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How has the competition evolved the past few years, and how does Dairy Queen address that and stay differentiated?

There is no question that the consumer today has many more options for an afternoon snack or treat, a category we dominate. The key for us is to make sure we continue to evolve our menu with changing consumer tastes. For example, last year we launched world-famous Orange Julius Premium Fruit Smoothies in all of our 5,100 units across the United States and Canada. Our fans told us that Orange Julius stood for much more high-quality smoothies than what they have come to expect from the mass-produced, typical fast-food smoothie, and we have captured a large share of that marketplace. We have a host of other new products in test right now that are unique to the QSR industry and further support our “fan food” positioning.

Where are you allocating more marketing resources in 2014? Where do you see innovation and change happening most for restaurants?

We continue to focus on both mass- and micro-marketing excellence together. National TV advertising continues to drive immediate results for us on a monthly basis, as we continue to launch new or limited-time products or reinforce our popular $5 Buck Lunch. Yet we continue to engage our fans one-on-one with a renewed social platform initiated by Barkley not only on Facebook and Twitter, but also on newer platforms like Tumblr, Instagram and Vine. Last year, we tripled our engagement scores with consumers, and we know that has something to do with the sales growth we saw in 2013.

What do you think the future of restaurant marketing will be?

I believe service will make the difference in the coming years. Consumers have been tolerant of an overall mediocre experience in our category. The rapid growth of fast casual clearly indicates that consumers overall are willing to pay for better quality and service. The QSR chains that change the service paradigm first will be the winners in the decades to come.

What restaurant chain other than Dairy Queen is doing a great job marketing, and why?

Chick-fil-A continues to amaze me with the consistency and quality of the hospitality in their service model. Their ability to maintain the quality here as they grow rapidly is a testament to their culture, and we can all learn from them.

What marketing trends from outside the marketing industry should be incorporated into our business more?

I think we have only begun to scratch the surface in technology’s ability to redefine the service experience in the drive-thru. If you think about it, the drive-thru experience in our category has been relatively unchanged since the first drive-thrus were installed in McDonald’s 40 years ago. The consumer clearly demands more, thus the rise of fast casual.

However, the consumer continues to be financially and time-challenged, therefore the drive-thru remains incredibly relevant. We must as an industry embrace change and use technology to redefine the drive-thru experience. The first ones to do this in our space will have a leg up on the competition in the years to come.