With more restaurants and delivery brands vying for customers’ attention, along with the plethora of online marketing channels, it’s getting harder to promote a restaurant that could use more eyeballs on it. A new company has added a more personal option to the small-business marketing catalogue, and some Schlotzsky’s franchisees are using its boots-on-the-ground marketers to build buzz ahead of grand openings and promote delivery and catering options.

With pricing far below most marketing campaigns or ad buys, Field Day deploys a single person or a phalanx of energetic marketers to canvas events, visit other businesses in the area and nearly any other form of in-person PR to build foot traffic, create interest ahead of grand openings and tell the local customer base about new products or offerings. Avoiding the “we’re the Uber of…” crutch, Field Day CEO Alex Nocifera said this fresh-faced approach is the culmination of a 15-year career working with massive brands from Panera to Walmart.

“I’ve fallen in love with what we’re trying to disrupt,” he said. “If you’re a brand trying to get your message out there, it’s really hard to tell a story these days.”

Using the example of a Panera Bread in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, Nocifera said that with at least 25 companies in a three-block radius with a high propensity to order food, this would be a prime opportunity for that location to build catering sales within walking distance. Estimating that there are 10,000 employees in the immediate vicinity, Nocifera hypothetically asked what’s the power of walking in the door of these firms and handing them a stack of coupons, product samples or an offer tailored directly to their employees. In the old days, this was called canvassing—and this old-fashioned idea is seeing new life in this era of hyper-connected anonymity.

“It’s the oldest form of advertising,” Nocifera added about the model. “We are really a very funky, unique amalgamation of data enterprise software, the cloud and then good old grassroots marketing.”

With a notable chunk of the job market’s youngest employees prioritizing flexibility, Nocifera said Field Day has no problem attracting eager employees who are itching to let their personalities shine and bring the results back to the restaurant client they’re working for. It’s not just young kids, however, there is a large number of stay-at-home moms, actors- and actresses-in-training, in addition to the college students one would expect.

In the years since founding the company in 2015, Field Day found gig workers stick around longer and are happier employees when allowed even more flexible working hours than the brand originally started with. Now, employees are free to carry out the work at a time of their choosing—within reason. On the client side of the equation, Nocifera and his team have found especially fruitful fields in the franchising space.

On the ground awareness

In the southwest suburbs of Kansas City, multi-unit Schlotzsky’s and Cinnabon franchisee Bart Hastert is enthusiastic about the results he’s seen from Field Day, especially in juicing the community ahead of his newest location opened down the road in Olathe.

Beyond that recent grand opening, which outperformed other recent openings, Hastert has also used Field Day staffers to specifically promote catering, which has been a growth area for Schlotzsky’s as a whole.

The brand’s director of off-premises operations, Brenda Thiboeaux, said shifts in consumer behavior are causing more companies to cater meals and snacks for employees, which Schlotzsky’s is benefitting from by growing the off-premises side of its business. It doesn’t hurt that a six-pack of Cinnabons can be thrown in as a perk, and to remind catering customers of the dual offerings at many locations.

After spending $1,000 for a three-day Field Day event, Hastert said the service “almost seemed too inexpensive for what they were promising,” and he was pleased the results matched that first impression.

“You could look online to see what the plan is, where their person is going, where they went, contact names and follow-up names,” he said. With that information, he could follow up with those contacts and, start moving those contacts into catering contracts.

“It was just phenomenal. For the first six or seven weeks, I was at the store every lunch at the register taking orders, as I wanted to meet every customer that came through,” he said of his newest dual-brand restaurant. “That first two, maybe three weeks, I had more people tell me … this was from Field Day, even the grand opening day when we did 440 specials” directly tied to the campaign.

Hastert stressed that he still likes to get out there and be seen in his communities, and working with Field Day allowed him to still take part in the effort as a complement to the team’s efforts. For franchisees considering a similar project, he urged them to be sure they’re ready for the onslaught that he’s seen from multiple gig-based promotions in different markets.

Schlotzsky’s corporate has also been pleased with the results, but Thibodeaux said the brand isn’t mandating the use of Field Day to its franchisees. Instead, it’s opting for a lighter approach of informing franchise owners the service is available should they want it.

“We really want to make sure it’s customized,” she said. “Our field marketing managers have really been driving this, and Field Day’s given them the tools to support additional market awareness for our franchisees … and it’s different for them to talk with and to offer the franchisees other than print or e-blasts or social media and digital.”