Sitting behind a desk full time was never going to work for Kelly Parriott. “It’s Flight and Flute for a reason,” she says of the consultancy she launched in 2016. “I’m used to being on planes and trains and automobiles.” During her career, Kelly has worked on well-known brands like 7-Eleven and Frito-Lay. Her most memorable client experience, with Outback Steakhouse, demonstrates her preferred hands-on approach.
“It was one of those unique opportunities whereas an agency partner, you’re in the C-suite and you’re with the operators out in the field,” she says. “It was a very unique and well-rounded team, but it also created a better user experience.”
On this episode of Restaurants Reinvented, Kelly explains the most effective way marketers can collect useful data, how to sell directly to your brand’s consumer segments, the true meaning of loyalty, and more tips for meeting consumers where they are today
Kelly’s advice to restaurant marketers is to use all the data available to better understand what your customers really want. This is especially crucial in the pandemic, when consumers’ needs continue to change on short notice. Lack of trust in data is a concern and her answer is to validate it through testing. Her biggest advice is to get inside the 4 walls of the restaurant to observe what’s happening in the local markets and test and learn.
Name: Kelly Parriott
What she does: After working as a senior buyer for Nordstrom and traveling for a stint, Kelly joined an agency, where she worked on campaigns for household names including Outback Steakhouse, 7-Eleven, Frito-Lay and Life Kitchen. She then started her own consultancy, Flight and Flute, where she helps clients collect and wrangle the data they need to understand their customers and establish brand loyalty.
Key Quote: “I hope restaurant marketers become more involved in the overall process: everything from menu development to service models to traffic flow and experience inside the four walls. I think marketers are closer to a lot of this data than the rest of the organization. And my hope is that marketers can start to affect those things that will ultimately affect loyalty.”
🌶️ Data collecting doesn’t have to be expensive.
Go to the restaurants and talk to the team on the floor, especially the people who are in touch with what their customers want. Google and social media come with analytics that can help you make decisions with an outsized impact. Look at data compiled by Nielsen, and sign up for weekly industry statistics from Black Box Intelligence.
🌶️ Earning customers’ loyalty means thinking about what they really want.
Data shows that coupon/discount offers don’t secure loyalty from millennials and Gen Z as effectively as they did for previous generations. Look at whether it’s the experience, community schemes, environmental policies or branding that pulls them into your restaurants. Similarly, customers in different parts of the country — or even different parts of a city — have different needs. Consider assigning someone to each unit to gather local insight.
🌶️ Marketers now have more data about the impact of COVID — and it’s not all bad news
For example, over half of consumers have returned to on prem. Research also shows that people are relying more on restaurants midweek and less on weekends. Use these insights to plan a strategy. With customers in a more understanding mood, now is a good time to test different approaches.
Take a deep dive into your customers’ lives
“Outback did a deep dive to really understand where their current base was and who the future guests of Outback Steakhouse were … and that’s how we tapped into not just building broad base awareness but ultimately driving loyalty. We put over a million members into the first year of that loyalty program. … We knew that this guest space was highly indexed towards country music. We knew their radio behaviors and social behaviors, and we tapped into that. We did a partnership with Tim McGraw. … It drove incremental traffic and sales and it was considered a big success.”
Know what extras guests want with their food
“A consumer will forgive a bad food experience if they have a positive service experience. It’s understanding what really matters to this consumer set. Is it experience, is it access to content that they otherwise wouldn’t have, is it access to learning more about your brand? Are you talking about what the team is doing in the community? Tap into those things that are important in your community and with your guest set to help drive that loyalty. Obviously, food ultimately has to deliver, but there are a lot of other cues that matter in terms of driving loyalty in this particular space.”
Test and learn while guests are feeling forgiving
“This time is ideally set up for testing and learning. You can be quick to fail, but don’t be afraid to try new things. I think guests will forgive you if, say, they’re getting their food delivered and it’s not as hot as it normally would be when they’re inside the restaurant. It’s how they’re being treated and that relationship that they start to build with the teammates and the staff that matters. As a marketer, it’s not a time to try solving from inside your office. It’s the time to really get out there.”
Harness the emotional aspect of restaurants
“My hope is that marketers will be able to start tapping into more of the emotional aspects of food. This is a high involvement category: People are super passionate about food and beverages. I think that coming out of COVID, we’re all going to appreciate that happy hour a little bit more, and being able to hang out as a family and have dinner outside your own house. So my hope is that marketers are going to be able to tap into that.”