Preview: Insights from Next Week’s Fast Casual Executive Summit

fast casual executive summit 2018

At this year’s Fast Casual Executive Summit in Seattle, executives from Modern Market, Cowboy Chicken, and other leaders will join LevelUp on the panel stage to chat about how brands today can take advantage of the restaurant industry’s newest technologies. LevelUp’s Allyson Klineman will take the stage as moderator. We caught up with Allyson to get her take on how restaurants can create the best digital experience to increase guest frequency and spend.

Suzy Whalen (SW): Ally, you have an interesting role at LevelUp, as you work directly with so many restaurant executives. Tell us a little about your background in the restaurant space.

Allyson Klineman (AK): I’ve been at LevelUp for over four years, and it’s been so exciting to watch the company grow along with its restaurant partners. Throughout my time here, I’ve come to learn how restaurants can use technology to increase revenue and drive customer loyalty (and what hiccups many restaurants encounter along the way!). I’m most passionate about helping our clients take advantage of all that today’s technology has to offer.

SW: On a high level, how have you seen the ways in which guests interact with restaurants change over the past four years?

AK: It’s amazing how quickly guests started interacting with restaurant brands digitally. Just a few short years ago, the thought of having your favorite restaurant deliver your favorite entree at any time of day was only a dream. Now, delivery is becoming more and more ubiquitous. When LevelUp entered the app and web ordering development space, many restaurants hadn’t even thought of developing their own app, and those that did only included loyalty and not digital ordering. The addition of ordering totally changed the game; in fact, today, digital ordering is growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic. That’s a huge revenue opportunity!  

SW: What best practices have you seen restaurants implement when it comes to developing a best-in-class digital experience?

AK: The most effective programs that we’ve seen recently are those that are designed with both mobile and desktop ordering in mind. When both experiences are launched simultaneously, and with a comprehensive marketing campaign that spans digital, print, and in-store messaging, we see critical performance metrics skyrocket.

Once established, programs thrive when the brand comprehensively dives into guest data and uses that data to craft meaningful loyalty programs, rewards, and targeted campaigns. Once you have guest data at your fingertips, it becomes that much easier to personalize the guest experience and create meaningful offers that convert guests into loyal customers.

SW: There are so many online channels out there — Facebook, Google, Yelp, Apple and Android Pay — it can be hard to keep up. What advice do you have for restaurants when testing and choosing between different channels?

AK: Test, test, test! A channel that brings in ample customers for your brand might turn out to be a dud for another… it all depends on your unique guests’ usage and demographics. Perhaps the majority of your customers trend towards using Apple phones over Android phones; Apple Pay might be a super effective channel for you. Perhaps the majority of your guests find restaurants on Facebook rather than Yelp. In the end, be true to your brand and communicate it in a way that is relevant, meaningful, and engaging to your customers.

SW: Delivery sales make up 6% of all restaurant orders these days, and that number is only growing. What are the primary strategies restaurants need to employ to make delivery work for them?

AK: First and foremost, make sure your restaurant is set up for success from an operational standpoint. Don’t even consider delivery until you’re executing flawlessly without it. Once you are, think through how you can account for additional volume. You’ll need to add more than incremental labor: restaurants like sweetgreen, Chipotle, Mendocino Farms, and more have reconfigured their restaurants to add an additional prep line focused solely on take-out and delivery order fulfillment.

Interested in hearing more expert insights? Visit Allyson at her panel on Monday, October 8 at 4:00pm at the Fast Casual Executive Summit.

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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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