Andrew K. Smith, founder & CEO of Utah-based Four Foods Group, shares his company’s approach to inspiring guest loyalty.
Over the past 10 years, Four Foods Group has experienced remarkable growth beginning with one Kneaders Bakery and Café restaurant and now operates 49 across six states, with seven more under development. All this while adding R&R Barbecue (five units), 53 Little Caesar restaurants in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, Swig n Sweets (19 units), and Mo’Bettahs Hawaiian Style (six units). With this level of expansion and success, I wanted to know more. Below is my conversation with Andrew K. Smith, founder & CEO of Utah-based Four Foods Group:
What do you believe has changed the most when it comes to driving customer frequency?
Loyal customers are harder and harder to come by because they have more options and carry higher expectations of what the industry should do to. With this understanding, we focus on guests who are in our restaurants or picking up orders and not worrying about additional customers we want or need. We believe if the customers we service today leave with a much greater sense of value for their dollar, appreciation for their business, and a unique “experience” that binds their emotional motives to come back to our restaurants.
How important are coupons for attracting new customers?
We don’t ever coupon because we believe it trains our guests to “wait and see” what the next coupon will be before they return. Instead, we focus on making every customer experience a positive one.
What role has social media played in brand awareness?
This is one of the most important tools in the industry and we believe more dollars should be focused on
this medium than any other right now. When we see our friends, family members or co-workers enjoying an experience at a restaurant, and give a quick testimonial, it is better than almost any other traditional marketing effort. Our strong social media presence has been a tremendous impact to our bottom line as it has increased our star ratings across customer review platforms.
What is your top marketing tip for a new restaurant just starting?
Spend the money and spend the time! Invest more heavily in more personnel being at the restaurant for the first three months, if not longer, so that the guests you have coming for the first time, are guaranteed to have the best experience possible. Don’t try to hit labor and food targets (within reason) for the first 3 months. Cutting back too quick may cut back your sales and they may never come back to the level you need to run a business profitably.
How have your charitable-giving promotions and sponsorships helped with community relations?
Everyone wants to know that you are giving back. We donate day old food to local shelters and have done so over the past 10 years. It is hard to promote to your guests that you do this as it seems to promote that you are “doing it for sales” but it gets around and people feel good to support businesses that support their local community and programs. My suggestion is to find one cause that you love and follow it consistently. We have loved feeding kids at a local school that has poverty-stricken students. It is something we are passionate about and plan to continue this for years to come.
How important are employee contests for retention and how long should they last? Maggie from Sarasota, FL
Sales contests rejuvenate employees toward your brand while generating excitement which helps them get out of the daily grind. They are very helpful and motivating toward driving performance but they need to be designed so they maintain staff excitement and interest. Make every contest fair, easy to understand, and winners in short intervals while reaching the larger reward. We recommend contests that have weekly benchmark winners on the way to a 12-week grand prize.