How Franchisees Can Take Advantage of the Shift to Digital: Insights from Theresa Dold

Digital ordering, Order ahead, LevelUp, CRM, Mobile Ordering

Digital ordering, Order ahead, LevelUp, CRM, Mobile OrderingToday, digital ordering is growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic. How can franchisees best take advantage of this digital shift? We recently sat down with Theresa Dold, LevelUp’s Vice President of Agency Strategy and former Director of Product at sweetgreen, to chat about her experience helping hundreds of restaurant brands at LevelUp do just that:

Suzy Whalen (SW): The average fast-casual restaurant customer’s journey starts earlier these days, and decisions aren’t always made in-store. How can a restaurant guarantee it stays top of mind as guests search for a quick bite via digital platforms and social channels?

Theresa Dold (TD): It’s no secret that competition in the restaurant space is fierce and that digital is playing a transformative role in the way brands interact with their customers, and vice versa. Now more than ever, it’s critical that restaurants understand their customers’ mindset and behaviors, and meet customers where they already are – whether that be on social channels like Facebook Messenger and Yelp, or on platforms that shape their everyday routines, like Google Maps and Amazon Alexa.

It’s equally important that restaurants take action on the data available to them via these digital platforms. A few straightforward but powerful examples:

  • Customers are lapsing? Send them personalized offers to come back and enjoy their favorite menu item at a discounted rate.
  • Same-store sales are decreasing? Leverage third-party data to understand the root cause – like if your customers are visiting the new competitor down the block.
  • Looking to grow your catering business? Pinpoint and reach out to customers who work at nearby offices.

SW: How can franchisees best take advantage of a restaurant brand’s omnichannel strategy, including apps, websites, and social?

TD: A brand’s omnichannel strategy benefits franchisees in more ways than one. To start, in-app and on-website location finders make it easy to drive customers to a franchised location. Many brands with their own apps have a dashboard and self-service tools with which franchisees can run local store marketing campaigns to drive traffic, influence daypart, combat seasonality, and more. These campaigns can be distributed via email, push notifications, SMS, or even beacon messages that appear when an app user comes within a certain radius of the location.

SW: What are some examples of creative campaigns that franchisees can run with an app or online marketing software?

TDFranchisees can run a slew of campaigns across channels to target a location-specific customer base. For instance, a franchisee could celebrate a local sports team’s victory by extending an offer to all guests the day following a big win (not to rub it in, but here in Boston, there tends to be a lot to celebrate!). Another campaign type that performs well for LevelUp restaurants is the trusty buy-one-get-one that encourages a guest and a friend to come in for a meal together during off-peak hours.

Brands should ensure their franchisees have all the tools they need to run local store marketing campaigns like these. Technology is of course making this easier, as many platforms allow corporate teams to choose specific campaigns that franchisees can run locally.

SW: What tips do you have for translating the in-store experience and brand to online channels?

TD: The brands that are the most successful at driving orders – whether online or offline – are those that provide an optimal end-to-end customer experience. That means keeping branding and menus consistent across all channels, including your website, app, social media, and in-store signage. That also means continuing to make good on any brand promises you set forth (think Jimmy John’s “freaky fast” policy for delivering online orders in four minutes or less).

At LevelUp, we pride ourselves as experts in technology, digital marketing and restaurant branding. We have strategic conversations with clients about the ways in which introducing new digital channels and campaigns will impact operations and the overall guest experience. We help clients keep branding consistent by incorporating aspects of their offline experience into their digital presence. For example, Potbelly’s slogan is “Feed your smile,” and they offer “smiles” as their digital rewards currency. Smiles are also a key visual element across their in-store signage.

SW: What trends are you seeing for in-store restaurant technologies? How can franchisees seamlessly adapt to these trends?

TD: We’re seeing tech influence the in-store restaurant experience more and more. Mobile payments and order ahead continue to grow; in fact, 45% of quick service restaurants now offer an “in-store pick up” option via their mobile apps. This drives up the convenience factor for guests and keeps them coming back for more. In-store payment kiosks are also becoming more popular, with brands like Shake Shack piloting cashless, kiosk-only locations.

Digital menu boards are on the rise, especially with the boom in healthy fast casual restaurants sourcing local ingredients that rotate often. Menu data, including nutrition information, can be seamlessly shared between these digital menu boards and other platforms, like a brand’s website and mobile app.  

Luckily, many vendors are making these technologies easy to deploy and operate in-store. It just takes some dedicated training by the brand or franchise owner to get everyone up to speed.


Interested to learn more about how franchisees can use digital channels to drive in new guests and increase revenue? Join the LevelUp crew at the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit April 9-11 in Louisville, Kentucky. Our very own Allyson Klineman will moderate a panel — “I’ll Take Digital To Go” — on Tuesday, April 10th at 2:30pm ET. Visit the rest of the team in the exhibit hall at booth G3.

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Suzy Whalen

Suzy Whalen

Suzy is the B2B Marketing Manager at LevelUp, where she brings the conference circuit to life with food, fun, and cool (yet useful) swag. When she isn’t coordinating conferences, you can find Suzy planning her own travel, bouncing around the gym, or crossing off her list of Boston restaurants to try.

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