Episode Highlights

  • Justin started his restaurant career at Baja Fresh in a “catch all” role that gave him a lot of exposure to different areas of marketing.
  • Justin worked for Qdoba and Veggie Grill, then joined Halal Guys and was promoted to Director of Marketing where he grew the brand from a street cart in Manhattan to an international fan favorite food.
  • Building strong and authentic relationships with franchisees and operators is one of Justin’s keys to success. This skill landed him his latest executive leadership role at at JINYA Holdings.
  • JINYA franchisees see 10-20% returns. Hear how Justin works with franchisees on marketing strategies to drive awareness and sales, and about the Franchisee Committee the company is establishing.
  • With over 40 locations across 4 different brands and concepts, Justin oversees marketing strategies for each brand and helps expand the business with new franchisees and investors.
  • News flash: Ramen isn’t just a cold weather food – it can work in all climates and has done very well in Texas most recently. Craft beer is a part of JINYA’s brand, a newcomer in the ramen world.
  • Justin highlights creative campaigns he’s developed during COVID, including a recent influencer campaign with MMA fighter Sean O’Malley.
  • He is focused on setting up the brand for success and building a loyal audience – which includes over 63,000 raving fans on Instagram.
  • Social media, email, co-branding partnerships and influencer content are his biggest programs and strategies right now.
  • Justin is currently working with his IT counterpart, David Huang (previously at Waba Grill) to create a foundation of strong systems and establish an effective technology stack for the future. Together they are looking to identify best in class technology solutions for each function – from waitlist to loyalty and curbside.
  • The key to JINYA’s high ratings and guest experience is their strong training programs and teams. 
  • JINYA always had takeout, but until COVID-19, it wasn’t really a big part of their sales.
  • Justin believes we’ll get back to events eventually, (“there’s too much doom and gloom”) even though we don’t know what the timeframe will be. He says plexiglass will go away because humans are social creatures and not meant to eat with barriers between them.
  • One of Justin’s biggest pieces of advice for marketers is to take care of the customers you have now because it’s hard to get brand new customers in this environment.
  • His mantra is golden: Be open, do the work, live limitless.
  • “Find ways to do new things and stay open. There’s a lot of failure in marketing. You can’t be afraid of that.” 

Episode Key Points

  • Justin believes building real relationships is extremely important and often overlooked by restaurant marketers, “I don’t sit back…I’ll find a way to get in touch with people. Most of the things I’ve done in the restaurant space have been [around] relationships. So I’m a huge relationship person.” Marketers need to get out and establish solid relationships with operations and franchisees.
  • Justin mentions how it’s important to find the best tech partners, “So if it’s loyalty, if it’s POS, if it’s whatever…I would rather work with the best and have them work, play nice, than have one solution for everything.”
  • Justin talks about the future of events “People want to be social. And I think that it will come back, but it might not be now it might be six months. It might be a full year. We don’t know that, but we will get back to events. We’ll get back to bars. We’ll be full again. People will go out. People love that. They need it. It’s a human thing. You know, that’s what humans do.”
  • He underscored how important it is for marketers to communicate what they are doing across and around the business. Both using in-person communications and email, because then “I have a record.”
  • His biggest challenge today is getting in front of franchisees with all the travel restrictions and social distancing due to COVID. He prefers to go out and meet with them personally to build that relationship, because there’s such a “big variance in franchisees and their backgrounds.” Nothing can replace that face-to-face relationship early on.
  • “Shine a light on yourself, live limitless and don’t be afraid to fail.” 
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