The Howard Company's Blog

Webcast: Emerging Stronger

May 7, 2020 / by Jean Jones

We recently hosted a webcast during which we spoke with industry leaders about their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dana Abood from Rego Restaurant Group (Quiznos), Sean Sylvester from Black Gold Group (multiple concepts) and Scott Redler from Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. Interestingly, their ideas are absolutely applicable for any business climate.

The webcast was moderated by Tim Hagen from Progress Coaching, and hosted by Gary Kurtz, our Vice President of Sales and Marketing. 

Our panelists speak about their experience and how they are adapting so that they can emerge stronger from the business shut-downs. 

Here are some interesting insights:

Sean Sylvester:

"I'm on two sides of the fence...I've got the pizza industry where I'm 50-60% up in sales, and I've got the sit-down, where I'm 70% down in sales. The biggest obstacle is how to balance it all."

"We stayed aggressive on the marketing side of it, really focused on what we could do immediately to make people feel safe when they came into our establishment, and I'm on the back end now figuring how I keep all of those sales."

"I also have a food truck so we took the food truck into different neighborhoods as we've been requested, and we've had great turnout."

"We went to a text waiting system in every location so you don't have to wait in the lobby. You can go to your car and we'll text you when its time to come sit down."

"In certain markets it (curbside) might make up 3-5% of your business. Now it has definitely increased. So I do think it will be something we continue to roll out...those parking spaces, those practices - call when you get here, text-type programs, will be introduced in every concept I do going forward."  

"If you didn't have a drive-thru before, you might rethink that business a little now. It really saved a lot of people."

Scott Redler:

"We've formed teams that we never would have formed before that have truly made us better."

"We stick with 'go for the greatest gain'. What's our greatest opportunity, and based on what we think we've found out, we've focused on delivery, and then we laser-focused on making our drive-thrus faster and better."

"As we open up we're going to continue to earn the trust of our guests and go above and beyond...the guest wants to feel safe when they walk in the door and they want to feel comfortable. They want to make sure and see all these clues that are telling them that your restaurant truly does care about doing things the absolute right way and safe way first."

"Our team members are what drive our business...we have people that started as line cooks that are now franchisees with multi-locations.

"We did open two new locations in this window of no dining rooms open and we like to let our franchisees make those types of decisions. It was really quite interesting. We opened drive-thru only with delivery, and sales numbers were absolutely surprising to us that it worked."

"Our guests are going to be different, their behaviors are going to be different, their buying patterns are going to be different, and we need to be there for them with all the responsibilities of a business owner to do it the right way."

"The networking component is absolutely critical. You need to understand other restaurants in your segment, what they're doing. People readily share information and all work together to get a better outcome for our industry."

Dana Abood:

"The signage piece is a big part of it, but we've also really focused on our loyalty marketing. It's been really critical to getting our message out...but also social marketing has been a huge part of what we've been focused on."

"The growth of deliver and third party delivery is just going to continue to expand and be a just a standard restaurant element...This time period has really reemphasized a need to focus on that, and really build those partnerships and move our operations to really help facilitate that kind of business because I think consumers have gotten used to ordering via third parties and ordering for delivery so that will continue on forever."

"How do we implement these safety elements into the designs of our restaurants."

"We've rolled out that program (curbside) to all of our restaurants but we'll continue to have to work through that and adjust to make it fit and work within our POS systems, our online ordering system, so we can execute that very fluently...As our restaurants become busier and our focus becomes more on in restaurant eating and seating, we've really got to still work through the execution of curbside pickup."

"We've really got to continue to be flexible as we come out of this to adjust to the industry changes."

Gary Kurtz:

"I think the biggest thing that everyone has touched on is curbside, whether or not you did curbside pickup at the start of this or not I think the entire country has now found curbside so its going to be something that might stick around for a while."

"Just letting people know all the different ways that they can be a customer of your restaurant is going to be important."

 If you are looking for more ideas on how to improve your business, check out The Howard Company's 35 Things You Can Do Now Guide:

35 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Business


Topics: Drive-Thru, Restaurants, Gary Kurtz, Curbside Pickup, Expert Insights

Jean Jones

Written by Jean Jones

Jean Jones started in restaurant marketing in 1996 when she and her husband operated two fine dining restaurants in Wisconsin. After a detour into marketing for a real estate development firm, she returns to the restaurant industry with The Howard Company.