Pei Wei Fresh Kitchen is in full-growth mode. It opened its 200th unit at the end of last year and has since hit 222. Fueling that growth, said CMO Clay Dover, is the chain's new loyalty campaign, a more customizable menu for guests, a new localized restaurant marketing program and a refresh of some of the chain's older buildings.
Dover recently discussed the brand's growth plans with FastCasual.com.
FC: How many units do you plan to open in the next couple of years? Where are you targeting?
Dover: Last year was a big growth year for us, opening 12 restaurants. In 2016, we will open 15-plus restaurants. We think in the next five years we can double in size without going into any new markets. There's a lot of room in our existing markets for additional Pei Wei restaurant penetration.
FC: How important is technology to the brand?
Dover: We believe technology is an important component in differentiating ourselves from our competition. Within the fast casual landscape, it isn't enough to just provide best-in-class, made-to-order Asian food offerings.
Our guests expect the latest technology that one may not expect within a fast casual restaurant. Technologies like Apple Pay, which we deployed, systemwide, in early summer of 2015. Now, 2016 will be a year in which technology will be leveraged to make the Pei Wei experience much more convenient, and we believe by making an already convenient experience more convenient, we will be in a position to expand our reach and awareness.
FC: How do you stay relevant and attract younger customers?
Dover: Important to all of our guests, we are continuously looking to be relevant in the technology and social media space. Last year, we really placed a focus on listening and responding to our guests through online platforms where we see more and more of them turning to communicate with us.
We are also increasing the ways our guests can customize their everyday favorite dishes. For example, guests can order any of their classic favorites with wok steamed chicken or shrimp and choose salad instead of rice to cut carbs.
FC: What does your new local marketing program involve?
Dover: The program is structured to provide training, tools and programs for each general manager to involve their restaurant and team members in the neighborhood they belong to. We have developed the program, begun training our operations teams and have seen some early successes which is exciting. From school involvement to local sports teams to non-profit events we want to enable our managers to be brand ambassadors in their own neighborhood.
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.