Episode Highlights

  • The original Slurpee Queen who took the product to new heights through her media and entertainment partnerships, Steph got started in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher at a small restaurant in Algona, Iowa.
  • One of Steph’s first major roles was as the Director of Beverage at Chili’s. While at Chili’s, Steph moved into a pivotal role as the Director of Food and Beverage Innovation where she helped build an innovation process around tasting foods.
  • Steph moved over to 7-Eleven and helped revive the “tired” brand of Slurpee. The revival included concepts around gaming, music and action/adventure – experiences the guests just couldn’t get enough of at the time.
  • Steph helped introduce the Marvel partnership with Slurpee – including the Farmville characters.
  • Steph mentions the importance of keeping a focus with your brand – which was evident while at Red Robin.
  • Based on Steph’s experience, everyone can be an “expert” on food. So, it’s important to be respectful of people’s opinions…but also lean on a well-defined menu strategy that says what you are and what you are not.
  • Data is a crucial and often overlooked aspect of building successful menus and selecting the best food items for your audience, says Steph.  
  • When asked about the balance of data and creativity, she cautioned against having too much data, without insights, which can lead to analysis paralysis. In some cases, with so much data, you don’t get digestible information that’s easy to action.
  • Your tech partners are now one of your best friends as a marketer.  There is now one team: Operations + Marketing + Tech. Everybody has to work hand in hand.
  • More often than not, it is the integration that always trips people up…when it comes to technology.
  • Steph talks about how necessity is the mother of invention. With this pandemic, restaurants are forced to change and if you do not change, you will not survive.
  • Steph talks about how it’s heartening to hear that brand is now becoming more and more important because a lot of times brands were considered fluff. But now, people believe in authentic, purposeful brands.
  • Steph breaks down a campaign with Slurpee where the company donated over $2 million to charities in partnership with celebrities such as Nicole Ritchie, Jennifer Hudson, Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg.
  • Steph talks about the Chik-fil-A meal kit innovation with chicken parm meals and how their service during the pandemic has been amazing.
  • Front Burner has also created an innovative brand experience with Ida Claire, Haywire and Whiskey Cake – creating to go experiences with both meals and drink combinations.
  • Steph states how some of the hardest lessons give you some of the most valuable insights.
  • Even though Artificial Intelligence is a big initiative, Steph talks about how restaurants are still focused on humanizing the experience. 


  • “Good news, bad news … we’re in a pandemic. Now is the time to change.” 
  • “It’s not just about the marketing tech stack your company has. It’s all about one stack for obtaining the data your company needs.”
  • According to Steph, “Never say you’re not something…because you can be anything you want to be.” 
  • Steph pinpoints how “You don’t want to talk at a consumer. Your brand is a guide. Your consumer is your hero.”
  • Steph talks about the pandemic and its impact. “The silver lining around this horrible event is we are creating a more convenient, seamless experience for people in the restaurant space. I don’t have to touch a thing. I can put everything on my phone. And QR code. Boom. I can order. I can leave and go.”
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