Nico Nieto was first acquainted with Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill over 10 years ago as a customer. Even then, he was a fan. Now, he’s joining as its new chief marketing officer. 

“I was already a fan of the food, and a fan of the concept, and a fan of what they were doing,” Nieto says. “It was a really great chance for me and a really hard thing to say no to.”

With experience at companies like McDonald’s and Roti, a similar fast casual to Naf Naf, Nieto is familiar with the industry and what it takes to market to today’s consumer. At Naf Naf, he will focus on growing the brand’s digital channels as well as customer acquisition and retention. Looking at aggregated data to understand customers’ behaviors and needs is something that can be used to improve the guest experience, Nieto says. 

“First and foremost is being able to use data to drive every decision that we make, whether it’s menu and culinary innovation, focusing on different channels, or delivery,” he says. “Those are all things that we’re looking at constantly. The data allows us to understand points of friction and opportunities to improve that guest experience.” 

Nieto says the reason the brand is placing a focus on digital is because it’s what customers expect from brands today. Having data to pull from to gauge customer behavior is also invaluable when it comes to improving the guest experience and retaining existing customers. This digital push is hardly new for fast-casual brands. In July, the top 10 quick-service apps in the U.S. were downloaded 12.1 million times. That’s 16.3 percent more than the number of downloads in June. 

“The growth of digital channels in the food space, which started 10 to 15 years ago, has definitely accelerated through the pandemic,” Nieto says. “Coming out of it, there are a lot of opportunities for us to make sure that we maximize the use of our data capabilities, our loyalty programs, and our e-commerce tools, just to continue to grow the digital business in general.” 

That extends to social media as well. As much as a brand can learn from aggregated data via mobile app, social media can provide real-time feedback from customers. The amount of engagement online is an opportunity for brands to listen to customers, Nieto says. 

“We are able to understand what people are craving and what people are enjoying about our experience,” he says. “We can refine that customer experience but at the same time it’s a great testing ground for marketing strategies and content. So we always make decisions based on our experience and our intuition, but we validate every decision with data.” 

Naf Naf is focused on growth and acceleration, Nieto says. The brand has added seven locations this year with four more projected by the end of the year. It currently has 35 units, and has plans to open another 15 by year-end 2023. 

Ultimately, Nieto says, he is excited to join a brand with great food and potential. 

“As a marketer, I salivate not only around our food but around the opportunity to connect with customers across all of those dimensions and show how our food and our experience is good for your mood and can match exactly who you are and what you want at any point.” 

Fast Casual, Marketing & Promotions, Story, Naf Naf Grill