With the SoundCloud playlist, walk us through the inspiration. What was the goal of the launch and how did it come about?
We’ve been following and participating in conversations about longing for “normal life.” We see people trying desperately to bring their favorite “real life” experiences into the digital world, yet dining out is such a sensory experience. Taste, smell, touch—those can all be delivered with takeout. We wanted to add to the experience by delivering sound. The brainstorm for this idea was a blast—thinking about sitting in a Zaxby’s dining room overhearing conversations, anxiously waiting for your number to be called, just the energy of being in a room full of people. Working with our creative partners at Tombras, everything fell into place quickly after that—the album name “Sounds from Table 23,” the tracks named for times of the day, and even the iconic album art.
What has the response been like?
The response has been exactly as we had hoped. It takes a second for people to get it. What is this? Then they recognize the familiar sounds, and if you’re a big fan, it feels like home. The media response has been great. Several local morning radio and TV shows have gotten a kick out of it. If it made someone laugh and feel just a bit more connected to the Zaxby’s experience—mission accomplished.
More broadly, how has Zaxby’s responded to COVID-19, from employees to franchisees to operations?
We’ve stayed in extremely close contact—while at a distance, of course—throughout this entire time. Internally, we’ve eliminated silos and have really gotten back to our entrepreneurial roots, working closely with Zaxby’s dedicated, boots-on-the-ground licensees. Together we’re communicating more than ever before with team members and guests.
In terms of post-COVID-19, what do you think restaurant marketing will look like? What’s going to be the message everybody’s trying to convey?
The health and safety of our employees and guests will continue to be first and foremost. The restaurant industry is known for service and generosity. We’ve seen a lot of that, and I’m sure that will continue. I also expect we as an industry will continue focusing on comfort foods, healthful foods and value items while our hearts and bank accounts recover.
How critical will it be just to remind customers you’re open again when dining rooms start to come back? Are there some effective ways you think restaurants can do this?
From a marketing standpoint, we’ll continue to do our best to inform guests of steps Zaxby’s is taking to ensure their safety, while making them aware of all the ways they can dine with us—drive-thru, order ahead, curbside or delivery (where available)—so they can choose what they feel is best. As we prepare to open dining rooms, we’ll do so thoughtfully and with an abundance of caution. We’re looking forward to serving guests in whatever way they feel most comfortable.
Overall, how do you think the industry will change on the other side? What are some of the biggest shifts taking place today that will linger well beyond the crisis?
Keeping employees and guests safe will be the new mantra in hospitality. I would expect the best practices that have been implemented over the last six weeks will remain in place for the foreseeable future. At Zaxby’s, we’re working across operational and internal channels to constantly refine our processes to adapt to changing requirements.