Garbanzo’s, Jimboy’s Tacos, Nekter execs drop some (data) knowledge

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Want to really get your customers happy and connected the second they walk in the door? Try giving them something totally free and tasty.

At Garbanzo, as soon as customers walk through the door, they’re handed a generous sample of the chain’s well-loved falafels. Then, well, remember that line from the movie, “Jerry Mcguire”? It triggers one of those “You had me at hello” experiences.

“What that does is it forces our employees to say ‘hello'” said the chain’s Direct of Marketing Devin Handler during the session, prompting rolls of laughter from the audience. “But it also gives the diner permission to go on and try something else. … It really sets the tone.”

That bit of frontline in-store customer connection wisdom was among many golden nuggets offered by the three panelists in the hour-long session at the Fast Casual Executive Summit this month in Seattle, moderated by Market Force Chief Customer Officer Brad Christian. The three restaurateurs on stage included:

  • Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh Director of Marketing Devin Handler.
  • Jimboy’s Taco’s CEO Bob Andersen.
  • Nekter Juice Bar CEO Steve Schulze.

It was a packed hour of information, but the conversation around a series of questions about converting data knowledge into sales by heightening the in-store customer experience was particularly insightful. It began with Christian first asking the three about how they even collect customer data in the first place, then how that led any specific brand initiatives.

Jimboy’s: We collect it in person, through website comments, third-party collection and the like, … but the most relevant information to us is what we see at our restaurants really. Then, we have a scorecard that we review on a weekly basis to see where we need to work.

We do have a number (of initiatives) that are going on … but one thing we try to do (with the data they collect) is really fight through the passionate noise of our customers, where we may just see where someone is either very satisfied or highly dissatisfied. That’s not representative of the whole.

So, what we’re looking for are … the things that move the needle for customers to come more often … and most of those opportunities are in the gray area between (the super-happy and very unhappy customer)… All of our initiatives will be focused on those kinds of things … in that gray area.”

Garbanzo: We watch social media and pay close attention to the conversation we’re in. … We watch and we listen. But, I think everything is based on really knowing our guests. The reason why is that (customers) have all these places you can go based on your needs and this set of three appear (on the customer’s phone) when you hop in your car. … Well our question is, ‘How do you infiltrate that?’

So with us, we saw these Meatless Mondays (being mentioned) in (the brand’s) social media — that movement — so we celebrate that. Using that kind of insight can really drive our initiatives within that kind of ‘strategic cheesecloth.’ We have to focus on the (initiatives) that can really move the needle.

Nekter: Yeah … it’s true. We can get all the data in the world and still not know what to do with it. The most important thing is trying to understand what the data is really telling you.”

Q: So tell us then how customer data ultimately affects your in-store experience?

Jimboy’s: On this, I think if I could encourage (brands) to do anything today it would be to learn how to interpret all the data coming in to your brand. … And really, that’s a lot easier when you know who you are. …

Like we just opened in California and we’ve had people just ‘knocking down the door’ to say, ‘Get the salt out!’ (of the brand’s food). But the same thing that makes people ‘addicted’ to our products might actually have to do with the salt in them, and it’s possible that these customers (complaining about the salt) are not the perfect fit for our brand and that’s okay. But, I really need to know who I am and focus on those people who want that salt.” (Laughs)

Nekter: Yeah, the times when we’ve been tempted to just react to stuff too literally … and then gone off-brand, that just confuses our guests. I think you can over-analyze that data. We made that mistake a couple of times, so now we’ve pulled back and we just concentrate on doing a great job with what we do.

Just for an example, we did a survey around avocado toast … and we put it in about a third of the locations. But it ended up we sold, like, one piece of toast.

Garbanzo: I also think one thing that’s really important is this idea of human interaction (in-store). So (when customers) are going down the line and maybe they’re asking a question like ‘Hey, what is this?’ then we encourage our team members to be genuine when they answer those questions.

So in that case, they may end up answering something like, ‘Well, that’s tabouleh and it’s not really for me, but I do really like this.’ By being genuine they’ve created in-line interaction. When you can do that, you’re ‘golden.’

Restaurateurs benefit big from summits like the one that just took place in Seattle. But there is another three-day event coming up in March when the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit takes place in the Derby City of Louisville, Kentucky. Check out the agenda and join the conversation. 

The 2019 Fast Casual Executive Summit is Oct. 13-15 in Austin.


Republished with permission by FastCasual.

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