Executives at Red Robin, Dine Brands, Focus Brands and Olo answered questions about digital strategy posed by Franchise Times’ Laura Michaels, left.
How do Focus Brands, Dine Brands and Red Robin determine which delivery and off-premises initiatives they’ll pursue? That was the question posed by Franchise Times Editor-in-Chief Laura Michaels to kick off an operations and strategy panel featuring big brands at the Food On Demand Conference yesterday.
“It’s a tough question. Everything starts with a pain point, and we have a lot of pain points at the moment with the evolution of off premises in general,” said Scott Gladstone, SVP of strategy and innovation for Dine Brands Global, the franchisor of Applebee’s and IHOP.
“Ten years ago it was a lot easier to manage your business. Now things have proliferated. In the beginning there was a lot of whack-a-mole about what to solve next,” yet through a decade of changes one thing remains the same. “People care about two things: order accuracy and wait times.”
IHOP and Applebee’s are “relatively unique,” he said. “We’re almost 100 percent franchised, which is rare in casual dining. Operators can only absorb so much change in a short amount of time. At the end of the day it’s our operators who have to implement it.”
Kristen Hartman, president of the specialty category for Focus Brands, said executives used to approach technology solutions brand by brand. “And because of that, we’ve built quite a complex web. So we’ve made a decision this past year…and made an investment in making a five-year road map, and how we could create more common platforms that would work across all our brands.”
Focus Brands has seven franchises under the umbrella: Jamba, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel and Cinnabon under the specialty category; and McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Schlotzsky’s. “it’s all about ease and access for consumers. Having Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon, those are based in malls so that limits access. We’re bringing those streetside,” she said.
“Auntie Anne’s, we opened last year the first drive-in location, and we branded it with Jamba.” Consumers have been enthused, saying “you’re nice enough to bring it to the street to us.”
Jason Rusk, SVP of transformation and business development at Red Robin, has held many positions there, starting as a team member and working through operations, along with positions in branding and most recently off-premises.
“Even though consumer preferences are shifting and changing, in reality the same principles exist today as existed before. It’s removing obstacles for the consumer,” as well as making sure “your brand attributes that make you unique really come through in off- premises,” he said.
Read more coverage here of the fifth annual Food On Demand Conference, which ends today at noon at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
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