Multi-Unit Chains Keep a Local Focus

Mulit-unit companies brands like Applebee's can benefit from keeping the experience local, says Manish Patel, founder and CEO of Where 2 Get It.
Mulit-unit companies brands like Applebee's can benefit from keeping the experience local, says Manish Patel, founder and CEO of Where 2 Get It. Image Used with Permission

A major issue, Manish Patel, the founder and CEO of location-based digital marketing platform Where 2 Get It, believes, is when some of the nation’s biggest restaurant chains don’t think small.

“Today’s consumer, in my mind, isn’t brand loyal,” Patel says.

Where 2 Get It works with many of the most recognizable brands, including Applebee’s—the top grossing full-service brand in 2014 at $4.57 billion—The Cheesecake Factory, BJ’s Restaurants, and Denny’s, among others, to keep large-scale operations local when it comes to customer perception. Patel says it starts with a simple, yet often overlooked angle.

“It’s really incumbent on brands that have multi-location businesses to make sure that their data quality is accurate, it’s consistent, and it’s complete across all different channels,” Patel explains. “Today’s consumer goes onto Google, onto Yelp, onto Facebook, onto Foursquare, onto Yahoo, onto Bing, they go into in-car navigation, OnStar, Garmin, Apple, and Android. They have a multitude of options to choose from. It’s the brand’s responsibility at that point and time to make sure the information shows up everywhere. The consumer never blames Yelp for things being wrong.”

Where 2 Get It targets these companies with the idea that “1,000 locations should be treated like 1,000 different companies.” There are a lot of ways to address the issue, he says. “Companies spend millions of dollars with their experience in the restaurant, but they forget what the experience is online,” Patel says. “That online experience translates to what I’m about to experience when I walk through the door.”

Patel begins with the basics. This can be as simple as making sure a local brands’ hours, menu, phone number, and location shows up correctly on different search platforms. “If you look on Google and it says the restaurant is closed, you’re not going to go there,” he says simply.

The process can become even more integrated, all depending on what makes sense in the specific market. Distinctions such as menu specials, certain ingredients—like avocado in California-based locations—and understanding the true competitive landscape, are all vital to hooking a consumer, he says. “Every market, Tempe (Arizona) is different than Toledo (Kansas) is different than Tampa; those are three different markets in my mind,” Patel says. “We approach them as if they were a stand-alone business.”

“Being aware of your market and who’s out there is very important,” he adds. “Some of these companies don’t even know who their competition is. They think ‘I’m a small mom-and-pop, so other small mom-and-pops are my competition. Applebee’s happens to be your competition. And vice versa. If you’re Applebee’s, you’re not necessarily competing with Chili’s. Sometimes you’re competing with the Italian restaurant or the other (local) restaurant down the street.”

Where 2 Get It analyzes a company’s digital footprint, gives them an understanding of where they can improve and where they stand, and then starts to hone in on specifics. Patel says an additional focus area is communication. With large companies, finding a way to keep the back-and-forth personalized can be difficult. “Many brands develop today what I call customer amnesia,” he says. Patel points out that, too often, the correspondence across different platforms doesn’t align. For example, a consumer may address a complaint with a brand through social media—on Facebook or Twitter—lthen receive an unrelated, loyalty email thanking them for dining at the location.

Patel also thinks a consumer can be swayed by finding ways to include other local experiences, like finding a nearby movie theater. In that case, Where 2 Get It can map out possibilities for partnering deals. “It’s unique, personalized or localized campaigns that I think make all the difference in the world,” he says, “for a decision that one is making. It makes the online experience seamless, and that's key it today's market.”

Danny Klein

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