The unique brand wanted tools that better reflected its emphasis on hospitality. 

Mike Nettles, chief digital and technical officer at Zaxby’s, will tell you: when it came to technology, Zaxby’s was once woefully behind. 

“This may sound highly self-deprecating, but the simple truth is that Zaxby’s had greatly under-invested in technology for many years,” Nettles says. “We had an almost 15-year-old operating platform and had outsourced most of our digital capabilities to companies who really didn’t meet our outdated needs, let alone our needs to further our own growth strategy.” 

The shame of all of this, Nettles says, is that Zaxby’s digital capabilities were not doing justice to the brand’s image. For decades, the 900-plus-unit brand has forged a powerful identity based on southern food and hospitality. Translating those characteristics to the digital sphere is a task that Nettles has been undertaking since March 2021. 

One of the tools Nettles and his team implemented to deliver on that promise was Punchh, a PAR Technology company and a loyalty platform entrusted by over half of the top 100 quick-service brands in the country. Using Punchh, in September 2022, Zaxby’s launched Rewardz, its proprietary loyalty program. Through the first 90 days Rewardz was live, Zaxby’s met and exceeded its goals in terms of user registrations. The positive results have made Nettles bullish on Punchh’s ability to transform the brand—but he also believes they’ve only scratched the surface. 

“With the initial launch effort a big success, we are now heavily focused on driving deeper and more frequent engagement with our new active users on the new platforms and driving further adoption with exciting offers only available to registered digital loyalty customers,” Nettles says. ”Zaxby’s has not historically been a ‘discount’ brand, and we have no desire to be one in the future. Rewardz is not a discount, it’s a thank you, and our new loyalty program gives us a huge amount of flexibility and provides us the necessary framework to engage, reward, and communicate with our loyal guests unlike anything we’ve ever had before.”

More recently, Zaxby’s began deploying PAR’s Brink POS cloud solution across its footprint, a transformation that will be about halfway complete by the end of 2023. A pilot program with some of the brand’s most highly engaged franchisees showed positive results at nearly 100 Zaxby’s locations.

Indeed, the unification of Brink POS and Punchh is a powerful thing, says Savneet Singh, CEO of PAR Technology Corporation. He’s sympathetic to the place Nettles and Zaxby’s found themselves in. Singh observes that when the pandemic hit brands like Zaxby’s started acquiring technology at a rapid rate without a real understanding of how it would all connect. 

“Restaurants went from having half a dozen tech products in store, to 15 or more,” says Savneet Singh, CEO of PAR Technology. “Overnight, CIOs went from being a CIO, to a vendor manager. They had too much on their plate to even consider how that technology is translating to the guest experience.”

Singh and PAR Technology have a vision for unified commerce, or the term it uses for how its various platforms can sync together to become powerful tools rather than a complex web of headaches. Syncing up a wide range of technologies—from the front of house, to the back of house, to the drive thru, and everywhere in between—brands like Zaxby’s can begin delivering on the promise to simplify operations while driving a dynamic customer journey. 

In other words, this unification of commerce will enable brands like Zaxby’s to focus on how a tech stack will help drive growth rather than inhibiting it. 

“Without a strong and innovative loyalty program, and without an equally talented and motivated digital team to drive it, we’d just be ‘another app’ on a guests’ phone,” Nettles says. ”We aren’t just ‘another chicken chain’ and our digital apps and loyalty program will help us deliver on that. By the end of 2023, we will have totally upgraded most of our stores to a modernized cloud-oriented operating platform, have fully implemented a best-in-class digital and loyalty solution and will be mining all that data for insights and analytics that will help our teams drive the growth strategy for the brand.”

For more on PAR Technology’s ability to drive unified commerce, visit the company’s website

By Charlie Pogacar

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