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National Restaurant Association - Ask these guys how to succeed in business

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Ask these guys how to succeed in business

Staying true to your brand while addressing its challenges are the keys to achieving success, members of the NRA Fast Casual Industry Council say. Also, have a great hiring strategy and reward loyalty, too.

The leaders of Habit Burger, Roti Mediterranean Grill and Moe’s Southwest Grill recently shared some of their winning ideas at the NRA/Technomic Fast Casual Trends and Directions conference:

1. Know thyself. Understand what makes your restaurant special and unique, says Matt Hood, chief marketing officer of Irvine, Calif.-based Habit Burger Grill. "For us, it’s the ability to deliver a great burger at great value in a clean, comfortable environment. If we stay true to what we do and what connects us to our guests, it will differentiate us from the rest,” Hood says. “Once you start chasing the latest app, technology or fad and forget what’s core to your brand, you can lose your way.” A brand that tries to change itself to reflect the flavor of the day probably has less of a chance for success.

2. See challenges as opportunities. Mediterranean options are vast, and it’s sometimes difficult to understand his company’s concept, says Carl Segal, CEO of Chicago-based Roti Mediterranean Grill. Consumers might understand what Greek food or falafel are, but not Moroccan or Turkish cuisine. But that can be an opportunity for education, says Segal, who describes Roti as sort of a Mediterranean Chipotle. “We have a real opportunity to define [the space] and make it accessible to the American palate,” he says.

Likewise, Habit Burger is working to handle increased volume company-wide. To maintain consistent same-store sales growth, it must handle the additional volume quickly and efficiently, Hood says. To do that, the company developed “Line Busters” to address long lines with new technology. Cashiers take customers’ orders while they’re on line with tablet-based POS systems.

3. Find and hire the best employees. Segal says he and Roti are very tough during the interview process. “We want to make sure our employees share our same values about Roti,” he says. The interview process focuses on company values and what it’s like to be a part of Roti. “This helps us get really great results,” he says. “It’s all about the people, and that starts during the recruiting process. Great people will help us continue to grow our business."

4. Be loyal to loyal customers. It’s important to understand your customers’ buying habits, but also what they like to eat, says Paul D’Amico, group president of restaurants for Focus Brands in Atlanta. A successful loyalty program allows you to communicate with your guests so you can provide certain offers they want and attract them back into your restaurant. In turn, that will lead to increased frequency and average spend, Hood says. The key is making their experience better and giving them what they want, he says.

Pictured top right, from left: Roti's Carl Segal, Moe's Paul D'Amico and Habit Burger's Matt Hood

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