Building a Facebook page for an upcoming location is important for search engine optimization and general awareness as well, Lorusso adds. The corporate team handles the postings internally. Hall and Murray will communicate with the local team and Lorusso, who then makes sure all of the social communications are current and relative. Lorusso says Firebirds handles the tasks internally to ensure brand voice uniformity, and so the manager can focus on the business, not on social media.
This line of community is critical across the guide’s elements. Operators have learned from the book, and have the information at the ready, and are able recognize an opportunity and then send it back to the corporate team before proceeding.
“[Hall, Murray, and Lorusso] spend an inordinate amount of time really providing a point of view back,” Loftis says. “Hey, does this make sense? Does this fit the brand? Are we getting a return here?”
“Whether it’s Isabella Santos or something with a local school, or even our national charity, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, we’re constantly reviewing things and making sure it fits our brand guidelines. And there is quite frankly, a return on investment. Either it’s a cash trade, food, or whatever it might be. There’s a return and it makes sense for the brand.”
Keep it evergreen
Loftis says Firebirds had an informal version of this guide dating back six, seven, eight years, and then formalized it about a year and half ago. Originally it was an online guide, but Firebirds wanted to offer operators something tangible.
Murray adds that operators are constantly offering feedback and appreciate the guide’s backbone of support.
“They know what’s important. They don’t realize what all goes into it, and all of the different buckets and all the different little things that they really should think of and consider when evaluating opportunities or going out into the community for things,” Murray says. “The book is a very good source for them to refer to whenever they’re looking at events before they even send to Becky and I. Whenever they’re thinking about events or delivering food.”
“There are some tools in here—some spreadsheets, tracking mechanisms, etc, that really help them guide their thoughts and help them think strategically about what they’re doing instead of being out there willy nilly and trying to do a little bit of everything,” Loftis adds.
Murray says Firebirds is working on a fresh edition. They’ve done a few iterations to keep it updated from a seasonal perspective. For instance, updating a tool kit section that shows different items they can order to take out in the community, whether it be a sales flyer or different seasonal menus.
Firebirds hosts quarterly calls with local teams, talking to each restaurant, one by one, to chat about the overarching process—whether competitors are moving in, staffing, and if marketing or social can help ease those concerns.
Loftis explains the holidays are both an opportunity and challenge for marketing. Gift cards. Online ordering. Seasonal items. “So how do you curate that conversation, and all the different touch points that we have ongoing? It’s a big time of the year for us and the tool helps guide that conversation as we close out the year,” he says.