July 22, 2017

Alex Brounstein – Grindhouse Burgers Atlanta

Alex Brounstein at Grindhouse Burgers

Alex Brounstein at Grindhouse Burgers

Alex Brounstein is the owner of one of Atlanta’s newest burger joints – Grindhouse Killer Burgers. However, instead of opening a “burger boutique,” which seem to be all the rage, he went old school, but with high quality ingredients. The result is one of the hottest new spots in Atlanta.

His recipe for success is simple:

  1. Work hard to get stimulus money for a city icon (more than $700,000 for the Sweet Auburn Curb Market) and in the process discover a hidden gem of a location with lots of foot traffic.
  2. Get a great lease on an unused space that is already mostly built out – including a kitchen.
  3. Brand the location and the restaurant simply, but with some flava.
  4. Hand out flyers to everyone you see and email all your friends.
  5. Randomly meet a popular food blogger that ignites a viral campaign that scorches its way across social media and creates long lines of people within 2 weeks of opening.

Simple.

(see Community Cultivator’s other blog post on Grindhouse to get my initial impressions right after the grand opening)

This is Alex’s first restaurant and he shared some insights on how to reach your target audience, connect with patrons, and get butts in seats.

Audience

Sweet Auburn Curb Market - Atlanta

Sweet Auburn Curb Market - Atlanta

Sweet Auburn Curb Market is located in downtown Atlanta on Edgewood Avenue. It’s just steps away from Grady Hospital and Georgia State and just a few blocks away from big buildings that house big companies. It’s also close to a historically seedy part of town. Based on location, Alex’s patrons are:

  • Corporate big wigs in power ties
  • Patients and the families of patients at Grady
  • Medical personnel
  • College students
  • Low income residence of the area

But Grindhouse doesn’t just attract the locals. Word of mouth and social media has reached the ears of foodies and they come in droves to judge the offering against their burger aficionado palates.

Rich and not so rich, people come from near and far because, as Alex puts it, “Everybody loves burgers.”

Entice

To entice this diverse group is a multi-pronged strategy:

Location, Location, Location

Sweet Auburn Curb Market has foot traffic and, as much as it pains me, that’s something not too common in Atlanta.  Alex claims the first enticement is convenience to downtown businesses,  Georgia State, Grady, and local residents. Combine that with increasing growth in the area around 85/75 and Edgewood and the burgeoning reputation of the Edgewood corridor as a destination for trendy restaurants and you’ve got a high potential market.

Look and Feel

Grindhouse at the back of Curb Market

Grindhouse at the back of Curb Market

The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a maze of butchers, seafood and vegetable stands, small shops and food vendors. In most cases, the advertisement of these businesses is limited to the display of their wares with very little signage or branding. As you head towards the back of the market, though, you start catching glimpses of the bright neon Grindhouse sign and discover a dining counter that stretches across 1/3 of the back of the building with a white tile wall serving as a backdrop to the work area. On this wall, a variety of campy movies are projected – such as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – and a hodge podge of Atlanta residents watch on as they sit bent over their juicy burgers. The restaurant stands out in the market not only because it’s the only business that has stylized branding, but it’s actually having fun with it. With the amount of daily foot traffic, Grindhouse sticks out like a big, neon thumb.

Marketing material follows this lead. The Grindhouse logo seems inspired by 60′s-70′s Grindhouse movies, with towering stone letters crumbling with decay on top of a splatter of gore … or chipotle ranch dressing. Even the menu has the feel of a 60′s diner. All of this sets expectations of a place that pays attention to details and has fun doing it.

Alex has exerted a lot of effort to not only get the restaurant side of things right, but to use his experience in branding to make it pop.

Menu

A Grindhouse Killer Burger

A Grindhouse Killer Burger

All of the other enticements don’t matter if the food isn’t good and Alex uses high quality ingredients to help insure a delicious selection. To serve a wider audience, he also includes turkey and veggie burgers on the menu and adds some flair by including toppings like sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, green chilis, chipotle ranch, blue cheese spread and a Grindhouse burger sauce. Oh yeah, throw in some hand spun milkshakes for good measure.

Pricing

Because of the economic diversity of his audience, Alex has orchestrated a menu that can meet any budget. The starting price for a burger is $3.99, but he’s seen people construct a $12 burger with all the bells and whistles. It works – anyone looking at the lunch counter around noon can see one of the most diverse patron bases imaginable.

Promotions

Foot traffic is great, but Alex has also done a good job with promotions, although he admits a lot of this was luck.

Bloggers

Alex was at Top Flr one night before Grindhouse opened and happened to get into a conversation with the blogger for foodiebuddha.com. Soon after, there was a post on the blog about the anticipated opening followed up by a review of Grindhouse once it went live. This was picked up in the blogosphere by others (including me) and led to a chain reaction of posts. The viral spread led to a review in Creative Loafing and eventually the AJC – all within a few weeks. Without a dime being spent, Alex was getting tremendous old and new press.

Flyers

Alex is a big believer in flyers and this was where he placed the majority of his initial efforts. His handouts were simple, glossy, included a map to the restaurant, a sample of the menu and and offered free fries with the purchase of a burger. Coupons get butts in seats.

Email Campaigns

As part of his initial push, Alex sent out an email to everyone he knew (about 600 people) announcing the grand opening. Since then, he hasn’t done any additional mass emails and believes that these run the risk of being annoying to recipients. He is open to implementing  a more formalized email campaign strategy, but hasn’t had time to focus on this.

Order counter at Grindhouse Burgers

Order counter at Grindhouse Burgers

PR

PR is great. There was a spike in customers after a write up by Cliff Bostock in Creative Loafing and a huge spike after a write up by John Kessler in the AJC, but those either came from word of mouth reaching the journalists or from press releases that Alex sent out.

Other articles have included:

The Thrillist: http://www.thrillist.com/atlanta/grind-house-killer-burgers-0

Access Atlanta: http://www.accessatlanta.com/atlanta-restaurants-food/grindhouse-killer-burgers-156095.html

He did look into using a PR agency, including Caren West with Caren West PR and Green Olive Media, which he thinks are effective at getting national coverage, but he couldn’t justify the $1,000+ cost per month without any guaranteed results. He did, however, receive some great support from from Lynn Lilly with Blackout Productions.

Right now, his philosophy is do it yourself PR.

Social Networking

Grindhouse does have a Facebook page which provides a way to promote to patrons already familiar with the restaurant. Alex also made an effort to add all of the local bloggers as Facebook friends prior to the launch to make sure they were aware of the new entrant to the burger market.

Grindhouse also has a twitter page that Alex uses in a similar way. He tries to keep people updated on what’s going on, without overwhelming them with tweets.

Local Search

Sites like Urbanspoon, Yelp and Citysearch have definitely driven traffic to Grindhouse and they’ve contacted Alex about paying for advertisements. His opinion is that he’s happy with his exposure on these sites and doesn’t see any benefit to paying for any additional promotions.

Print Advertising

No. That’s it… no. Alex thinks this might have been useful 20 years ago, but he doesn’t pay any attention to print ads so he just doesn’t see the value.

Leverage

Word of mouth is the gold standard of reaching your target audience and Alex has benefited from the viral spread ignited by bloggers and fosters this through use of Facebook and Twitter. In one case, after winning the Chomp and Stomp Chili cook off, he posted the news on Facebook and received 30 responses almost immediately. In another case, he tweeted an announcement of a butchering demo and someone immediately blogged about it.  To a large extent, WoM is out of the hands of organizations, but these efforts help fan the flames.

Connect

To stay connected to patrons, Alex currently relies on Facebook and Twitter. It does take effort to manage these, though, and every couple of days he tries to spend an hour or so catching up.

Simplify

Keeping things simple is a mantra of Alex’s. His menu is simple, his hours of operation (11AM-4PM) are simple and avoid the long days most chefs endure, and his promotions are simple – lots of social media promotions and flyers. His early success with going viral through bloggers has allowed him to focus on filling orders.

One of the biggest challenges remains finding time to manage promotions through Facebook, Twitter, etc while still running the restaurant. Adding to this is that different people find information in different ways and you have to make sure you maximize your exposure to reach your target audience. Grindhouse is still a small operations and Alex has to do it all.

Success

Happy Customers at Grindhouse

Happy Customers at Grindhouse

Alex has a loose measurement of success – he is busy from open to close. With his new business, he hasn’t had time to gauge the effectiveness of his efforts, but here are some of his feedback channels:

  • People are turning in coupons and he tracks this in his POS, but he hasn’t had time to look at the count. It seems pretty good, though.
  • He hears people saying the saw him on local search sites (Yelp, Citysearch, Urbanspoon, etc.). Seems pretty good, but he has no plans to pay for more exposure.
  • Traffic spiked after write ups in Creative Loafing and the AJC – PR works.

Although he has a background using metrics to gauge success, “you’ve got to have really good data to do that and I don’t feel like my data is that good” and right now he has as many customers as he can handle so it’s not as important. The one concrete exception is using POS information to help with ordering inventory.

Words of Advice

Keep things simple, never skimp on ingredients.

Connect with Grindhouse and Alex Brounstein

Website: www.grindhouseburgers.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/grindhouseburgers

Twitter: www.twitter.com/GrindHouseATL

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/alex-brounstein/4/b1b/663

Background

In high school, Alex considered going to culinary school, but the long hours chefs endure on their feet wasn’t very appealing. But he’s always enjoyed cooking and, during the summers of his college years, he worked as a short order cook in various Atlanta restaurants.

After college, Alex went into consulting and branded marketing, but quickly became a down-sized victim of the Internet bust. Next, he  decided to go back to school for law, received his MBA and went into real estate – just in time to be part of the real estate bubble bust. With free time on his hands, Alex began focusing more on his side project – raising funds to revitalize the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. The experience and relationships he built with the market during this successful push for a renovation grant helped him see untapped potential. Alex got a great deal on some unused space and opened Grindhouse Killer Burgers, hoping to show Atlanta that the Curb Market can support businesses with a broader appeal.

Shout Outs

Alex had only one shout out:

Lynn Lilly with Blackout Productions – very responsive, very smart, young and hungry.

Grind House Killer Burgers – Atlanta’s new Burger Joint

It seems like more and more people are entering Atlanta’s burger market with their own unique twist and Grind House Killer Burgers entered the fray as of yesterday morning. While Community Cultivator is not about restaurant reviews, my experience with this new business is certainly worth writing about.

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Grind House – a Different “Go to Market” Approach

The go to market strategy is to literally “go to market”, in this case, Grind takes up the back wall of the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Here is the thing that most impresses me about this – the Curb Market is a downtown hodge podge of bodegas, meat counters, vegetable stands, and food vendors that serve up dishes in to-go Styrofoam boxes. It is the place you typically go for down and dirty soul and international food and can buy pigs feet to your heart’s content. In short, it is a great place. However, it is not the venue you would expect a well-branded, boutique burger joint to open in.

The Grind House order line

The Grind House order line

At Grind House, patrons line up at the cashier to order from a menu including Angus beef, turkey or veggie burgers; tasty add-ons like bacon and avocado; and crinkle fries or onion rings on the side. Then they sit at the counter and wait for their food to arrive. To keep them entertained, there is a movie projected on the wall – in my case, I believe it was “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” Even though I was visiting within the first hour of operation, the food was great and the service was attentive. Good show!

My biggest point about Grind House’s location strategy is that I’m SO impressed that instead of opening in some strip of traditional commerce – like on Peachtree – or some curiously cool location tucked into an Atlanta neighborhood, they went into the heart of downtown and created a stand out location surrounded by vendors their clientele would not typically visit. I like these other types of locations, but what Grind did is awesome!

Burger and Chili cheese fries at Grind House

Burger and Chili cheese fries at Grind House

Reaching your Target Audience

There are a lot of things that are impressive about the new joint, but the way they reached their target market for opening day is the real reason they warrant a blog post on Community Cultivator. They did very little. In a 2-minute conversation I was able to have with the owner – Alex Brounstein- I asked him about how he promoted. He said he handed out a few flyers around the market, kept his friends informed about what he was working on and sent out an email yesterday morning (they also have a Facebook page and are on Twitter).

The interesting things is that I heard about the opening through unmanaged, viral marketing:

  • First, I found out about the opening a couple of days ago through master Facebooker, Michael Erickson. In one of his posts, he linked to an article on the new joint.
  • Then I got an email with a blog link from my friend Lindsey who knows Alex and did a blast to promote his new venture
  • With a quick search, I found even more information:

Lesson

People want to find organizations that excite them. If you can do that, patrons can become a tremendous source of promotions – possibly outpacing your own efforts. It doesn’t sound like they spent much on promotions, but yesterday seemed like a good showing and I am looking forward to trying their turkey burger today!

Good luck Grind House!

Grind House Killer Burgers is in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market located at:

209 Edgewood Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30303 (Map)
404.522.3444
Mon-Sat 11AM – 4PM

Facebook Profile - http://www.facebook.com/grindhouseburgers

Twitter – http://twitter.com/GrindhouseATL

See more reviews on UrbanSpoon!
Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Urbanspoon

Chuck Kneeland – Steel Restaurant

Chuck Kneeland - Steel Restuarant

Chuck Kneeland - Steel Restuarant

Chuck Kneeland is a veteran of the restaurant industry. His career started waiting tables in Austin, TX and has led to Managing Partner of Steel Restaurant Atlanta and Vice President of the restaurant management company, Restaurant Works. Along the way he has honed his experience growing national restaurant brands, starting several of his own restaurants, and helping to turn around struggling brands – learning several key things along the way:

  • Offer high quality food, service, beverage and environment.
  • Surround yourself with a great staff.
  • Provide structure and systems to manage uncertainty, but allow flexibility.
  • Aggressively squash issues before they spread. If you have an unhappy customer, hunt them down and delight them.
  • Finally, Adapt, Adapt, Adapt – 1) pay attention to your patrons, your neighborhood, the economy, technology, marketing trends …. and…. everything else. 2) Make adjustments as necessary.

With Steel Restaurant Atlanta, Chuck has created a beautiful, mid-town destination that embraces these ideals and attracts a mosaic of patrons. He strives to achieve Accessible Elegance, offering something for diverse palates and budgets.

I was able to sit down with Chuck and get a LOT of insights from him. That has resulted in a pretty long post, but it’s warranted considering all of the insights he provided. As always, you can read my summary below, but if you have time, listen to the entire interview (75 min, so it may take a minute or so to load) here

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Audience

Steel Restaurant Atlanta Wine Room

Steel Restaurant Atlanta's Wine Room

Steel Restaurant has a diverse audience depending on the time of day and which Steel Restaurant you are talking about.

Lunch versus Dinner

Lunch is more business people that work in the area. Dinner is completely different and can include bachelorette parties, corporate events, wealthy patrons that will buy $150 bottle of wine, as well as people that are looking for a good deal, but there is also a geographic difference.

Dallas versus Atlanta

Steel Restaurant Dallas' Wine Room

Steel Restaurant Dallas' Wine Room

The audience in Dallas is largely professionals, but transitions from older patrons that live in the Turtle Creek area early in the night to a younger demographic as the night progresses. When people go out in Dallas, it is an event that people dress up for.

Steel Restaurant Atlanta’s audience is more tricky. Similar to Dallas, it includes older patrons that live in mid-town high rises that love the food and service as well as younger patrons that like the hip environment. However, Chuck has discovered that Atlanta is much more neighborhood driven and casual than the Dallas market – kind of like his experience in Austin. Patrons – especially on weekends – are more likely to show up in jeans and t-shirts than in Dallas.

Both cities, however, demand a high quality experience.

Food at Steel Restaurant

Food at Steel Restaurant

Entice

Fundamentally, Steel Restaurant focuses on great food, service, and beverage programs in an elegant and stylish environment conveniently located in mid-town Atlanta and the Turtle Creek area of Dallas. More specifically, Steel offers:

  • Delectable sushi as well as dishes where seafood, chicken, and beef take center stage.
  • An excellent wine selection for those that demand the best.
  • “Craveable menu items” that stand out in people’s minds and aren’t available anywhere else.
  • Great service and attention to details.
  • Affordable Bento boxes around $15.
  • Noodle and rice dishes for cost conscious patrons – those looking for lunch under $10 or dinner under $15.

Steel’s offering is constantly being fine-tuned is based on patron feedback and even focus groups.

To address the neighborhood and casual culture of Atlanta, Chuck sees the need to “think neighborhood.” This includes:

  • Connecting more intimately with people in surrounding condos as an involved member of the neighborhood.
  • Taking into consideration the pedestrian nature of mid-town.
  • Marketing targeted specifically to the locals.

Promotions

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Part of being able to execute on great promotions is having something great to promote. Steel Restaurant adds special events to their core offering (see the Upcoming Event section) to take advantage of this fertile ground. Some of the promotional tools Chuck has used include:

Traditional and Off-Line Promotions

  • PR – Chuck works closely with Jamie Annarino from Red Clay to help orchestrate an ongoing PR strategy.
  • Editorial – Chuck is a big fan of publicity through critic reviews, etc. … free promotion that comes if you are really good and can connect to the writers.
  • Steel’s website – Steel Restaurants’ websites have been great at not only providing people information about the restaurants, but also setting the tone for what they are all about. The look and feel is a reflection of the actual environment. Steel Restaurant also puts a lot of effort in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to improve their organic search result ranking.
  • Open Table – allows the collection of names through reservations which Steel follows up on by sending emails to visitors – especially those that take the time to write a review.
  • Radio – Steel doesn’t pay for any radio advertising, but does encourage radio personalities to come in and get a first hand experience of the restaurant, which frequently leads to on air mentions. Jamie has been able to help connect to these personalities.
  • Print Promotions – Steel doesn’t pay for promotions in print publications either, but has been able to work out a gift certificate trade program with some – notably Sunday Paper. He provides them with gift certificates in exchange for print promotions and they use the gift certificates in giveaways and resell them at a discount. This allows effectiveness to be measured by tracking the certificates that are redeemed. Overall, however, Chuck “doesn’t believe in print anymore,” it’s just too expensive for a single restaurant.
  • Direct Mail – the only mailing that Steel has participated in is with Welcome Mat Services that delivers special offers to people moving into certain zip codes. Steel offered a $20 off voucher with a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” message, which tied in well with Atlanta’s neighborhood mentality. An added benefit is that Steel gets the demographic and address information for the people that redeem the coupon.
  • Special Offer Book – Chuck is also providing a 2 for 1 special offer, included in a promotions book sold to corporations. Extending these offers is unusual for higher end restaurants, but he believes that there are more people using coupons now than ever before and it gives him a conduit to get new people in the door, stun them with Steel’s offering and turn them into patrons. These deals require no money up front, however, he carefully monitors the other restaurants that are included to make sure he is less susceptible to brand dilution.
  • Hotel concierges – Concierges are trusted by hotel guests and Steel Restaurant builds relationships with them by hosting special events, sending them gift bags and occasionally comp’ing their meal when they visit. Referrals can be tracked in Open Table to determine who is driving business to Steel and they treat referred guests as VIP’s through little touches such as providing a complementary glass of Champagne “from the concierge.”
  • Taxi Appreciation Day – At one point, Chuck distributed free lunches to the taxi drivers of Atlanta in an effort to increase word of mouth. In hind site, this doesn’t seem like it was very effective, but when friends of his asked a cab driver if he knew about Steel, the cabbie told them about the promotion (“Steel really cares about us”). It didn’t have a huge return, but the point is to be creative.
  • Membership discounts – Steel offers a variety of discount programs to different groups. For example, Mid Town Alliance members receive a 10% discount and residents of Plaza Midtown receive a 20% discount.
  • Cause Marketing - Steel is a proponent of helping local charities, not only because of the exposure that it provides them, but also because of the opportunity to give back to the community. They have helped raise money for non-profits through work with organizations such as  Camp Twin Lakes, Backpacks in the Park (sponsored by For the Kid), Toys for Tots, AID Atlanta, Jerusalem House, Breast Cancer Walks, Lymphoma Society, Community in Schools (Dine out for Kids), and Zoo Atlanta. This has included contributing to silent auctions as well as hosting events where Steel donates the food/venue and a percentage of the bar to the charity.

Viral and Social Network Marketing

The bar at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

The bar at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Viral and social network marketing is, in general, very valuable, but takes time. Chuck believes you have to schedule for these activities or these efforts are likely to fall between the cracks. Also, the staff must be part of the game plan, so he encourages activities like the collection of  customer feedback cards to build a patron database – creating ongoing relationships with patrons needs to be part of the culture.

  • Email Campaigns - email addresses are collected through Open Table and customer comment cards and followed with periodic emails. Chuck’s rule is no more than 2 messages a month and Steel Restaurant is working on developing more involved newsletters that provide comprehensive information about the restaurants and what they have going on to keep patrons plugged-in.
  • Local Search (i.e. Citysearch and Yelp) – Steel has been active on both Citysearch and Yelp (paying about $300/month), but tracking the performance of these sites has led Chuck to believe there is not a lot of value beyond the features that are offered for free. The most notable advantage has been the ability to monitor user posts, especially negative ones, so that Steel can resolve issues and ideally connect to individuals directly. He’s gone as far as, after receiving a negative review, calling every person with an Open Table reservation from the previous night to find the reviewer and offer to make things right.
  • Facebook – both Steel Dallas and Atlanta have Facebook pages – tapping into social networks – that have provided decent activity related to user posts and promotions. They don’t have a lot of fans, but “the ones that are on there are the most loyal.”
  • Twitter – with over 1,200 followers on Twitter, even if a fraction of Steel’s posts are seen, it provides a way to stay on patrons’ minds.

NOTE: Steel’s willingness to provide special offers is worth highlighting. Many higher end restaurants resist this idea because of concerns about how it reflects on their brand, but Chuck makes the point that things are different now – “who pays full price nowadays?” When you live in a world where Macy’s is having 50% off sales, he believes you need to change to meet the market’s demands.

Leverage

Wasabi Booth at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Wasabi Booth at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Chuck believes that word of mouth is “the most important thing of all.”  Good word of mouth leads to returning customers, event bookings, and referrals. Making it easier for patrons to spread the word is the responsibility of the organization.

  • Social networks like Facebook allow for news and upcoming events to be rapidly shared with the click of a button
  • Twitter allows information to be “re-tweeted” easily
  • Email thank you’s keep Steel Restaurant on people’s minds and makes it easy for them to respond, forward the email to friends, or click to make another reservation
  • Email newsletters can also be easily forwarded

Some of the tools that help build the email database are:

  • Open Table – Open Table serves as a valuable funnel of email information on patrons reserving through the site.
  • Mailing cards – Steel also encourages patrons to fill in survey cards with their information that can be entered into their contact list for email or physical mail follow ups.

Connect

The most obvious connection points to patrons is their time in the restaurant, but in this competitive market, taking the extra steps required to maintain a dialog is a huge advantage. Chuck’s dialog focuses on:

  • Being Appreciative. Call, email, or send a card to guests after their visit using information from Open Table, your POS system, or customer comment cards. Show them that you value their business.
  • Being Informative. Keep them informed about the organization using email campaigns, but DO NOT ABUSE THIS. No more than 2 a month.
  • Feeding those with passion. Provide a way to connect with your most passionate patrons; being active on Facebook and Twitter allows people to choose how they want to interact with you. Think about it this way, if you try this and no one signs up, then you didn’t annoy anyone. However, if you have patrons that want to actively be informed about what your organization is up to real time, whether you understand it or not, why not feed their zeal?

Steel Restaurant Dallas' bar

Steel Restaurant Dallas' bar

Simplify

Throughout this interview, it became obvious how many things Chuck focuses on to make Steel successful. Obviously, anything that can simplify this helps a lot and here are some of his tricks.

Non-technology

  • Add process and structure – having procedures in place so that employees know what to expect helps to streamline operations. This includes managing work schedules, taking monthly physical inventory, systematizing ordering and delivery processes, etc. People like structure and knowing what to expect.
  • Be flexible. While structure is important, don’t be so rigid that it stifles the patron experience, let the staff do their job.
  • Partner with people that make life easier. Find partners that understand their success is intertwined with yours and that are willing to go the extra mile. For example:
    • Cat Chang performs every Friday night at Steel Restaurant Atlanta and promotes herself in addition to Steel’s efforts.
    • National Distributing is a vendor that works with Steel to build a wine strategy, comes in to dine and refers others to visit – Chuck does business with people that do business with him.

Technology

  • POS – Steel uses Aloha POS, which provides information on not only what food items are popular, but the activity of various discount programs and analysis of Net sells derived from those programs.
  • Open Table – Open Table provides information on guests, including phone number, email address, birth dates, etc. This makes it easier to build your patron database, which in turn enables you to Connect and Leverage word of mouth.

Success

Using metrics to find out what promotional tools are successful and the aspects of your organization that are working – and those that aren’t – is critical. Steel has a robust framework in place for this, with a focus on efforts that show quantitative results.

  • User comment cards. This is low-tech, but can provide great feedback for detailing people’s in-house experience.
  • Special Offer redemption. Steel tracks who is redeeming special offers and where those offers are coming from. This closes the loop for their efforts and let’s them know where to focus more resources.
  • Web Activity. Steel actively monitors how active their Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Citysearch profiles are and tracks how people are finding their website (through Google Analytics). Instead of paying a online reputation management company approximately $2,000 a month to do this, they have enlisted the help of a Georgia Tech student that provides them with monthly reports.
  • POS – Aloha provides metrics for what menu items are popular and which are not, helping to refine Steel’s offering to meet the demands of patrons. It also allows them to track the special offers previously mentioned.
  • Open Table – this has provided a wealth of information about patrons and the frequency of their visits.

Words of Advice

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Dallas

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Dallas

Chuck believes that you first must be passionate about what you do. Beyond that, he advises:

  • Don’t just say you are customer driven, be customer driven to obtain repeat business.
  • Stay committed to quality, no matter what.
  • Your people are your best asset and mediocre people equal a mediocre business.  Take great care of your staff and spend the time to choose them wisely.
  • Organization and structure is critical – watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

Connect with Steel and Chuck Kneeland

Steel Atlanta

Located in Plaza Midtown at the corner of 9th and West Peachtree
950 West Peachtree St
Suite 255
Atlanta GA 30309
(view map)

Steel Dallas

Located in The Centrum Building at intersection of Welborn and Hall
3102 Oak Lawn Avenue
Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75219
(view map)

Steel Restaurant Atlanta: www.steelatlanta.com
Steel Restaurant Dallas: www.steeldallas.com
Chuck Kneeland on LinkedIn
Twitter: twitter.com/steelrestaurant
Steel Atlanta on Facebook
Steel Dallas on Facebook

Upcoming Events

Dallas

  • Monday – Thursday, 5:30-7:00 PM – Sunsets at Steel. 3-course dinner for $30.
  • Wednesday nights, 5:30-7:00 PM – Sushi Night. Complementary Sushi and happy hour specials on Steel specialty cocktails, beer and hot Sake.
  • Thursday nights, 5:30 PM – close – Kampai Thursdays. 50% off Sake by the bottle.
  • August 14-30Restaurant Week 2009. Prixe Fixe, 3 course meal for $35 that benefits North Texas Food Bank.

Atlanta

  • Monday – Saturday, 5:00-6:30 PM. Pre-Theater Menu. 2-course menu for $19.95 or 3-course menu for $24.95.
  • Wednesday 5:00-7:00 PM. Steel Happy Hour. Complementary Sushi and signature cocktails.
  • Friday 10PM until. Fantasy Fridays with Cat Chang. Live on piano and mic… check her out at http://catchang.com/.
  • August 5, 2009. Participating in Taste of Asia’s Public Tasting at Macy’s.
  • August 29 – September 6, 2009. Participating in Midtown Restaurant Week.
  • August 20, 2009 . Participating in  Dine out For Kids. Helps to raise money for Communities in Schools.
  • TBA. 2 year anniversary party
  • Lots more !

Background

Chuck Kneeland started his career as a waiter paying his way through the University of Texas, which led to bar tending and night club management. After graduation, he spent a brief time at 3M before returning to the restaurant industry:

  • He began by working for Sfuzzi in Dallas in the late 80′s. This grew from one restaurant to about 19 across the U.S. and Chuck moved up in the organization.
  • He then moved on to Lettuce Entertain You out of Chicago which was bought by Brinker International, leading to a role with the Maggiano’s division. He worked there for 7 years in Chicago, D.C., and ultimately ended up opening the Maggiano’s in Atlanta.
  • In 2001, Chuck opened an Italian restaurant in the West Village (Dallas) called Ferre’ with his current business partner, Patrick Colombo (founder of Sfuzzi). This was followed by a wine bar next door called Cru.
  • Steel Restaurant in Dallas was owned by one of the investors from Ferre’ and Cru – Mike Chen – and was struggling, so Chuck helped turn the restaurant around, creating a successful sushi restaurant in a market with very strong existing players.
  • After turning Steel Dallas around, Chuck decided to expand the concept to Atlanta, which he was familiar with from his Maggiano’s days. He felt that there was a hole in the Atlanta market that Steel could fill and they opened in November 2007.

Chuck is also the Vice President of Restaurant Works – a restaurant management/ownership company founded by Patrick Colombo that, is involved with Steel Atlanta, Steel Dallas, Victory Tavern in Dallas, Ferre’ in Fort Worth and Cru’s multiple locations.

Chuck continues to focus on the growth of Steel Restaurant Atlanta, but is also considering how to expand the concept in addition to growing the other properties associated with Restaurant Works.

Shout Outs

Steel Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon You can also see this interview from Urbanspoon.

Janice Provost – owner of Parigi in Dallas, TX

Janice Provost at Parigi

Janice Provost at Parigi

Janice Provost committed to continuing the legacy of Parigi – a Dallas, TX icon for 25 years – in 2001 and has succeeded in keeping the restaurant at the fore front of the city’s fine dining. This is no easy task given the diverse population of the Oak Lawn / Turtle Creek neighborhood that is home for some very discriminating palates, but Janice has been able to merge the founding philosophy of Parigi – fun, delicious food with an environment that makes everyone feel at home – with a drive to constantly update not only the menu, but the physical space to continually surprise and please her patrons.

In our interview, Janice shares some of her insights on how to run a long lasting organization and build the relationships that lead to success. Listen to the entire interview here (may take a few seconds to load)

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Audience

Parigi serving beautiful food

Parigi serving beautiful food

Parigi’s location on Oak Lawn between Cedar Springs and Lemmon guarantees a diverse clientele. This includes people that have been coming to the restaurant for 25 years and consider it a part of their family life. Also included are empty nesters, business professionals, the gay community, employees from places like The Design Center, and visitors staying at various, upscale hotels in the area. However, Parigi is also a destination restaurant that draws patrons from more distant areas of Dallas.

The one thing they all have in common is an interest in high quality and exciting food in an environment that feels like a extended family.

Promotions

Promotions is always a challenge, especially when combined with all of the other demands of restaurant ownership. Here is a quick checklist of Janice’s experience:

Parigi's menu board

Parigi's menu board

  • Print advertising – Parigi has experimented with print advertising, but doesn’t do it anymore, mostly because there is no way to determine how effective it is.
  • PR – when Parigi does appear in printed publications, it’s when an article is written about them. Helping fuel this – in addition to just having a great business – is Cause Marketing, such as participating in non-profit events and ongoing support for organizations like the Dallas Youth Village, which helps troubled youths learn social responsibility.
  • Parigi’s website – this provides a place on the web for comprehensive restaurant information and menus submitted to the web developer are generally updated within 24 hours to keep things current.
  • Local Search – (Zagat, CitySearch, Yelp, etc) Janice does Google Parigi to get an idea of what these sites say about the restaurant, but doesn’t actively manage a profile on any of these sites. She believes in the power of these sites and is interested in them, but it’s been a challenge to find the time that this management requires.
  • Email Campaigns. Parigi does use email, but is very sensitive to over saturation. Once a week is too much, they target a monthly newsletter that combines various information at once.
  • Blog – The Parigi blog gives an opportunity to express a more personal side, but time is something everyone has a shortage of. Janice is a big fan, but it does take a lot of effort.

Parigi's pation on Oak Lawn

Parigi's pation on Oak Lawn

Leverage

Word of mouth is “huge” when it comes to being successful and there are some ways Janice recommends fostering the process:

  • Be Awesome. Give a great experience and people will tell friends, but keep in mind – people will tell a friend about a great experience and 10 friends about a bad one.
  • Hotel concierges – Janice has some experience with this and thinks it can be very effective. While Parigi has a great relationship with some of the local hotels, such as The Melrose and The Mansion, there are steps that can be taken to improve these relationships:
    • Host special events for local concierges so they are more familiar with what you offer
    • Make sure they have menus and other promotional material
    • Thank them for sending patrons your way with a note or even a gift certificate
  • Social Networking. Parigi maintains a profile on Facebook that allows them to share information with “fans.” In fact, Janice believes that  telling friends and fans on Facebook that Parigi was nominated by WFAA for “Best New American Restaurant” helped them win the honor, showing how passionate patrons can be mobilized.
  • Twitter – she’s looked into using Twitter, but hasn’t decided on how to incorporate it into the promotional strategy.

Connect

Parigi’s current philosophy is that connecting to patrons happens when they are in the restaurant, so that experience needs to be amazing. This includes providing a great and comfortable environment, amazing food and stellar service. Janice would like to enhance this by connecting in ways that extend beyond the in-restaurant period, but when juggling all of the other facets of the business, time is limited.

Entice

Sample Parigi dishes

Sample Parigi dishes

Parigi entices clientele with:

  • The Food – the food obviously must be tremendous and Janice lives up to this demand. High quality food, a menu that changes weekly and willingness to explore different ideas (such as blending Italian, French, Indian and Asian influences in creative ways) keeps things new, exciting and delicious.
  • Ties to the Community. Janice believes in supporting the local community that supports her. This includes sourcing many ingredients locally, displaying the works of local artists and supporting various non-profit activities.
  • Longevity and quality of staff. The staff – referred to as Team Parigi – mostly consists of people that have been at the restaurant for over a year. This focus on employee relationships helps to insure smooth operations and is supported by treating the staff like family.
  • Personalized relationships. Part of the staff’s responsibility is to build relationships with their patrons. This includes knowing their faces, names, what they like to drink or even how they like their fish cooked. It’s all about creating “comfort in feeling like they’re home.”
  • Keep things Fresh. Every year, from July 3-10, Parigi closes and gets a make over to keep the environment “fresh.”

Inside Parigi

Inside Parigi

Simplify

There are a few things that help Parigi simplify operations:

  • POS System - Parigi uses Triangle POS which helps to identify what menu items are being successful, but is no replacement for listening to customers. The system itself is pretty good, although there have been some problems with customer service.
  • Reservation Management – Janice thinks that reservation systems like Open Table are great, but isn’t convinced that it’s flexible enough to handle the dynamics of Parigi where tables are constantly rearranged to accommodate patrons. Plus, the added hardware would make for a tight fit in the intimate space. She is sticking to the pencil and paper tables chart, although she would like to be able to capture patron information like birthdays and anniversaries – right now this is done through customer survey cards.
  • Great Accountant. A great accountant is indispensable and keeps things organized.
  • Great vendors. Parigi is lucky enough to have vendors that are responsive and have the same discerning taste as the owners. Vendors that you can trust save time by paying attention to your best interests for you.

Success

The ultimate measure of success is a packed house with happy patrons. Beyond that, Parigi doesn’t measure many metrics, although the call to action on Facebook for the WFAA competition does provide feedback on effort versus results. Janice also thinks that measuring things like web traffic can be valuable, but it is a question of having the time to focus on that information.

Words of Advice

Janice recommends running a small restaurant so you can focus on the patrons. Beyond that, be passionate, hire the right people, serve food you are proud of, and keep your patrons and employees happy.

Connect with Parigi’s and Janice Provost

Location (view map)
3311 Oak Lawn Ave # 102
Dallas, TX 75219-4200
(214) 521-0295

Website: http://www.parigirestaurant.com/
Blog: http://parigidallas.blogspot.com/
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dallas-TX/Parigi-Restaurant/47213581430?ref=search
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/janice-provost/10/a36/434

Upcoming Events

September 25, 2009 @ 12:30 PM – Janice Provost will appear at Texas State Fair Celebrity Chef Demo

October 18, 2009 @ 12:30 – Chad Houser will appear at the Texas State Fair Celebrity Chef Demo

October 24, 2009 – Parigi offers extended sidewalk seating for the Oak Lawn Halloween Block Party. This is the restaurant’s biggest event of the year for what is described as the biggest Halloween party in the country, where patrons get to have table service and see some of the most outrageous costumes around. If you want a seat, be fore warned that people make reservations a year in advance.

Background

Janice and Chad - owners of Parigi

Janice and Chad - owners of Parigi

After receiving her Marketing and Merchandising degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, Janice Provost worked in sales for 12 years. Her love of cooking and entertaining led her to cooking classes at El Centro College in Dallas, which helped Janice get her foot in the door by working for free at a local restaurant. Eventually, she was noticed by Parigi’s Executive Chef – Melody Wolfertz - who gave Janice a once a week paying job doing prep work. From that point, she worked her way up the kitchen hierarchy until, after 9/11 when she bought the restaurant and partnered with Abraham Salum as the Executive Chef.

After 3 years, Abraham moved on to pursue other opportunities and Janice added Executive Chef to her role as owner. Last year, she added Chad Houser as a partner to help continue the growing restaurant and catering business – both sharing the same vision and passion for food.

Shout Out’s

Parigi on Urbanspoon You can also see this interview on UrbanSpoon.

Jake’s Ice Cream – Jake Rothschild’s Atlanta Ice Cream Dream

On June 3, 2009, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jake Rothschild – a serial entrepreneur in Atlanta that started Jake’s Ice Cream 10 years ago. Since that time, he has grown the company to 3 locations and established distribution deals with local businesses as well as national chains. Here are some of the highlights and advice he offers other organizations – sorted into the CC: ScoreCard.

Click here to listen to the whole interview

Jake's Ice Cream

Jake's Ice Cream

PROMOTIONS

Where should time and money be spent regarding promotions?

  • Traditional Advertising – Jake is not a fan of advertising with media like printed publications, TV, and radio. Historically, this hasn’t produced great results for him and there are no real metrics that can be measured to determine the effectiveness of these efforts… no traditional advertising for this ice cream business.
  • Online Advertising – this experience consists of working with Citysearch and, to some degree, Yelp. While Jake’s has paid for promotions with Citysearch and doesn’t think that it has been a waste of money, he has no plans to continue the effort because there’s no indicator that it’s been effective enough to justify the cost. Most of the value has stemmed from the user generated content on these sites (user reviews), which is free.
  • Jake’s Website – the website provides a place that serves as the authoritative source of information about the business and has proven to be a good way to publicly present what the company is all about. It’s the easily accessible marketing face of Jake’s and is frequently one of the first places a potential patron learns about the business.
  • PR – Jake’s Ice Cream has been featured on msn.com, NPR, Zagat, Wall Street Journal, and Frommer’s. It’s these less bias sources that have added fuel to the business’ growth – “it means so much more to (people) than a full page ad.”
  • Cause Marketing – he recommends being a co-sponsor of organized events. Working with organizations like Special Olympics – Georgia has helped to reach new patrons and drive sells.
  • Social Networking – tools like Twitter and Facebook have given Jake a way to stay connected with existing patrons and he thinks these are great for fostering the customer relationship – the most important thing about his business.

LEVERAGE

Jake believes that word of mouth is the number one way that people find out about Jake’s. Social network tools like twitter, the Jake’s Ice Cream group on Facebook, and user reviews on sites like Citysearch and Yelp help to accomplish this as does providing a great customer experience that leads to traditional word of mouth… ya know, where people actually talk to each other.

AUDIENCE

Jake describes his first-tier audience as “label readers” – the people that are concerned about what they are putting in their bodies – they are the people that shop at Sevananda, Return to Eden, or Whole Foods. His second tier audience is people that simply want a great quality product. His focus on high quality ingredients and a great product is the right message for this audience and he reaches them through Promotions and Leverage.

CONNECT

Jake’s uses the various means mentioned in Promotion and Leverage to Connect to their audience, however, the ongoing dialog is done through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter and the in store interaction. Due, in part, with the time required to update their website, they are also excited about implementing email marketing by using Constant Contact to keep all of the subscribed patrons up to date on the daily flavors available at each store.

ENTICE

How does Jake entice his audience?

  • High quality product. Enough said.
  • Superior customer service. Jake wants to know everything about his customers to personalize the experience – “we want to know their dog’s name, we want to know their kids’ birthdays.” It is also a goal to respond to any customer complaint within 30 minutes… by a personal call from Jake.
  • High quality in-store experience. This includes providing a comfortable environment that can serve as a second home to patrons.

Jake also offers incentives to customers, with one of their most successful campaigns being the distribution of “Moolah.” These $1 and $5 gift certificates can be purchased in each store or can be distributed by Jake’s for promotions. This “virtual cash” can be redeemed for any purchase (versus a 2-for-1  or 10% off coupon) and is credited for the programs success.

SIMPLIFY

The main way that Jake simplifies is through technology:

  • NuRol POS – Jake’s POS system is “monkey stupid easy” and has the ability to report on the sell rate of all flavors at any point in time, which helps determine the flavors that are successful.
  • Quickbooks is used as the accounting system and is “extremely user friendly.” They did try out Peachtree Accounting, but it was more difficult to use.

SUCCESS

There are a few areas to evaluate when it comes to measuring success.

PR, Advertising, and Social Networking

Measuring the success of all of these efforts continues to be a struggle, as it is with all organizations. There is the feeling that traditional media hasn’t delivered the results desired and even the metrics provided by local search solutions like Citysearch that shows the number of profile views has not been able to measure ROI. There is a feeling that the efforts of Facebook and twitter are effective at keeping in touch with existing patrons.

Incentive Programs

The Moolah program does provide some feedback. There are relations that can be drawn between the number of virtual dollars distributed compared to the number of those redeemed.

Technology

As mentioned under Simplify, NuRol provides easily generated snapshots of what flavors are selling, which helps determine the quantities that should be produced and identify slow moving products.

SHOUT OUT’S

I asked Jake about any vendor relationships that he considers exceptional. He highly recommends:

  • U.S. Food Service – Their customer service is excellent and they show their love of working with small business in myriad of ways.
  • 360 Media – Our PR Firm loves on us like we are family.
  • Carlton Fields – a great law firm that protects us, suggests to us, and nurtures us so that we are a healthy company

FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE

  1. Do what you love. If you are going to lead your own organization, make sure it is something you are passionate about and adjust the direction as needed to insure this.
  2. Never quit on your dream. Running your own operation is hard, but be persistent.
  3. Learn how to ask for help. You don’t have to know all of the answers.

BACKGROUND

Jake wants to be Willy Wonka when he grows up, but he doesn’t plan on that happening anytime soon. When he was 10 years old, he used to make children’s books as gifts for his grandmother. When he was in college at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he introduced the first instant, all natural hot chocolate on the market – something that caught the attention of Money magazine. His first physical business – a coffee shop in the Morningside neighborhod called MOCHA (Museum of Contemporary Humorous Art) – transformed into the first Jake’s Ice Cream over 10 years ago, with the original location in Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta.

Jake’s playful nature is much more serious when it comes to his products. He is dedicated to providing the community with high quality, uncompromised products – with a focus on all-natural ingredients and hormone free dairy. This diligence has led to a number of local restaurants including his creations on their menus and has recently resulted in an agreement with Planet Smoothie for a non-fat, agave sweetened yogurt called YMG, or Yo My Goodness. The focus on the product is rivaled only by his commitment to the experience of his patrons.

CONNECT WITH JAKE

Website: http://www.jakesicecream.com
Facebook Group: Jake’s Ice Cream
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jake-rothschild/5/b61/741

UPCOMING EVENTS

Non-fat Frozen Yogurt

Non-fat Frozen Yogurt

June 5-7, 2009 – See Jake at the Virginia Highlands Summerfest.

June 8, 2009 – Jake’s new product line YMG (Yo My Goodness) – non-fat yogurt sweetened with agave – will be sold at Planet Smoothie at The Peach in Peachtree Shopping Center – 2900 Peachtree Rd, Suite 113 Atlanta, GA, 30305.

JAKE’S ICE CREAM LOCATIONS

Jake’s Ice Cream – Irwin Street Market
660 Irwin Street
Atlanta 30312
(678) 705-7277
Jake’s Ice Cream Cafe
2745 Lavista Road
Decatur, GA 30033
(404) 343-3525
Jake’s Just Desserts
2144 North Decatur Road
Decatur, GA 30033
(404) 963-7151

PURVEYORS OF FINE JAKE’S PRODUCTS

Anis
2974 Grandview Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
www.anisbistro.com
(404) 233-9889
Valenza
1441 Dresden Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30319
www.valenzarestaurant.com
(404) 969-3233
Dave’s Cosmic Subs
1540 N Decatur Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
www.davescosmicsubsatl.com
(404) 373-6250
Inman Perk at Inman Park
240 N. Highland Ave., Suite H
Atlanta, GA 30307
www.inmanperkcoffee.com
(678) 705-4545
Haven
1441 Dresden Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30319
www.havenrestaurant.com
(404) 969-0700
Inman Perk at Flowery Branch
5866 Spout Springs Rd., Suite D
Flowery Branch, GA 30542
www.inmanperkcoffee.com
(770) 965-6065
Our Place Bakery
3387 Main St
Atlanta, GA 30337
www.ourplacebakery.com
(404) 767-3181
Inman Perk at Gainesville
102 Washington St. NW.
Gainesville, GA 30501
www.inmanperkcoffee.com
(678) 943-8080
Planet Smoothie at Ansley Mall
1544 Piedmont Ave., Suite 301
Atlanta, GA 30324
www.planetsmoothie.com
(404) 541-9124

Jake's Ice Creams & Sorbets on Urbanspoon You can also see this interview on UrbanSpoon.

McDonald’s McCafe Coffee

McDonald’s McCafe – specifically the Iced Mocha and Iced Latte – are not so bad.

Latte's and Mocha's

Latte's and Mocha's

I am a self proclaimed food snob. When it comes to coffee, my preferences are:

1) Freshly ground Ethiopian Harrar in my cone filter coffee maker
2) The local coffee shop
3) A fancy chain like Starbuck’s
4) Other, just give me something that resembles that delicious nectar of the Gods

That is why, when caffeine deprived and driving back to Atlanta from Florida, I was looking for a Starbuck’s to fuel the journey. Unfortunately, there were none to be found. I finally broke down and went to McDonald’s for Other. I had the chance to try the Iced Mocha and the Iced Latte and they were surprisingly good.

Sure it took 5 times to get the person at the register to understand what I wanted to order (an Iced Mocha and Iced Latte… no half foam, non-fat, blah, blah, blah … just the thing on their menu). I also felt a little guilty ordering after the 8 year old, rural Alabama boy in front of me had just asked his mom, “Why would anyone order coffee in the afternoon? That would be weird.” And, it took 2 employees about 10 minutes at the magic Mcdonald’s one push coffee barista to make the drink – apparently the 4-stirs is a critical part of the process. But the drink was good. An much less expensive than Starbuck’s.

So how does this fit into Community Cultivation? Well, first, McDonald’s is everywhere so they are part of most communities. But let’s get more specific with the CC: Scorecard.

  • Promotions – McDonald’s is promoting the hell out of it, as they do with everything, but with a little tongue and cheek advertising. They know people are gaining a taste for fancy coffee drinks and that the public’s view of them is as a low cost purveyor of fast food. They bridge this gap with delicious shots of their beverages combined with jabs at the “fancy” drink names, discussing how party changes to parte’ and debate transforms into debate’ with this added elegance.
  • Leveraging – not so much in this metric.
  • Audience – Here is the huge one. Companies like Starbuck’s made coffee drinking a widespread part of American culture. Coffee shops and these national chains were capturing the top dollar tiers of the market, but that leaves a lot of room to grow. Not wanting to leave money on the table, companies like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts introduced premium coffee to improve their footing on lower dollar tiers and began a push to the middle. Starbuck’s countered with reduced price coffee (Pike Place). So here we are, a battle is brewing (come on, that’s funny) … and McDonald’s is ubiquitous. Who will get the middle?
  • Connect – McDonald’s has a huge budget to promote and they are using all of their channels to try to connect with patrons about their new offering.
  • Entice – good coffee that is cheap and easily found. Enough said.
  • Success – POS data on sales provides great feedback on the effectiveness on the new product line.
  • Simplify – Well, this is not great yet – as witnessed in the 10 minutes it took to get my beverage. They do have the one button magic barista machine which should make this easy, but they need more training. Their inventory already includes coffee, milk, ice, chocolate and caramel so they didn’t increase the number of SKU’s, they just added a new piece of equipment. Not too bad if it adds to the bottom line.

Overall, I think Mcdonald’s might have a winner. Especially considering, with the state of the economy, they are one of the few companies that has increased revenue. In economic-speak, McDonald’s would be considered an inferior good (no offense Ronald, it’s an academic term) where demand increases as patrons’ incomes fall, but if their McCafe’ is viewed as a substitute good that is considered comparable to more expensive offerings by competitors, well that just captures market share. Holla!

Domino’s Pizza Tracker

Domino’s Pizza let’s you not only order online, but track where your order is in the process using their Pizza Tracker. From order placement, prep, bake, box to delivery – patrons can watch as their creation comes to life and is delivered to their door.

Pizza tracker

Let’s face it, online ordering rocks! You get to leisurely peruse the organization’s offering and construct your order then, in the case of food, verify with everyone that you got everything. From the organization’s standpoint, it helps to insure that you don’t forget anything and maximizes their sales dollars. Plus, there it is less likely that your order will get messed up – all of these things score high on the CC: Scorecard for Enticement. Also, by getting your patron to enter the order, you reduce overhead which scores well on Simplifying. Finally, there are easy to track metrics on who is using the solution, how long it takes them to place the order, what pages they linger on, etc., which racks up points for measuring Success.

The pizza tracker adds even more value. It extends the Connection to patrons and improves their experience, giving them a reason to stay on Domino’s website for approximately 30 minutes (or maybe less) while improving their overall experience and – as weird as this is to say about a national chain – helps to form a more intimate bond with the organization.

In my case, I had not ordered from Domino’s in about 5 years, but the commercials advertising their new sandwiches and finally their pasta bowls was too much. I had to give them another shot. After configuring my order, the Pizza Tracker popped up and I was informed that Christopher was personally overseeing my dining enjoyment. The tracker updates automatically without refreshing the screen and I watched Christoper’s progress for about 15 minutes until I was informed that Michael was bringing my meal to me. When the knock came at my door, I opened it and immediately asked, “What’s your name?” The surprised delivery person replied, “Uhhhh, Michael.” Wow.

“Michael, who prepared my order?”

“Ummmm, I think it was Christopher.”

Cool. A confirmation that Domino’s deserve some more Enticement and Connection points. Hell, throw in some Leverage points too because I told about half a dozen people about it.

Now there is some discussion about whether the tracker is legit (link 1 and 2). For all I know, Domino’s determined the average time each step takes and the tracker automatically updates at set increments. It does get employee names right, so there is some kind of interaction. If it isn’t valid, they are at least persistent with the sham, even offering an iPhone app.

What I am interested in is how it really works.  Ideally, when an order comes in, it would generate a tracking number and as the employee goes from stage to stage, they would toggle the status – old school would be a bar code tracker that gets scanned as the food moves along, new school would be a touch screen task list that employees use for each stage. This information would be phenomenal for Success and allow for Domino’s to track employee performance and process speed.

Any Domino’s employees on the prep line want to shed some light on this?