Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You can read his column on Twin Peaks here, Abuelo's here, Kenny's Restaurant Group here, Firenza Pizza here, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston's here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, Melt Shop here, Sizzler here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.
Imagine a coffee shop that wants to make your life better. Then imagine one of the ways they will do that is to let you develop a product. That is exactly the way Saxbys approaches business, marketing, and growth. Founder and CEO, Nick Bayer, wanted to pair the local, friendly atmosphere of a neighborhood café with consistently delicious products and at the same time lead grow a business with one mission: “Make Life Better.” With 30 locations and 550 team members, they are doing exactly that. I sat down with Nick Bayer, who is also entrepreneur in residence at Cornell University and faculty member at Drexel University. Below is our conversation.
How does Saxbys develop its marketing strategies?
Our singular marketing strategy is leading with our mission and everything we do is inspired by that. "Make Life Better" is our focus across every cafe from hiring to serving to community relations even to developing new products. By embracing this philosophy and making it our purpose, we bring an authenticity to our locations and brand. Our 550-person strong workforce reinforces this brand message which is integrated across our operations, marketing, and growth.
What role has social media played in brand awareness?
Social media is paramount for Saxbys because of the reach, specificity, and the prevalence of our core demographic being heavy social users. We use social media to find candidates that align with our cultures and values and choose the tools based on purpose. For example, Instagram reaches the college demographic (we have several Experiential Learning Cafes on college campuses that are exclusively student-run) and LinkedIn has helped us immensely in recruiting and drawing talent. Twitter and Facebook are important for customer feedback when they post to share their experiences. Most importantly, it has helped communicate, define, and proliferate our mission statement.
How important is community outreach for engagement with the Saxbys brand?
We are truly a social impact company, driven by hospitality and fueled by great food and drink. We are defined by our unwavering commitment to community outreach—it is at the heart of everything we do. Connecting with guests and creating meaningful opportunities, especially around education, enables us to forge relationships with guests that are genuine and go far beyond a transaction. It is important for us that every cafe serves the neighborhood it is situated in and, truly, no two are exactly alike—that’s due largely in part to the ways we are able to activate and form partnerships with like-minded community groups and philanthropic organizations.
How has "Make Life Better" helped drive customer frequency?
The taste of product can be very subjective but how well you are treated in an establishment is far more objective. As human beings, we yearn for authentic, hospitable interactions. We attract and keep our guests coming back by being incredibly committed to what we call the home rule—treating every guest as if they are a guest in your home. We consider every interaction important and approach it as one more way to make a difference in the world. Everyone who comes in knows (or finds out quickly) what our mission statement is. All 550 employees are on the same page and we make sure our "Make Life Better" mission permeates through everything we do. We live our core values by remembering our guests’ names and orders, partnering with local businesses and volunteering in the community. Saxbys has an affordable price point for everyone and regardless if they are in a business suit or a T-shirt and shorts—everyone is treated the same with respectful service, excellent products, and a positive experience.
How does Saxbys work with colleges and help students earn credits?
In 2015, we introduced Saxbys Experiential Learning Program (ELP) in Philadelphia in partnership with Drexel University, The program introduces exclusively student-run cafes to college campuses, providing undergraduates with entrepreneurial opportunities as a supplement to traditional classroom learning.
Each and every Saxbys ELP cafe is helmed by a Student Cafe Executive Officer (SCEO) who is entrusted with developing their peers into team leaders, implementing creative marketing initiatives, strengthening relationships with community organizations and enacting change with social impact outreach. All the while, the students are responsible for managing their peers, overseeing all cafe operations, and presenting P&L statements monthly to Saxbys’ Executive Team. In return, they receive both full credit for the semester and wages. Just three years later and we have seen this initiative grow to six locations across five campuses [Drexel University, La Salle University, Millersville University, Temple University, and West Chester University] with new cafe partnerships with Penn State University and Saint Joseph’s University coming later this summer and early fall.
If my locations serve different customer segments, one has more families and another has more singles, is it okay to run different promotions based on the clientele? — Boston
Yes, and here's why. You want to get the biggest bang for the buck and with today’s data, you can better understand the guest segment breakdown that makes up your client base. Combine that with digital advertising where messages can easily be regionalized and you can get to customized messages that work for every store. Similarly, if only 10 percent of a restaurant’s clientele loves shrimp, but the company is pushing a shrimp special to increase frequency, that store will struggle to compete during a contest. You can’t customize every promotion but when you can, allow enough of a variance that every restaurant has a solid chance to win, which in turn will drive sales and profit for all.