Editor's note: This is just one story in a recurring series that features interviews with top-level execs in the fast casual industry. If you would like us to feature a specific exec, please make your request in an email to Cherryh Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to pizza, fashion and entertainment, people's favorites often reside in New York City or Chicago, and Corey Kaplan decided to combine the best of both cities when launching NYC Bagel Deli in the Windy City.
Kaplan's four locations offer bagels, deli sandwiches and New York City pizza slices in the Deep Dish stronghold. In the past three years, the business has reported an 18 percent overall increase in new business, which Kaplan attributes to Groupon. His first deal alone sold 10,500 units, and Kaplan estimates 60-65 percent customer retention.
Kaplan chatted with us about the "right way" to use the daily deal site and other strategies that have helped him succeed in the fast casual market.
Q: What, exactly, is your "small business strategy?" How can other operators copy your success?
Kaplan: My small business strategy is quite simple. Provide the best service, with the best ingredients that will always give your customers the best experience. In today's competitive world of the fast casual restaurant business, owners must do what we do better than everyone else, or you could lose your footing...quickly.
Q: Many restaurants have been burned by Groupon. How have you been able to find success with it?
Kaplan: Groupon is a very good marketing tool (one of the best I've ever used). No other marketing tool gets customers in the door to try your product like Groupon. BUT, a Groupon daily deal needs to be set up properly. There are tools available from Groupon to help business owners set up their deal, which can be found on Grouponworks.com. I personally did a few specific things to make sure my deal ran smoothly, including putting limits on the amount that I was offering and prepared, prepared and prepared for the extra business. I also have these tips for other business owners.
Get ready for a busy week.
Monitor activity the day of your feature.
Determine your best process for redemption.
Prepare for an influx of new customers.
Treat customers well to make them your own.
Q: Why do you think you are thriving?
Kaplan: I am a "hands on" type of owner. I know my customers, employees and vendors, which helps to promote a culture of teamwork and shows them that I care. I am here every day and visit all of our locations every day. I see what goes on and help to uncover solutions to situations. My motto is that there are no problems, only situations, which also encourages our employees to be solution-oriented so we can move on and focus on our product and customers.
Q: What is your growth plan?
Kaplan: My growth plan hasn't changed since I opened my first location at 1001 W. North Ave. in Chicago. My goal was to open four locations and then either sell to a larger company or potentially franchise locations. We are on our fourth location, so we are getting closer to achieving my growth plan.
Q: What types of advertising and marketing do you use? Which is the most successful?
Kaplan: Business owners will tell you that word of mouth is crucial. It can excel or ruin your business, instantly. You have to treat your customers well each and every time. We are very active with Groupon, which always reaches a large group of potential new customers. Also, to help keep all of our customers and potential customers informed and interested, we also issue email blasts.
Q: Do you use social media for marketing? Why or Why not?
Kaplan: Social media is very important for any consumer-facing business – especially with our customer base, who tend to be active on social media platforms. I am so passionate about our social media sites and want the voice to be authentic and represent my company, so I personally run our Facebook page (FACEBOOK.COM/NYCBD), Twitter handle (@NYCBD) and Instagram (NYCBD).
Cherryh Cansler /
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.