In today’s world, every company is a technology company – and this week’s guests have done an excellent job of utilizing technology to honor their brand and create a memorable customer experience.
I’m really excited to have on this week’s show a fast growing franchise in the restaurant business, Your Pie. We are joined by their founder and president, Drew French, and their CEO, Bucky Cook.
Bring High Tech to Low Tech
Restaurants have been around for a really long time. When I think about a great restaurant, I think good food, great company, and fantastic atmosphere. Technology, not so much. But for me, technology weaves unobtrusively into the fabric of a lot of experiences in my life, and I think that’s true for everyone these days. In traditionally low-tech businesses, technology, perhaps, should be seen and not heard. It should serve the customer in a way that the customer wants to be served, and not draw a lot of attention to itself. That’s part of what we talked about this week on the show, and the Your Pie team are masters in this area. The technology serves the food, company, and atmosphere. Right? I’m right.
Says French, “The customers’ behavior has evolved over time, and technology has a part in that, and we’re excited about where the industry is going.” Stay true to all the low tech beauty you provide, but if you can enhance that with some up to date high tech, your people will love you all the more for it.
Use Technology as a Differentiator
“How do you differentiate? It’s 101 little things; there’s no silver bullet that I’ve ever discovered that says, eureka, we found it, this pizza has gold slices on top of it. You have to do lots of little things very well.” – Bucky Cook
I love that quote. As a CEO, you’ve likely spent a good deal of time pondering that timeless and arduous query, “What makes my company unique?” And the answer, in most cases, is that it’s not any one thing. It’s the way you reach out in a number of ways to provide a distinct service and experience.
Says French, “I wouldn’t say that we are, hands down, the best restaurant in the space using technology; I think there are some other brands that have invested a lot more into that space, and are leaders in that category.” Instead of trying to be the best restaurant in the technology world, they are working to make technology a valuable piece in a multi-faceted puzzle, with the end result being to serve the customer.
Meet Customers Where They Are
With that in mind, it’s important to know your customer – what they need now, and what they’ll expect in the near future, to craft a complete customer experience.
Says French, “When we invented fast, casual pizza in 2008, it was based on the trends in the restaurant industry, consumers’ behaviors of how they wanted to do business with restaurants.” Customers wanted fresh, customizable ingredients, and no one was doing that in the pizza world.
French compares the changes happening now to the dawn of the credit card age. “People had to start taking credit cards,” he says. “Now, we’re seeing that there’s new technologies. Consumers want to do business in that way, and smartphones are really behind all of that. So we’re just, as a company, trying to make sure that we can provide great pizza, and use technology to provide the same kind of service on the technology side as we would inside of the restaurant, inside of the four walls.”
They created an app, and continue to look at ways to innovate with the application in the pursuit of better serving their customers. They learned some lessons the hard way, as do we all. “We definitely took some lumps early on, waiting on technology when we thought we had something early on. That has caused us to take a little bit more strategic approach to our technology.”
Their focus now isn’t on being the first to market with technology, but rather on watching and learning as others move forward, and innovating fresh ways to make successful technology work to better serve their customers. French says, “Right now, we’re looking at geo-targeting on our app, improving that model. We’re always looking at improving the online ordering experience through our app, so it’s more about improving the experience over time. We’re lucky to have technology partners that are constantly trying to get better as well. So we kind of ride along with them, and push them to do things that our customers are asking for.”
Reinforce Culture and Experience
The culture and experience of your business are still really, really important. Don’t get caught up in all the shiny objects and forget about what got the customers in the door in the first place. For Your Pie, it’s great pizza and an amazing team.
Says Cook, “We take pride in having the best pizza in the world, but really the team members that we take pride in, and that we develop and train over time, are what we know brings our customers back day in and day out. Let’s be honest, you can get a pizza anywhere. It’s a commodity product. So really what we’re doing inside the four walls to get customers excited about their experience with Your Pie is what drives us home.”
As they franchise, they ensure that the culture and experience are carried from store to store. Says Cooke, “We’re trying to establish a recognizable brand, but at the same time, millennials don’t like chains. So we’re trying to make it appealing to the
They take a similar approach with the technology they utilize. Knowing the expectations of their customer base allows them to provide innovative technology solutions. In the pizza world.
Cook hammers home that the end result of a business that wants to continue to serve customers needs to be making money. He says, “Over time, technology, and all of these things that we’re talking about, ultimately are about who executes the customer experience and the quality of the food consistently over time. So how do we differentiate that? Everything that we do in our world is designed to do one of two things; to either increase revenue or decrease expenses.” Experience, customer service, and great technology are all really important things to handle, but they are the shiny bricks that pave the road to financial success for your business. And financial success is the thing that allows you to keep making customers happy.
Whatever you do with technology, remember that the end result is about having a business that lasts for the long term. Staying aware of emerging technologies and their uses, while keeping your mind on the customer and the bottom line, will steer you towards effective decisions when it comes to technology.