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, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston's here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.
Believe it or not, there's a restaurant that serves food that unlocks feelings of joy and reminds us of the good, simple, carefree things in life. Melt Shop, a pioneer of the Melted Sandwich Movement, has 11 restaurants located across New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Kuwait. Serving delicious melted sandwiches, each one is prepared with heart and made from only the best ingredients, fresh-baked bread every day, and the best cheese around. I spoke to Spencer Rubin, founder & CEO of Melt Shop and asked about their marketing strategies and success which includes being named by QSR as one of the top restaurant franchises on the cusp of greatness. Below are highlights from our conversation:
What marketing strategies did you launch with that you still use today?
We've always found that a combination of community outreach, social media, and PR has worked well for us, but ultimately our best marketing strategy has been living by our mission, which is connecting with our guests. When we connect with our guests through great food and hospitality we win every time.
What do you believe has changed the most when it comes to driving customer frequency?
We've started to take a more sophisticated approach to how we view guest satisfaction and customer frequency. To close this feedback loop, we work with Tattle, an online customer engagement platform, which has allowed us continue to hone in on ways to improve our guest experience. Additionally, we use Tattle to gauge what customers are looking for next and use the data to test out new options through our LTO program—like our new Vegan Burger Melt. Through our general customer survey we learned that almost 100 customers wanted more vegetarian and vegan options. When we launched the Vegan Burger Melt, we were able to directly target those customers and invite them in to try the new product. With the Vegan Burger Melt, we launched a custom survey to receive direct feedback on the new product and encouraged guests to submit their feedback. Since going live in May, we are scoring about a 95-percent customer satisfaction rate on this new product.
What role has social media played in brand awareness?
Social is our megaphone. We use it to amplify our brand voice, share news about what’s going on in our restaurants, and really connect with our guests. Influencer outreach, which goes hand-in-hand with our social efforts, has also been a big play for us. We used influencer outreach to garner attention and buzz around our new Vegan Burger Melt by targeting vegan influencers, and earlier this year, we had an influencer party featuring Instagram-worthy moments, including a “Tub of Tots” that guests were allowed to get photos inside of. That party and the tub went viral—within 24 hours our following increased by 6% and we garnered over 100,000 in impressions.
Melt Shop's menu has remained pretty consistent with its core offerings in each of its restaurants (even in Kuwait) and it's worked! What was the reasoning behind launching LTOs?
Innovation has always been important to us, and we’ve meticulously refined our products and the processes behind them since we opened the first Melt Shop in 2011. We launched LTO's to accomplish two things: One: We needed a way to test customer demand for new products and found an LTO program really gave us the flexibility to test, without committing for too long. Two: It is giving us an opportunity to create new content to talk to our guests, promote the brand, and drive traffic to our restaurants.
Melt Shop's Vegan Burger Melt marries the classic melted sandwich with current food trends of consumers wanting more vegetarian/vegan options. How is it performing and will it become a permanent menu item?
We have been very pleased with the results of the Vegan Burger Melt. The feedback from our guests has been overwhelmingly positive and we are scoring about a 95-percent customer satisfaction rate on the product. What it tells us is that although demand is high for vegan options, the market is still incredibly under-served. We'll be looking to do more in this category in the future.