Measuring the health of a restaurant brand can be a multi-dimensional process. But if there’s one detail that accurately, simply, and clearly takes a brand’s vitals it’s this: Are guests coming back?
In the past, Richard Simtob, president and co-owner of Zoup!, says this factor was an ideal his company chased blindly. Same-store sales, check average, traffic—these could all paint a picture, but they didn’t tell the concise story.
“It was absolutely impossible [to keep track of repeat guests]. We always guessed,” he says.
In the past couple of years, however, Zoup! rolled out Upserve’s Restaurant Management platform throughout its chain. The New vs. Repeat feature allowed Zoup! to figure out, with concrete data, how many people are coming in, and how often those guests are coming back, at all locations
Simtob takes a quick tour through the platform: In a 28-day span, the software shows him that 1,515 new guests filtered into the restaurant. Repeat guests represented a 59 percent clip.
Looking back to January 2015, it was 45 percent. At a point a year ago: 53 percent.
In sum, Zoup! is getting increased customers.
Simtob can also sort by store and repeat percentage, which allows him to identify which units are keeping guests and which aren’t. With that knowledge in tow, Zoup! can recognize that “there’s an opportunity [at certain units] that we lost customers and we’re going to have to work hard to bring them back again.”
This is especially helpful, Simtob says, given Zoup!’s heavy franchise structure. There are only three corporate locations of the 100 total and Zoup! has 15 openings planned in the coming year—all franchised. As partnerships grow, the corporate structure will be tasked even deeper with making sure support systems are in place.
For example, there are times when franchisees dial Simtob and report their traffic is down. He can pull the data and show them their repeat customer numbers.
“I can tell him I think you’re doing something in your store that’s not getting them to come back,” Simtob says.
And it cuts both ways. There are instances when having an increased count of repeat guests isn’t enviable. “In that case, it’s a new customer issue. Then it’s what are you doing in marketing? What are you doing in outreach? What community events are you getting into? Then you can identify one of two issues, and what direction their problem is,” Simtob says.
The feature also helps Zoup! understand its promotions. The company discounted soup for a day and used Upserve to figure out how many first-timer customers showed up for the deal and whether or not they actually returned when prices returned to normal.
Another area Upserve helped Zoup! is with credit card services. Statements are easier to read and the platform consolidates transactions from online and offline. Having a merchant services account online, with the fees broken up clearly, has been very helpful, Simtob says.
Zoup!’s 100th restaurant opened March in Southfield, Michigan. Simtob says the brand is working on growing its unit economics, same-store sales, and staying dedicated to menu innovation as it grows. Zoup!’s Rattlesnake Stew was part of QSR’s 61 of America's Most Innovative Menu Items feature.
Simtob says Zoup! has a lot of stores in its hopper, and that “there are new [franchise] signings going on all the time.”
“The next two years our focus is in existing states. We’re not trying to add new states right now,” he says.” And then we’ll start looking in a couple of years if we want to look at some other areas.”
Regarding data, he says he’s somewhere in the middle when it comes to wanting stacks of information or simple baseline numbers. “I do like them but I can overdo it. I go crazy if it’s too much. I love key, high-level numbers and I like looking at trends,” he says.
He says Zoup! looks at weekly sales compared to last year constantly, and at food and labor cost as a percentage of sales. And while fast casual remains a challenge, Zoup! is positioned for the future.
“We have some stores that are up and some that are down but we’re facing the same headwinds that other people are facing,” he says. “What we believe is that we still have a unique product. There are not five places selling soup on the same block