How Cracker Barrel is reaching Gen Y, Z consumers through fast casual concept
By Mike Chissler, chief operating officer of Holler & Dash
Holler & Dash is a fresh, culinary fast casual concept serving up southern style biscuits and dishes to a newer, younger crowd. This was a major departure from our parent restaurant — Cracker Barrel — whose success was rooted in its old-fashioned charm and comfort foods. But it was a risk that paid off, and since 2016, the Holler & Dash brand has quickly grown to six restaurants across Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida with a seventh location scheduled to open in Charlotte, North Carolina, in March 2018.
Building a brand that would both captivate and establish longevity with the dynamic and sought-after Gen Y and Z did not happen overnight. Before inserting ourselves in the burgeoning fast-casual breakfast culture, we needed to build a brand that addressed the key needs of the well-researched millennial demographic and the upcoming Gen Z.
These key groups have a desire for healthy and hand-crafted food, family dining options, friendly service, authenticity, quality, convenience, and efficiency. And what was really important to us was that they are looking to connect and build relationships with brands. Going fast casual was our answer to these groups desires.
Holler & Dash wasn't just designed to be the answer to the growing demand for convenience and speed of service; our vision extended beyond fast casual. So, this called for a robust in-store and online strategy, a menu engineered for sweet and savory biscuit-centric dishes, like our Kickback Chicken and Flying Frittata, as well as finding the right digital strategy for an audience of seasoned tech enthusiasts.
Our digital strategy needed to include everything from establishing a social media presence to outfitting our restaurant with the latest in consumer-facing technology. To support such an endeavor, it was critical that we hire a workforce that is not only comfortable with new technology but excited and empowered by it. So, through research and experience, I worked with the management team at Holler & Dash to identify our top digital strategy ingredients.
We understand that our customers are a diverse group with many different life experiences and to be successful Holler & Dash needs to address each customer's individual needs. We built out our customer profiles with everything from what our potential customers are reading and what's in their bag to their flavor profiles and adeptness to new technology. These customer profiles drove everything about the business including the fast-casual experience.
With technology, convenience, and engagement as key influences, we focused our tech priorities on building a community through social media, customers' access to Wifi in every location, brightening our space with digital menu boards, and a point of sale system that is intuitive for our staff, highly interactive, and offers a variety payment options.
The need for speed, convenience, and choice is critical; offering our customers the ability to interact and place orders in various ways was important, be it an online order, face-to-face experience or through a kiosk. Our customers want total control over their customer journey. They may not always want to interact with waitstaff, but they are social, and enjoy interactive and group dining experiences.
The dining experience has always been a social one, and with today's modern diners, fostering a social and interactive experience is table stakes. Millennials value building relationships with brands and are more connected than ever before, so our response was to create a stand out social media strategy. Sharing mouth-watering photos of biscuits was just the tip of the iceberg; we wanted to build a community, and this meant a well-oiled machine of user-generated content. Our customers are our best storytellers, and by encouraging posting and personalizing our responses directly to them – we fostered an online and offline community. The bold decor and text-based wall murals have also been Instagram favorites.
Understanding that this same audience will drive future innovation in the restaurant industry, it was important for us to find technology partners that were flexible, innovative, and embraced change as much as our customers do. Flexibility needed to be two-fold. For one, we needed to have a flexible environment for our guests and two we needed to be flexible operationally, so we can painlessly grow and adapt Holler & Dash to the ever-changing environment. This included offering our guests a variety of ways to interact with our business, as well as seamlessly link our front-of-house and back-of-house to maintain the fast in fast-casual.
This called for the right POS partner, and we looked at a range of providers from small outfits to large vendors. In the end, we chose Revel Systems. While our choice was based on a number of factors, one notable distinction is that Revel's POS platform utilizes a flexible, cloud-based infrastructure, which made it easy to use and popular with customers. In addition, we wanted a solution that accommodated multiple features on one, unified platform, so our employees had the same ease of use as our customers.
We chose to implement a paperless, web-based ordering system for takeout and catering orders, as well as have several ordering options for our customers to easily order up onsite biscuits as well as our retail merch. In addition to traditional POS terminals, our waitstaff carry mobile ordering devices, and customers are able to use available self-service kiosks. During peak rush periods, line-busting mini iPads are used at the counter where customers can self-service order and quickly cash out on the spot.
The real trick to staying ahead of the curve? Accessing and analyzing the trove of data across all our locations. With sales reporting and inventory planning as well as the ever-changing dynamics of scheduling, planning, and ordering, we can make those important decisions based off of data and not gut.
One of the most important factors for us to continue to grow is anticipating what our customers want now and in the future. For us, having the right digital and technology strategy is a significant step towards this goal and gives us the flexibility to grow Holler & Dash.
Topics: Operations Management
Companies: Revel Systems