What are some trends you’re seeing in play at this stage?
I think you see more experimentation than ever before, and Focus is certainly keeping a pulse on that. We’re watching trends and understanding what the different business dynamics are. Where the potential innovation can be. But we’re ultimately ensuring that we’re investing where there’s the greatest gain. And for us, it’s the one-to-one relationship.
Accessibility and customization—that’s absolutely a consumer expectation now, but making sure we’re doing so in a way that’s driving that one-to-one relationship is critical. McAlister’s is a great example with tableside ordering. That’s using the digital format inside of the physical store, where customers can sit down, they can skip the line, they can order exactly what they want through the app, and have that digital experience.
But at the same time, it’s paired with the great service (bringing the meal to the table) that McAlister’s is known for.
Are there growth opportunities with the stores themselves?
Our brands, and the footprints they have, absolutely have the opportunity to serve different use occasions, which is wonderful. We’re seeing a shift in consumer behavior, which will mean needing to be more accessible with delivery and other tech changes. We can’t give up that service standard now, however. That’s something that is unique to many of our concepts and we want to make sure that culture and customer experience comes to life.
I think that’s going to be one of the most important things for brands in the coming year—is maintaining that customer experience, owning that customer experience across the physical and digital.
We have seen dine-in return. We’ve also seen delivery and pickup stay. And so it’s been an interesting mix where it certainly hasn’t come full circle. I’m just not sure that we’re going to be in a place where that’s going to be true in the years to come. Consumers have found different ways to engage with restaurant brands. And our data showed that they’re enjoying that aspect of today’s operating world. Think of it as one more option that they have, whether or not I’m going to go sit down in this brand and enjoy it, for example, or whether or not I’m going to order it ahead, skip the line, and continue on my way.
I think being able to meet our customers at these various points of need will be really, really important for Focus’ performance going forward. And that’s where we’re really leaning into the data. We’re really working to understand which customers are engaging us in which channels and how are they appreciating and reacting to their different experiences. Then, using that data to make sure we’re driving that operational excellence and profitability for our franchisees. And, ultimately, customer satisfaction.