For the restaurant industry, 2020 was a year marked by rapid innovation and adaptation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the year, restrictions tightened and loosened across the country, forcing brands to adapt their business models at an unprecedented pace in order to survive. Now, in 2021, the industry’s focus is turned less toward adaptation and more toward improving operations and recapturing profits in the midst of supply issues, high third-party delivery fees, and staffing difficulties, which all strain the bottom line.
As a result, many chains have focused their energies on creating and maintaining online ordering platforms, introducing mobile applications, and incentivizing customers to return through customizable loyalty programs and targeted digital marketing campaigns. However, restaurants are now managing more channels than ever before, requiring a presence in drive thru, carry out, delivery, and online ordering, as well as in newly reopened dining rooms, making it even more challenging to manage these programs. While restaurants have turned to technology to streamline these initiatives, finding all the resources they need in one platform has traditionally been difficult, especially for small to mid-sized brands.
Just ask Justin Egan, chief marketing officer and co-founder at Wing It On!, a growing North Carolina-based quick-service chicken brand with eight brick-and-mortar locations across six states. Egan says that while the leaders of the brand—which first opened in 2011 and began franchising in 2014—knew its customer base was adopting online and mobile ordering, that technology was out of reach for smaller brands without deep enough pockets to develop it for themselves or to hire a vendor to build it. When they were finally able to introduce a mobile app in 2018, it was only able to list hours and locations and provide guests with photos of dishes.
“We decided we needed something more user friendly that could provide a branded Wing It On! experience and the functionality to not only manage digital orders, but that could also help us connect with our customers and drive digital revenue without requiring too much manual maintenance,” Egan says.
That’s when Wing It On! turned to Incentivio, an all-in-one digital platform that helps restaurants manage their marketing, branded mobile apps and web ordering, loyalty programs, delivery, gift cards, curbside pickup, and customer database.
“Introducing online and mobile ordering that was fully integrated with our POS was really what drew us initially to Incentivio,” Egan says. “The platform is very robust and offers tons of great features for restaurants to leverage that would typically require integrating, paying for, and managing multiple platforms, databases, and vendors. We can manage our mobile and online ordering, loyalty programs, push notifications, rewards in one platform that also provides a machine learning driven marketing engine. It was a game changer for us at so many levels”
Rich Long, director of implementation at Incentivio, was previously an Incentivio customer in his role as director of IT for several different restaurants across the quick-service, fast-casual, and full-service segments. He says he knows firsthand just how cumbersome managing so many disparate systems can be.
“When you maintain multiple systems for your data, online and mobile ordering, loyalty programs, and more, your entire ecosystem is ripe for errors,” Long says. “This is often because if you change something in one place—say an item you offer in your online ordering system—you might forget to change it everywhere else. Having all these systems in one platform and a single database allows you to reduce errors and save both time and money, while also creating a single source of information so all your reports are integrated.”
Egan says Incentivio makes managing the company’s loyalty program frictionless. Guests earn incentives based on their orders and actions, like referring friends, and each time the brand launches a new LTO, Incentivio makes it easy for Wing It On! to announce new offerings through both push notifications and email.
“Incentivio has allowed us to create a digital experience that’s both convenient and easy for our fans and simple to manage for our company; our franchisees are often astonished at how much we can offer with this one system,” Egan says. “In fact, we’ve even seen candidates who passed on franchising with us in the past come back and sign franchise agreements with us because we use Incentivio.”
Not only has the system helped save Wing It On! time and generate sales through the built-in marketing tools, but the chain is now also using Incentivio’s new autonomous recommendation engine. This new suggestive upsell tool uses past data to understand which sides, desserts, and beverages are commonly ordered with center-of-the plate items and which items a guest already has in his or her cart to make smart recommendations that help restaurants generate incremental revenue and increase average check sizes. “Simply by turning this feature on, we’ve seen a 4 percent increase in digital revenue driven autonomously through the upsells engine—we didn’t have to lift a finger to start seeing results,” Egan says.
“In 2020, the restaurant industry had to become lean,” Long says. “You can no longer have an IT department of 25 and an operations team three layers deep, so the more restaurants can simplify the better. By bringing all of these tools into one easy-to-use yet powerful platform, restaurants of all sizes have access to the technology they need to become more efficient, save time, and drive sales without a multi-million dollar IT budget.”
Long adds that just from the new upsell recommendations engine alone, some of Incentivio’s customers are generating more in automated incremental revenue each month that the cost of the entire Incentivio platform.
“As an emerging brand that was actually thriving during the pandemic due to our digital presence, it was difficult to find technology partners that were also thriving and innovating,” Egan says. “We felt well positioned to have Incentivio as a partner during this time. They never dropped the ball, and that really stresses the importance of choosing the right vendor partners to grow with you through the thickest of times. Wing It On!’s future is bright, and we’re on trajectory to have 100 stores in the pipeline by 2024. We know Incentivio is able to quickly scale with us, and we’re excited to continue our relationship.”
To learn more about how Incentivio can help your restaurant grow, visit the company’s website.
By Peggy Carouthers