Episode Summary

If you’ve been to Fazoli’s, you know about the unlimited breadsticks. This offering has defined the chain’s dine-in experience for years. But what happens when a pandemic significantly impacts dine-in traffic? You hand out breadsticks at the drive-thru!
Fazoli’s CMO, Jodie Conrad, has focused on boosting the chain’s off-premise dining initiatives with great success — as the brand is up 7% over 2020 sales — while dealing with a pandemic.
Jodie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the brand. Before joining the Fazoli’s team nearly five years ago, she worked for a number of big brands, including Rax Roast Beef RestaurantsThe Pillsbury Company and Coca-Cola. In fact, Jodie spent more than 13 years of her career at Wendy’s — so, yeah, you could say she knows a thing or two about the restaurant and food industry.
On this episode of Restaurants Reinvented, Jodie talks candidly about how the pandemic has affected Fazoli’s and how the company has pivoted its marketing efforts in response.


🍽️ Name: Jodie Conrad, CMO
🍽️ Company: Fazoli’s
🍽️ Key Quote: “Before COVID, cleaning was something you wanted to do without anybody seeing it. You wanted them to see the result of it. But now guests want to see you doing it — wipe down that counter and put sanitizer on the table before my family is going to sit there.”
🍽️ Where to find Jodie: LinkedIn | Twitter
Jodie Conrad

Key Insights

🌶️ To pivot effectively, you need “good fundamentals in place.”
 Jodie has worked hard to support the restaurant’s off-premise dining sales. That’s involved building an online ordering system, mobile app, loyalty program and partnerships with delivery platforms — all of which has paid off during the pandemic.
🌶️ Prioritize cross-departmental communication.
This has been key to Fazoli’s success during COVID-19, especially as marketers communicate with restaurant operators. This ensures the operators have a better experience — and therefore the customers do, too.
🌶️ Ensure your marketing strategy changes with the times.
For Fazoli’s (and other businesses for that matter), getting TV commercials just isn’t as essential these days. Instead, the chain has focused its efforts online. The “secret”? Interact with your customers like a human and celebrate their positive (and address their negative) experiences.

Episode Highlights

The largest traffic source? Drive-thru
“The percentage growth is greatest in delivery and online ordering, but the biggest dollar boost and occasion boost is the drive-thru. I think people just feel safe in their cars. Listening to some of the Datassential research … as long as people can stay in their cars and take food home, they feel they’re not putting themselves or their family at risk.”
The importance of cleanliness
“We were already seeing from our own interactions with guests in our restaurant … the importance of having these rigorous cleanliness and sanitation standards, living up to those and sharing it and communicating it with guests. Before in this business, cleaning was something you wanted to do without anybody seeing it. You just wanted them to see the result of it. … Now they want to see you doing it — wipe down that counter and put sanitizer on the table before my family is going to sit there.”
In a world of a million options, you’ve got to stay top of mind
“The biggest challenge is staying top of mind because there are a million other choices out there. So what can we do to make sure people don’t forget about us? That we’re providing what people are looking for and the value they’re looking for? That’s where I think tools like our mobile app have been really important to us.”
Restaurants are like retail: Your consumers are ever-changing
“[The fact] everyone can relate to restaurants is part of why it’s interesting to work on because consumers are fascinating — they’re always changing, and there are always things you can learn about how they’re behaving and how they’re making decisions and what that means to your business because everyone can relate to restaurants.”
Communication is key, especially during a pandemic
“So much is about the technology and the tools to provide a good experience both for our guests and for our operators. I think it’s really been important for us to understand how, as marketers, it all fits together — how we can make this something where our operators can execute it with ease. It makes our guests’ experience better and takes down barriers for them being able to access us and get the food they want, when they want, how they want it.”
Talk like a human — not a brand

“We have changed our approach to social and are getting greater engagement on that by just speaking more with a human voice — being more like a person than a brand. As a personality for the brand, we are sort of Midwestern — approachable, friendly — so really bringing that to bear in our voice there.”

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