QSR leaders connect with values to rediscover path
CHICAGO -- From Dunkin' Donuts' reemergence as a coffee destination to the offbeatsome would say creepyplastic-headed "king" in Burger King commercials, a connection to the company's core values helped plant the seeds for renewed growth, according to a FARE panel representing three of the nation's largest fast feeders.
With regards to Dunkin' Donuts and its retooling to emphasize coffee, Jon Luther, executive chairman, Dunkin' Brands, Canton, Mass., told about 100 attendees to the Foodservice at Retail Exchange (FARE) conference earlier this week in Chicago that with more [image-nocss] than 50% of store sales coming from coffee, the reincarnation to where "American runs on Dunkin'" motto was a logical migration.
But while seemingly natural, change did not come easy. "You always have to have the support of the people working for you," Luther said. "You not only have to get their support, but you have to persuade them to believe in you when you're making all the changes."
He said the hardship included interviewing his teams and identifying people who would no longer fit the new directions for both the doughnut chain and its sister company, ice-cream retailer Baskin Robins, also based in Canton, Mass.
For John Schaufelberger, senior vice president, global product marketing for Burger King Corp., Miami, the key is crafting a relevant message in a cluttered environment. "Part of our values means having fun to where we may border on controversial; It's better to be talked about than not talked about," he said. "But we take it seriously when we develop [our message] and speak with the same voice."
He described the chain as an "an innovative product with attitude and edge. We need to convince customers to drive past two or three McDonald's to get to one Burger King."
As an example of keeping to core values both with product and message, Schaufelberger said the company did experiment with coffee, but decided to go with a branded offer, Seattle's Best, which also complemented its capricious persona.
Also expounding on the idea of values, Hala Moddelmog, president of Atlanta-based Arby's said her company is undergoing a turnaround, with part of the issue being that the younger set did not grow up with roast beef, the chain's primary meat selection.
"You have to have a reason to exist, why a customer wants to buy your product," Moddelmog said. "It's the why, the how and the whatbut to get to the why, that's not completely obvious. And if you don't get to the root cause, you're never going to be as successful as you can be."
A fourth panelist, Sid Feltenstein, who lead a range of fast-feeders including A & W and Long John Silver's, both based in Louisville, Ky., took the discussion in another direction, advising retailers to never lose sight of where local, state and federal governments are going.
Specifically, Feltenstein said retailers should follow pro-union legislation as itsurfaces inWashington. "I would encourage each of you to actively engage with local legislators," he said. "The implications for all business and all small businesses and service businesses outside of this room are huge."
The three-day FARE conference ended Wednesday and involved foodservice retailers from multiple channels.
[Pictured (left to right): Jon Luther, Sid Feltenstein, John Schaufelberger, Hala Moddelmog.]