’s hyper-critical of his shop, and that shop’s doing some pretty advanced things for their clients. It’s interesting to say people are behind the curve, I think I want to be careful when I say that, but I just want people to know that you should be changing with the ecosystem. That’s if you going to dive into digital, make sure you understand you’re going to have to change with the system.
[00:02:18] Adam: Yes, let’s just talk about something that you said is the curve. What do we think is the middle of the curve? What’s table stakes? What do you have to have to be considered even a current brand? We’ve been really digging into this topic across categories, beyond restaurants too but in other retail categories to understand this, but we see, there is are kind of a menu that should exist.
[00:02:44] Dan: Yes, I agree. Email marketing, I mean it sounds so mundane, but really if you think about it, those are some of your best customers because they’ve given you their data and said, “Yes, it’s okay to message me.” Staying current with your email marketing and make sure it’s tight, don’t over send, don’t send things that are ridiculous just to stay in front of the audience, again be relevant, we talk about that all the time. All these things you have to be very relevant.
[00:03:19] Adam: Right, so email is a great example. Having emails kind of table stakes, but having a great email program is being ahead of the curve, so having automated sense, having relevant personalized information that is thought out in catalogue and sent at the right time. That moves that email program, or even have an email program to sign up, put your card in a fish bowl to– ahead of the curve.
If you are doing it right and you have the right inputs in there and you can customize my message and say “You like this dish, here is a deal on that dish today, because we know you coming on Thursdays.”
[00:03:57] Dan: Right. Yes, and one last point on email marketing and that is, look at the analytics, see how they’re performing. When you pay attention to that, you can get rid of the under performing messaging and you can capitalize on the things that perform well. Now all of a sudden you’re again fine-tuning that messaging going forward and so your customers are going to appreciate that.
[00:04:25] Adam: Yes, look at the analytics is step one, do something with that is step two. We don’t have anything to say when people say, “Well we’ve got 50,000 subscribers,” and it’s like what did you do about knowing that? How big are you when you start segmenting and creating subgroups, and it’s not just our customers but this is our chicken customer, this is our beef customer, this is our dinner customer, this is our breakfast customer. Another thing that I think is kind of tables stakes, social media.
[00:04:53] Dan: Yes, unfortunately, no I’m just kidding. [laughter] It is, I mean there just billions and billions of interactions in social every day. You just need to capitalize on that, and we talked about it in a different podcast. The idea of putting up relevant content and then supporting it with paid social. It’s so critical for those of you who understand how the algorithms work, your organics reach is very low these days.
[00:05:35] Dan: Yes. It’s a pay-to-play model, but it’s not terribly expensive and you can control it and once again measure it and test and optimize.
[00:05:45] Adam: But just being there, it’s expected value. As a consumer we know from our studies and reading other research studies that consumers expect whatever platform they use, they expect brands to be there and when they want to complain or ask a question or if they’re on kick and they want to ask a question on the brand, they expect you to be there, and when you’re not, they feel like there’s something missing about the brand.
That doesn’t mean you have to be there, but it means you should be thoughtful about where you are and how you reaching the majority of your customers and not just people in general where you can get Facebook.
[00:06:17] Dan: Exactly. The final one I guess for table stakes is your site, your website, and please please understand that it needs to be mobile optimized, it’s just so critical. Go to a restaurant brand, maybe I’m just trying to find the nearest location, or I want to see a menu, whatever, make sure I can look at it on my smartphone really easily and visibly.
[00:06:51] Adam: Yes, and on the phone I mean you should, this point site should be built for the phone first. We’re all retail, we want to drive customers, we want to drive traffic. Location should be the first thing that’s popping up, and it’s saying there’s one a quarter mile away from you, would you like directions? Here’s the menu to that store.
[00:07:09] Dan: Right, absolutely.
[00:07:09] Adam: Right? Not just a generic PDF, please no more PDF menus. Give me a menu that I can scroll, that customers can copy out an item out of it, share it and send it to somebody and say, “This is what you wanted me to order.” I mean make it easy for people to shop you with one thumb.
[00:07:26] Dan: Ask yourself, “what sites do you use on your mobile device and enjoy so much?” Then say, “what is it about those sites that make it a better user experience? Make it a simple user experience.” Make sure you’re thinking about that for your own site, or if you have someone building your site, which most people do obviously, or designing it, make sure they understand these fundamentals as well.
[00:07:52] Adam: Yes, it’s really funny that when we’re here talking on the Food & Restaurant Marketing Podcast, you don’t have to draw inspiration just from that category. Go look and see what other brands are doing. When we talk about social media, go look and see who is really doing a great job engaging customers or creating content or whatever you want to do, and borrow freely, don’t steal. Be inspired by those, then apply it to your own brand.
I think when you look at people that are doing really well in this space, Denny’s has taken it to a next level of really being on top of it, great community management for a brand that you wouldn’t think even have a community.
[00:08:36] Dan: Right. Indeed you bring up a community management that is so critical. If customers are contacting you or tweeting or posting on Facebook, whatever the case may be, make sure you’re responding. Even if you just private message them or whatever the case may be, that’s all they want, they want attention, they want somebody that say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry you had that bad experience,” and vice versa, they might be tweeting, “Just had a great meal at Quiznos.” I don’t think I’ve seen that tweet in a while–[laughter] but reward that person too and thank them.
[00:09:16] Adam: Yes, and I think what gets ahead of the curve and community management is the voice, the tone. The speed of the reply is important but really, again going back to Denny’s, the way they have been winning customers is just through a consistency of wit and demonstrating that they’re connected to the internet and knowing what’s happening almost all the time. In fact setting trends. Let’s be honest 10 years ago for Denny’s, it was not a relevant brand.
[00:09:45] Dan: Absolutely.
[00:09:45] Adam: They’re forcing themselves to be relevant through conversations that are happening and getting picked up, and copied and pasted and tweeted and reposted across the internet. That’s a huge win for probably the three entry level people that are responding to tweets all day.
[00:10:02] Dan: Yes. Another pet peeve of mine is when the brand is trying to get you to tweet about me. Tweet about me and I’ll do something for you. I think that kind of tends to be disingenuous. This is off category but I made a hotel reservation just the other day and a like box came up after the reservation said, “Hey, like us on Facebook” or in one of the social– they made it very easy for me to do it– should I do it?
Have not stayed at this property, so I’m not going to tweet about something I haven’t stayed at yet. I thought it was a little too aggressive and then they emailed me that same message. Now that was a bit irritating.
[00:10:42] Adam: Over the line?
[00:10:43] Dan: Yes, I gave you my email address so you could send me my confirmation not so you could continue to market to me. I think we have to be wise about how you communicate with your customers and what you’re asking them to do. Like us on Facebook, well give me a reason why.
[00:11:00] Adam: Absolutely, another thing when we think about brands that really are digital. That really get it. Domino’s is a great example. They just keep innovating. They keep on going further, further and further with finding new ways to get people to order, engage with the brand in digital space. That’s great in and of itself. I can order with an emoji. That’s cool and it’s fun and I’m never going to do it. What’s even better is that it’s an idea that gets PR.
[00:11:30] Dan: Exactly, the holy grail of a great marketing campaign is when it does get publicity because it carries itself so much further. People are going to see the story, go look it up online. All of a sudden you’re getting eyeballs, you’re not getting from your traditional TV buyer or whatever you may be doing. That’s a great point. It’s not easy to do at all. We’re not naive about that, but think about that and think about the programs that you have and put them out to the press. Let the press decide if they’re newsworthy or not, but not doing it at all, it’s not going to get picked up.
[00:12:12] Adam: Yes, part of the thing is having a mind for that. If that’s your goal. Thinking about that as you’re looking at ideas and programs as they come up. It’s like, “Could we pitch this? Is this an idea that could get press or is it just an idea?” Ultimately revenue is more valuable, but if you can also get press, that’s great. I kind of suspect the order with an emoji is more of a PR play than the actual. I don’t think anyone thought, “Oh, this is going to increase sales by this percentage.” The shareholders did not give that a standing O with Q4 call.
[00:12:46] Dan: Indeed, I read a great– dovetailing just more of this digital advertising. Read a great Buzzfeed article just the other day. Essentially, I think it was the CEO had pen this particular column. He was talking about the ad industry and the fact that we’re taking linear advertising and putting it in the digital space and how flawed that truly is because the digital space is its own animal and taking what we’re doing in a print ad or television commercial or whatever to try and make it fit into the digital realm is backwards. I couldn’t agree with him more. You’re going to be in that space make sure you think about how those ads, those ad units, the native advertising, whatever you’re doing is going to live with those publishers so that you could put it there in a meaningful way.
[00:13:49] Adam: Absolutely, banner ads are mostly a waste of time and that’s the exact meaning of is your brand really digital. Well, we have a display program or we run pre-roll. At least pre-roll tells your story. Video is powerful but really plugging in and understanding how people use digital, how they use mobile and creating a message that connects that relationship and a consumer creating that beautiful triangular value. That’s what real digital brands are doing. Domino’s order with an emoji, pizza tracker and all those things it just keeps on piling on and making it stronger and stronger.
[00:14:30] Dan: Agreed. What’s your take on apps, Adam? I know you have a pretty strong opinion about the app world. Should every brand have an app?
[00:14:41] Adam: No. I was actually with comScore a couple years ago. It was the late ’14, might have been early ’15 released the stat that said that monthly average app downloads had gotten to zero. [Editor’s note: It was actually September 2016] That people were just downloading fewer and fewer apps per month.
[00:15:01] Dan: I remember you bringing this to me.
[00:15:03] Adam: At its peak, it was 11 a month or 16 a month or something. This was across a general age group so it wasn’t specific to any demos. I’m sure there’s tweens out there that’s still downloading.
[00:15:13] Dan: Plenty of apps.
[00:15:14] Adam: Yes, and since I read that, I really have been paying attention and picking up people’s phones and looking at their phones and seeing what apps they have, looking for ideas. I’m down to two pages and maybe generously, maybe I have 25 apps on my phone. I don’t want to join the conversation with your brand. I eat a lot of QSR, a lot of Fast Casuals. I eat a decent amount of Casual Dining still. I’m probably the last one.
I don’t need an app unless there’s a value to it and I don’t need a coupon. It’s like I have the Delta Airlines app on my phone because it serves a really good purpose and does it in a really good way when I travel.
[00:16:00] Dan: I think what you’re talking about there, Delta is a great example and that’s function. It’s an important function. You’re simplifying something for me [unintelligible 00:16:12] to your point that the app has enormous value. I would think really long and hard about an app but I think is better, that is what we were talking about earlier in creating a pristine mobile web experience for your brand of whatever that may mean for you.
That is probably money better spent than trying to invest in an app because what people forget about the app. Now you’ve got to get people to download it so all of a sudden you got to spend marketing dollars promoting your app to get people to download it so hopefully, they’ll use it and now you’re not using those same. You’ve diluted your marketing budget when you could have been using that to be doing mobile advertising or SMS advertising whatever the case may be.
[00:17:02] Adam: That’s it, you nailed it. We talk about it when we were working with brands. We tell them if you’re committed to this you’re creating another product. Would you rather promote a day part or this app? Because now you have to pull people into this ecosystem to get the ROI out of it. Maybe, you might. I think you’re dead on, having a more powerful website is more important because then when it’s on my mind and I pull it up, I get the experience I want versus now the restaurant, your locations.
You’ve given up POP space to try to get people to download this app that they probably don’t want or they download it to get the coupon or whatever you’re incenting them with and then they delete it or they keep it and it’s on page nine of their phone and they never look at it again. Is that valuable? I don’t know. It’s debatable.
[00:17:53] Dan: It’s such a competitive space and I take your point, why do you have so few because so many don’t provide value. Why would I load up my screen with these things and never use them and I bet if you track your behavior of the apps, you do have it’s probably something like 80 20, 80% of your users have 20% of the apps you have on your phone.
[00:18:22] Adam: I’m sure. It’s probably Mail, Twitter and whatever game I’m playing. It’s those three things. You definitely hit the nail on the head. Delta as an example, I also have the Southwest app. Those make traveling easier. I can get the boarding pass. I don’t have to print anything if I’m on the road I just pull up that little QR code is the only place–
[00:18:46] Dan: Change my flight if I have to.
[00:18:48] Adam: Right, makes traveling easier, makes it simpler and so I keep those things on my phone. But does a restaurant app, how is that going to make my life easier if it’s for– is an Applebee’s app going to make my life easier?
[00:19:02] Dan: No.
[00:19:03] Adam: Is a Buffalo Wild Wings app? How will it improve the experience? I guess–
[00:19:08] Dan: No at all. [laughs] In our opinion.
[00:19:11] Adam: If I was a weekly customer and it gave me a coupon and let me order every week or predicted or did something. It reminded me, “Hey it’s time for your weekly–.” I don’t know. I don’t think I want that either, so why are we doing it. You’re paying for a location finder in most cases.
[00:19:26] Dan: Indeed. Well, here’s the next big subject that everybody’s talking about is data. Why is it crucial? Why is data so crucial and have the publishers in the world who are talking about data, ruin data by referring to it as big data which I think makes people go, “Oh man crap, what I’m I going to do with all this information,” because there is a lot of information available to us, but what information is really meaningful.
[00:20:01] Adam: You said it. Everybody’s talking about it but nobody is saying anything. It’s just like big data is really powerful. The brands that are truly digital brands know how to employ this data. They know what data they’re trying to collect. They have a precision about it. They’re smart and they have a plan for what they want to learn.
Start with a hypothesis. If you want to be a digital brand, figure out what you want to learn, and then say, “Okay. To do that, I need to capture this data.” We work with brands a lot on this particular aspect of how do we better know your costumers? what data do we need to collect?
[00:20:37] Dan: Exactly, and make sure, Adam said this earlier in the podcast, analysis. Analysis. That’s the important thing. It’s one thing to collect the data and that’s its own infrastructure need, to make sure you can actually collect data on what your costumers’ behavior is. Second, is to analyze that. Then third, of course, is to make conclusions and recommendations on and how’re you going to act on that analysis.
I think we miss that piece of the puzzle all too often. With as much data as there is today, it still kills me when I hear a brand say things anecdotally. Well, that didn’t work. It’s like, “Can someone please give me the analytics on that?” What does that mean? Does that mean zero people did whatever it was we wanted them to do? 10% did, and we usually want a 50% of that activity rate, whatever. I get so frustrated because I know the data is there to– maybe there to validate that it didn’t work, but let’s define success, let’s define failure.
[00:21:47] Adam: Yes, amen. I know we’re on the same page about this one. I think when you’re talking about measuring success versus failure and there’s a lot on the line. If you’re a public company, there’s a lot on the line between shareholder value. But for private companies too, there’s jobs on the line, there’s locations on the line. This stuff really matters. If we’re talking about measuring the difference between success and failure, one thing we are obsessed with is attribution.
If we have a campaign that’s about- let’s make it about a day part, so everybody’s launching breakfast right now, that’s the craze. What I would love to look back at this in 18 months and see who still has breakfast. What is really driving breakfast traffic? Which piece of your digital campaign is really working and doing that? Knowing that and going from the top end, so we did this native video series with a breakfast chef, and now breakfast is up 10%. Well, what percentage of those people went deep in the funnel and clicked and did something that you know they used a coupon and they went to your store.
[00:22:48] Dan: Agree because usually in a situation like that where you’re adding a day part or a whole new menu and set of items that are not typical to your brand, your regular costumers are going to try it. Digital lose a lunch over a breakfast a trip, so I think you’re absolutely right, Adam. Attribution is king because, again, that’s the thing that’s going to tell you what’s working and what’s not.
[00:23:20] Adam: Yes, you have to be able to track back. The last bit of this is actually going inside the store. We talked about Domino’s that has great tech to get me to order, and they don’t have an in-store experience to speak of, but Panera has added kiosks on which customers can order, customize their order, choose your sandwich, choose your soup, whatever they’re doing, and they go sit down wait and someone brings it out. It’s essentially a swap out, one for one, with a clerk versus this kiosk.
McDonald is also been testing it with the ‘your way’ platform that they did away with, but they kept the kiosks. Those are digital innovations that make sense for the brand. The digital menu boards are not.
[00:24:09] Dan: [laughs]
[00:24:10] Adam: That does not make you a digital brand. The Ziosk-
[00:24:13] Dan: I love that analogy.
[00:24:15] Adam: the Ziosk table-side tablet that sits on the table at Chili’s, also does not make you a digital brand.
[00:24:25] Dan: Not at all. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that that example you’re giving, again, no different than the app that Panera kiosk is serving a really important customer experience, and that is speed of service. I don’t have just talk to somebody, I’m used to working in this environment, especially, all them- Forgive me for saying it, Millennials, Gen Z, who grown up with technology, they’re very comfortable with it. If you’re going to do that, though, make sure, again, that user experience is a stellar.
[00:25:00] Adam: That right there, the user experience, is what separates the digital brand from the not digital brands. The brands who are saying, “We’re digital. We have digital menu boards. We bought Ziosks for the table.” No, you put a TV on the table.
[00:25:13] Dan: [laughs] Right.
[00:25:15] Adam: Now you have distracted guests. You’ve actually broken the table experience when two kids fight over the Ziosk, or one person is consumed with a game and the other three people are eating. That doesn’t make the experience better, that’s what- I guess it took us a long time to get to this, and it’s not in our notes but- or the article, does your use of digital make your brand better? Does it make the experience better?
[00:25:42] Dan: Yes. I can give you another one that’s a pet peeve of mine, and this is at Fine Dining. Typically, I think some casual diners do this, but please don’t put your wine menu on an iPad.
[00:25:54] Adam: Oh God.
[00:25:55] Dan: I’ve got to scroll and scroll. I mean this is not the experience I want. I want to look at wine menus, I want to turn that page, that’s a bad experience in my opinion.
[00:26:08] Adam: There is something about–
[00:26:08] Dan: It serves no function except that you don’t have to print wine list anymore.
[00:26:13] Adam: But you could print a one-page wine list, it doesn’t have to be fancy. There’s something about the tactile flipping the page and it doesn’t have to be in a book, but- I agree. It’s especially weird on a Ziosk. I don’t want to pick my rosay from a computer screen and be like, “Oh, how about Rose number 91.”
[00:26:31] Dan: Yes, the waiter is standing over me and he’s just, “Would you like bold flavors or you like sweet.” And I’m like, “Go, please go away.” [laughs]
[00:26:40] Adam: That’s not making the experience better-
[00:26:41] Dan: No.
[00:26:42] Adam: -it’s making it awkward.
[00:26:43] Dan: Exactly.
[00:26:44] Adam: Super effing awkward.
[00:26:46] Dan: Well, I think we hit the digital realm here, that’s for sure. I love talking about digital because it is ever changing.
[00:26:55] Adam: Absolutely.
[00:26:56] Dan: That’s for sure. This won’t be the last time.
[00:26:58] Adam: Even by the time we record this, to the time we publish this podcast episode, a lot of things will change. Thank you for joining us. Because Dan and I are both extremely digital people, you can use the electronic mail to reach us. firstname.lastname@example.org or adam@foodandrestaurantmarketing or you can hit us on the Twitter, @F&RM is our Twitter handle. Visit the website. Please subscribe to the podcast if you like what you heard, or if you hated what you heard, subscribe anyway. All right, thanks a lot.