Chicken Salad Chick, Dippin' Dots, Chatmeter relay (restaurant) 'field notes'

| by S.A. Whitehead
Chicken Salad Chick, Dippin' Dots, Chatmeter relay (restaurant) 'field notes'

A trio of restaurant and digital communication leaders gave some quick but important lessons during three 15-minutes talks during the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in Louisville.

The summit's featured session, aptly dubbed "Three:15," included presentations from:

•    Chatmeter founder and CEO Collin Holmes.
•    Chicken Salad Chick founder Stacy Brown.
•    Dippin' Dots Senior Director of Franchising Steve Rothenstein.

The talks were fast, fun and jampacked with usable information geared toward the room filled with restaurateurs. Below is the stand-out, take-home advice from each presenter.

Chatmeter CEO Collin Holmes
We begin here as the session did, with Chatmeter CEO Collin Holmes, who offered some eye-popping data on internet search data when it comes to the public and restaurant brands. Holmes said: 

•    90 percent of those seeking to eat out or order in from a restaurant are using local search to find their destination. 
•    85 percent of those folks put great trust in the reviews they find on those searches. 
•    A lot of them — 1 billion users — use Google maps to find their restaurant, making it No. 2 in number of restaurant reviews or roughly five times the number on Yelp in the same period. 
•    The largest number of reviews are on Facebook with its 2 billion users.
•    Yelp was actually No. 3 in total number of reviews.

All that numbers-related information then led Holmes to make this well-backed assertion that, "Restaurants not taking advantage of local search have to do it."
And as he put it, those same brands must also both optimize search for their brand and always respond to negative reviews because, as he said, "If you don't they'll go elsewhere."

Chicken Salad Chick Founder Stacy Brown
Next was the one-woman power source that is Chicken Salad Chick Founder Stacy Brown, who has definitely ridden a sometimes very rocky road to success, including the loss of her husband and former CEO Kevin Brown to colon cancer three years ago. 

She is proof that as the saying goes, that hard knocks ultimately grow brands into very tough competitors in their specific categories. But that's only for leaders who have the wherewithal to stay humble and learn from their mistakes, she said. 

"Get your processes in place first." 

For Brown that was one of the over-arching themes of her touching presentation to restaurant leaders. Other key pieces of "old soul" wisdom from this young woman, included her advice to emerging brand leaders to "get your processes in place first." 

Brown said she learned that lesson the hard way, which took her nearly to the brink of bankruptcy when, customers "were eating at Chicken Salad Chick faster than we could make it and we weren't making a dime because we had no processes."

But those processes, like all other decisions Brown said she has made in the growth of her successful chain, have come due to one guiding principle: 
"Make your business decisions using your core values as your compass."

Brands that establish those key guides early and use them diligently and often, she said, can't help but do what works for their customers. 

Dippin' Dots Franchising Director Steve Rothenstein
Finally, Dippin' Dots' Steve Rothenstein took the stage with his take on the way to make any chain concept business venture work: Serve your internal customer first. 

"My role — and all of our roles — is to deliver challenging information."

In the case of Dippin' Dots and many other restaurant brands that primary internal customer is the brand's franchisees. And by serving them first, Rothenstein said it's essential that corporate leadership work from a high level of trust and maintain transparency about everything the brand does. 

"Transparency is the currency of trust," he told the crowd. "And transparency is one of the most immediate ways to create true engagement."

But that task is not as easy as it looks on screen, because it means leadership must be willing to both engage and enrage their franchisees with their disclosures and then deal with the passion franchisees deliver in response. 

"My role and all of our roles is to deliver challenging information ... to commit to that fact that they will hear it (bad and good news) from me live if there's something they need to know." 

And on that note, most importantly, he said leaders have to realize that some of the biggest blowbacks in the form of arguments or feelings may well come from some of your best franchisees because they have an extreme passion for their businesses and equally strong feelings about how they should be run. 

"Respect that passion — good or bad and be honest and direct even when it's hard," he said. "It's absolutely critical to strong franchisee relationships. ... So take the risk of dealing with the hard stuff."

Want to join the learning, networking and fun? Join us at the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit, July 16-18 in London. Registration is now open.

Feature photo: iStock

Inset photos: Willie Lawless

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Franchising & Growth, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social, Operations Management, Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit

Companies: Chatmeter

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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