Long John Silver's, Goodcents Deli, Rosati's on the 'franchise-worthy' customer experience

| by S.A. Whitehead
Long John Silver's, Goodcents Deli, Rosati's on the 'franchise-worthy' customer experience

QSR brands that create and consistently execute a superior customer experience do not, of course, stumble upon their winning formulas by chance. Rather, their team members work at it daily in all types of challenging circumstances, so that when the concept goes to franchise it has nailed down its customer experience expectations and how to achieve them. 

Problem is, franchising itself brings new players and layers of complexity into any brand's daily customer experience execution. But since growth is essential in foodservice and franchising is the route most brands take, figuring out the best ways to grow that customer experience with the chain itself is well worth the time and effort. 

That fact was attested to by the packed house at a panel on the subject at this spring's Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in Louisville.  The three participating brands fielded some great questions on the subject of growing customer experience with the  brand from moderator, MicroSale Vice President Ken Willis. The panelists included: 

  • Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs Franchise Systems President Scott Ford
  • Rosati's Pizza President Marla Topliff
  • Long John Silver President Brian Unger

It was a lively hour packed with bits of wisdom from the three very different brands. Here are three of the questions that evoked some of the best comments of the hour from the session.  

Q: For your particular brand, where would you say customer experience starts and ends?

Goodcents:We don't believe it ends. We try to keep them engaged on a daily basis. It's all digital strategy now ... and we've got a bunch of young smart (digital employees) ... and their ability to achieve organic reach with customers is way off the charts.

Rosati's:We make sure our menu is planned to perfection ... and we're serving food that's something customers are really going to love. ... Then it's about choosing the right people to work in your restaurant ... and that starts with being well trained. And I mean really well-trained. ... It starts before they enter your restaurant and continues on to well beyond. It never really ends. 

Long John Silver's: It starts with the questions, "How does the customer define you?" and "How do you want to be defined by your customer?" ... 

I took that from a broader strategy, too, in asking ourselves the question and giving our interpretation of what the future of the brand looks like.

Q: How do you help franchisees start setting the tone for your brand and then how do they evolve that from there?

Rosati's: We first started in 1964 by 11 family members and we've treated the concept the same way then as now: All franchisees, we treat as family. ... 

Like we developed our training manuals and we hold franchisees to a certain standard and we expect them to treat employees the same way as well. ... Since then, we've grown tremendously to the 200-plus we are now. But for every single change we've made, we've kept up and written standards for those changes so that all our stores are prepared. It's very important for you to let your franchisees know what you expect of them ... but you still have to give them some space.

Long John Silver's: Our franchising director has been with the brand 47 years ... and he's my true North. So never forget your past on your way into the future. (The brand's) founder Jim Patterson is still a part of our board. 

You have to stay anchored in the past. ... It's about maintaining the core values of the brand, but bringing them into today, like with our wild-caught seafood that is compliant with all the quality standards. 

Q: So how do you then really enhance the customer experience moving forward with franchisees? 

Long John Silver's: As the leader of these brands ... we're dealing with reality, and reality says there are barriers to get across today. But then you take a 50-year-old brand and stay challenged by that to create the drive-thru that's the wave of the future, with (smartphones) that are identifying you and suggesting what you might want to buy. ... That's the vision of the future.

Goodcents: Our goal is to get to 100 percent mobile ordering, so now when you come through the drive-thru, you insert your credit card and they say, "Do you want your regular order?" You say, "Yes!" then boom, they're done in as little as 10 seconds and it's all a means to an end to get you on the (brand's) mobile app because we want you on that app because then we can do cool things to drive your ordering habits. Getting them on that app is the key to doing that. 

Rosati's: So at the table, there's gaming for the kids and that's so they can sit and game while mom and dad are ordering. That's become a very big thing. 

The other (big thing) is online ordering. We are starting to get very much into digital menu boards. With the advent of menu labeling where we now have to put in that information ... then this way (with digital menus), we can change it as we need, for instance, as we switch from one (brand's) sausage to another. 

The other thing for us is having some type of loyalty program and that's something that we have been doing for all of our 50 years in business in one form or another. 

Great conversations and restaurant wisdom like this is an all-day long experience at these summits. For an international perspective, please check out the upcoming Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in London this July. But hurry to register, the summit takes place in less than two months. For a deeper look at the use of interactive technologies to enhance the customer experience, come to Dallas June 12 through June 14 for the Interactive Customer Experience Summit

Photo: iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Food & Beverage, ICX Summit, Loyalty Programs, Marketing, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Operations Management, Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit, Staffing & Training, Workforce Management

Companies: MicroSale

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 Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com 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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