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Joe Sloboda and Aaron Noveshen
From left: Joe Sloboda, a Florida-based franchisee of Voodoo BBQ & Grill, and Aaron Noveshen, co-founder of Pacific Catch, discuss digital-marketing trends during a panel session at the NRA Show.

Restaurants turn to mobile apps for marketing

This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2013 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 18-21. For the latest coverage from the show visit NRN’s NRA Show page and NRN's editor blogs, plus follow @NRNonlineon Twitter. Also find the most compelling digital buzz from the show in one place at NRN's new social media hub.

David Stidham, vice president of marketing for Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s, called all the new marketing capabilities and solutions on display at the NRA Show’s Technology Pavilion “almost overwhelming,” but he still planned to stifle his amazement for two days and search for more new platforms.

His brand of nearly 500 quick-service restaurants began a test this year of a mobile-loyalty program, but the NRA Show was another opportunity to do due diligence on other potential partners, Stidham said.

“I get blown away just walking up and down the aisles looking at these fresh new companies,” he said. “You don’t know where they’re going to land or where they’re going to be a year from now, who’ll get bought, sold or go out of business. That’s why we take our time and are very methodical on who we partner with. But it’s interesting to see the enthusiasm of young digital entrepreneurs developing solutions for the industry.”

In the past year, many operators have turned to digital, mobile platforms for their loyalty programs, replacing paper- or card-based systems with smartphone apps that offer new avenues for communication with guests and rich analytics for brand managers on the back end.

A panelist for a Technology Pavilion education session titled “The Power of Word-of-Mouth,” Pacific Catch co-founder Aaron Noveshen, said his four-unit chain has integrated all digital-marketing and loyalty to one app, Punchh.

“We’re not using any swipe cards; we just decided to put a stake in the ground,” Noveshen said. “I know that’s harder in fast-casual with some lower adoption rates — and granted, we’re in San Francisco where the adoption of smartphones is significantly higher — so we’re betting on the future a little more. We want to invest in a platform that’s where people are going, not where they’ve been.”

Using the same mobile-loyalty app, Joe Sloboda has become more knowledgeable of who his best customers are at his franchised locations of Voodoo BBQ & Grill and Twin Peaks in Florida, as well as of their buying behaviors, the operator said during the same panel with Noveshen.

“What we’ve found that’s really powerful with the platform is the tracking of lost guests,” Sloboda said. “It’s great you’re able to see that this person has been in my store five days a week, but when you see somebody that hasn’t been in your store for 30 or 60 days, you can proactively reach out to them and invite them back with something. To recapture people, you can find out why they stopped coming in and address it.”

Jon Olinto, co-founder of Boston-based burger chain B.good, spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News just before the start of the NRA Show to tout the smartphone-based customer relationship management of several platforms giving demonstrations this year. At nine-unit B.good, Olinto uses an app called CaptureCode to track the spending patterns of the “family members” who opt in to the chain’s loyalty program via the app. Reaching back out to lapsed users like Sloboda has been helpful, Olinto said, as has the ability to identify which guests are best able to influence their friends to try B.good.

“What everybody talks about but is hard to figure out is, how do you take B.good fanatics and make them able to share on your behalf?” he said. “For those people, I can send them a code that can be redeemed for 10 free burgers, but it expires in 24 hours and you have to forward it to 10 friends. Twenty-four hours later, I can get on the system and see whose friends had 10 redemptions and whose had zero. I know you’re either a key influencer for us and a marketing asset, or you didn’t convert anybody and won’t be getting any more free burgers sent to you.”

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

TAGS: Marketing News
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