What is in this article?:
- CMO Perspectives: Doug Reifschneider of Firehouse Subs
- What's ahead in 2014
This interview is part of CMO Perspectives, presented by NRN in partnership with the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executives Group. The monthly feature explores how leading executives are navigating the ever-changing restaurant marketing landscape.
What's ahead in 2014
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How do you see health and nutrition evolving and impacting our industry over the next few years?
As a self-professed health nut, I work out six or seven times per week and try to eat healthfully. The operative word is “try,” and based on people I work with and the others I work out with, most of us have the same problem. We all live to eat. That’s great for the restaurant industry, because people use the occasion of breaking bread to socialize the old-fashioned way, face to face. Are health and nutrition more important to more consumers than they were 20 years ago? Yes. Will it continue to grow in importance? Yes, but there will be some kind of equilibrium established. That said, I think most restaurants will need to offer some healthy options in the terms of lower-calorie, -fat and -sodium items to stay competitive.
Firehouse Subs was the first national chain to commit to the Coke Freestyle systemwide. What advice do you have for others?
It’s been a huge positive for Firehouse Subs. It set us apart from all our competition. In 2012, the year we introduced and advertised the Freestyle, our system sales grew 35 percent, and 2012 was the best year in the history of our brand for sales and growth. Freestyle was a big part of that success.
It works well because of our service system. Once guests order and pay at the register, they have four to six minutes before their sub will be delivered. That time allows the guests to fill their drink, grab their chips and sit down. But it may not be the best option for all quick-service platforms.
Where are you allocating additional marketing resources in 2014?
We added a fourth regional marketing manager earlier in the year. In 2015, we hope to increase the media budget for the system, and I hope to add at least one new digital marketing position and a person for merchandising, branding and catering. As you can tell, I’m still scoping the position, so time and business needs dictate where I land.
What marketing tactics or strategies excite you most right now?
The shiny new toy for most of us right now is social and digital advertising. We continue to use traditional advertising with success, but we’ve been experimenting with all sorts of other digital and social options. The great thing about digital options is the data and how precisely digital efforts can be targeted. The disappointing part of digital is cost. For a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, it costs more than I think it should.
I’m excited about our social media efforts and success. As a relatively small brand, we do well with engagement and sentiment scores in the social universe, and we usually score somewhere between No. 8 and No. 11 on the Restaurant Social Media Index.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite is from Gen. George S. Patton: “All glory is fleeting.” Sounds like the restaurant business, right? We’re only as good as our last P&L.