If there was a theme to come out of the “Take Multi-Channel Marketing to the Max” panel at this year’s Food On Demand Conference, it is to listen relentlessly to your customers. And be willing to kill your darlings. Including Becky.

Becky was the phone-answering bot deployed by Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza, a brand that is part of BurgerFi International, which acquired it in November 2021. Cindy Syracuse, chief marketing officer for the brand, said Becky was used in 60 locations to handle the 500,000 phone orders that would come in every year. The rationale was to create a savings in labor and deliver a steadier process. Only one thing: customers hated Becky.

“We’d actually hear ‘Kill Becky’ from customers,” Syracuse told the panel. “So we got rid of Becky. It was an easy call. Our customers just missed speaking with a human.”

Molly Catalano of Five Guys also believes in the value of human interaction. She resisted using marketing tactics for a long time, relying on word of mouth. During her time with Five Guys, she has helped grow the company from 30 restaurants on the East Coast to 1,800 locations in 24 countries. She has only recently started experimenting with such tactics as email marketing and loyalty programs. Her philosophy is to keep things simple. Make ordering on your platforms as easy as ordering in-store. And don’t overlook the power of basic human civility. “We believe in listening to our customers,” she said. “They will tell you what they want.”

Personalization is something that is important to Danielle Porto Parra, the senior vice president of marketing for GoTo Foods, which owns such concepts as Moe’s Southwest Grill and Jamba. Jamba uses its tech to capture return customers and reward them. “Ten percent of our loyalty customer base visits more than 11 times a year. So what do we do for them? We created a gold tier, the Jam Fam. They get extra benefits, exclusive offers, points. We make them feel part of a club. We want that return business.”

Syracuse wants the same thing but she doesn’t want to come off heavy-handed. “We never make a discount contingent on downloading our app,” she said. “We never make that ask. But here’s the thing. Because we don’t, they often do. You have to use a bit of reverse psychology.”

One thing all three panelists agreed on was the power of authentic content marketing. Your brand voice on your platforms is crucial to driving volume.

“Content is king,” said Syracuse, “and I’m the queen of organic media. You just need one post to go viral to really establish your brand. But you also need to keep hitting singles. Your number one channel is your own website channel. Make sure to regularly push content out there. Try blogs and podcasts as well. All of this will help your SEO, which will feed optimization on the back end.”

Porto Parra goes a step further. She’s so sold on the value of putting out original content and messaging that she built an in-house creative agency for GoTo Foods. “It’s called Devour. Its slogan is world-class creative for insatiable brands. We’ve found the economics and quality are so much better.”