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Red Chickz, Brix Holdings and Thanx Executives Talk Loyalty Programs, Personalization and Social MediaFast Casual

Three executives spoke about issues in the restaurant industry at the Fast Casual Executive Summit held last month in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Shawn Lalehzarian explained how TikTok can be used as a marketing tool. Photo by Networld Media Group.

Three executives spoke about issues in the restaurant industry at the Fast Casual Executive Summit held last month in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is one of many industry events organized by Networld Media Group, the parent company of Fast casual, pizza market and QSRweb. The annual three-day Fast Casual Executive Summit attracts top brand executives from around the world. The next media company event is the Restaurant Franchise and Innovation Summit March 20-23, 2023, in Coral Gables, Florida.

Use TikTok as a marketing tool

Shawn Lalehzarian, co-founder of Red Chickz, took the floor first, and talked about using Tik Tok as a marketing tool.

Lalehzarian moved to the United States in 1998 and could not speak English. He started his career as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. He held every position in this restaurant and eventually held a position where he opened a multitude of restaurants in the United States and Canada. He co-founded Red Chickz in 2018.

With just one store, they were able to gain a solid following on social media with 145,000 followers on Instagram and over a million on TikTok. “Over the past century, we have used many marketing and public relations tools to influence consumer buying habits and these tools range from television to radio to newspapers. All of these tools have one thing in common: they were all great consumer communicators. And this social media came along,” Lalehzarian said.

First, we need to know what each social media platform can offer the consumer. TikTok is a must-see platform, Lalehzarian said. “Not many people are actually creating content and posting on TikTok, but I promise you a lot of people are watching,” he added.

Communication is two-way on TikTok, and people have the ability to communicate with every piece of content a brand posts. A brand can take these comments and incorporate them into the next piece of content created.

Brands should be relevant, creative and outrageous. “We’re dealing with a different generation, and I’m not just talking about age difference,” Lalehzarian said.

Have engaging content. “The content you post on social media doesn’t have to be perfect. You want it to be imperfect,” Lalehzarian added. It must be close to what you are selling.

Keep TikTok videos short, around 15-20 seconds, and use influencers if you can. Follow trends, but also consider trying to start a trend.

“Having the ability to post a video as many times as you want and present yourself to your consumers in this format has worked really well for us,” Lalehzarian said.

Sherif Mityas, president of Brix Holdings, talked about getting personal with clients. Photo by Networld Media Group.

Be personal with customers

Cherif Mityas, President of Brix Holdings, explained how restaurants must become personal in an increasingly competitive market. Brix is ​​the parent company of Friendly’s, Orange Leaf and Red Mango and other brands with 450 locations in 38 states.

Mityas is passionate about customization. “How do you bring it to life when you’re a small or medium chain, maybe just starting out?” he said. “When we say personalization, what do we mean? … My big statement is that loyalty is dead. I don’t believe in loyalty, and when I clarify that, I clearly believe in loyalty programs that work. But a lot of Loyalty programs there were the beginnings of personalization. Know the guests who come to you. Learn a little about them.

Understand who they are and when and what they buy, Mityas said. Try engaging them personally on a different level. He said 90% of loyalty programs in the industry are glorified discount programs.

If it’s a small restaurant, it’s easy to tell who the regulars are. You know their names, their families and what they command. The restaurant can adapt its loyalty programs to better personalize its experience. “But how do you do this on a large scale? Mitias asked. “How do you do that when you now have 20 restaurants? 50 restaurants? »

First, how do you personalize engagement? Mityas said you can customize based on how and when you contact that guest. You can search for models. Let’s say a person comes every Tuesday. What is the driving force behind this? Football night? “When do you contact that person and engage with them personally? Maybe it’s Tuesday at noon to let them know you have something special for that night, to be there just when they’re thinking about the next food and drink opportunity specifically for that guest,” Mityas said.

Second, personalize the food, such as giving a guest a sundae and letting them customize it with toppings you give them. This often leads to social media posts. “Think about how you can do this on different parts of your menu,” Mityas said. “That’s what people want to do. They want to show off something they’ve created that’s personalized to them.”

Finally, personalize the experience. During the pandemic, brands tried to personalize everything because everything was digital. It’s hard to personalize when customers walk into your restaurant, Mityas said. It has to do with the team members you have in-house.

Creating an individual experience is key. Team members know who their primary customers are, so what tools are provided to them to personalize the experience? Consider personalized off-menu items for those repeat customers – something special, not discounted. “It’s that connection that you can create,” Mityas said.

Emily Rugaber, VP of Marketing for Thanx, explained how to create a loyalty program without discounts. Photo by Networld Media Group.

Loyalty without reductions

Emily Rugaber, Vice President of Marketing for Thanksexplained how non-discount reward strategies drive revenue and protect margins.

Rugaber said shareholders, operators and marketers are wondering how they are improving profits while increasing customer lifetime value and how is this happening in an unprecedented time of budget scrutiny?

“Loyalty in the restaurant industry has been a dirty word,” Rugaber said. This has been equated with discounts, generic, rote and one-size-fits-all loyalty programs and as a result, many restaurant brands have questioned the need for loyalty programs. The digital battlefield has completely transformed the industry, Rugaber said. .

So where to start ?

First, look at your current content schedule. “You don’t have to invent a new menu. You don’t have to do anything crazy. Just look at what you already plan to do and say ‘where can I incorporate these ideas?'” Rugaber said. . “If you have an upcoming product launch, a seasonal menu item that you are going to launch soon, consider giving access to your loyal members or a segment of your loyal members a few weeks earlier. A few days earlier even.”

If you have a menu hack that customers love, repackage it as a loyalty perk.

Once your feet are wet, start testing these AB promotions. Do you need to offer 20% off when 15% off will also work? Is there a no-discount reward you can offer that you can test against a promotion? Sometimes you will find that you don’t need the discount.

Then brainstorm new ideas. Think about your brand. Gather as many people as you can into your business and start brainstorming ideas. “Look at your mark and say ‘What would be on the mark? ‘” Rugaber said. Examine your business goals, examine your customers, and find the overlap. Integrate it into your basic program.

Finally, walk through your basic program. “If your loyalty program hasn’t changed in the last year, in the last six months, you’re probably not doing something right,” Rugaber said.

Mandy Wolf Detwiler is Managing Editor of Networld Media Group and Site Editor for and She has over 20 years of experience in food, people and places.

An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings over 20 years of experience to Networld Media Group. She has spent nearly two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and businesses of all sizes in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable appetite for learning and can tell you where to find the best slices in the country after spending 15 years traveling and eating pizza for a living.