Focus Brands’ optimization of digital technology capabilities across its seven brands gave it a boost through the pandemic. Joe Guith, category president of Focus Brands, shares how technology optimization supporting omnichannel capabilities became the driving force for Focus’ strategy during the pandemic and beyond.
Join us in Denver Oct. 4-6 for CREATE: The Future of Foodservice, where Guith will share more on Focus Brand’s strategy and the future of the drive-thru.
How has your approach to digital technology changed since the pandemic began?
The importance of digital was always there, and the pandemic really amplified that. Specifically, with McAlister’s Deli, we had been making those investments ahead of the pandemic and launched our new digital and loyalty platform about a month before COVID hit in full force. For all of Focus Brands, digital continues to remain top of mind. We’ve ramped up our investment dramatically and we are looking to bring more best practices and uniformity across the portfolio. There are some key themes around frictionless convenience and making it easier to order in more ways than ever.
How have digital consumer expectations changed?
The consumer’s desire for convenience has just been amplified. There are now higher expectations of being able to leverage technology in every part of our life […] The expectation for the accessibility of that experience is going to continue well beyond the pandemic how you streamline [those technologies] will be critical.
What are the challenges of optimizing all those channels and kind of getting them to talk to each other?
I would say 90-95% of our transactions now are integrated with point of sale, it really is continuing to look at the staffing model and how we execute against these different channels. […] How do we leverage pickup windows for third-party delivery? How do we start sorting through these different order modes, so that we not only continue to deliver a great guest experience, but we optimize for team member experience and ultimately for the franchisee to be able to do this properly?
How are you approaching these challenges?
I think it really is keeping the guests in mind. The expectations continue to go up as people across the board are advancing their technology. And if you want to stay ahead, you need to make things easier for the guests. […] As you reduce frictions on both ends — operator included— that's where the experience gets better and better. […] Don’t undermine the progress you've had by starting to introduce too many features and too many things at once.
How has the drive-thru become a crucial strategy at Focus Brands over the past year and a half of the pandemic?
if I rewound the tape three years ago, I would say that only one of our seven brands had a robust drive thru strategy. Now I will tell you, the majority have one. […] You could definitely see the benefit of having a drive-thru at 80% of your units going into COVID. We’ve been on that journey for a couple years now. Moe’s is rapidly emerging. Schlotzsky’s too. McAlister’s is more of a pickup window. […] From a guest perspective, offering them that that convenience is key.
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