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Where are you allocating additional marketing resources in 2014?

For our Genghis Grill brand, we’re focusing on our [area of protection] and aggressively focusing on our catering, local-store marketing and online-ordering programs. Our catering program started out as a need to satisfy loyal fans, and it turned out to be huge in 2013. We’ve since partnered with Monkey Media to assist with growth on catering, online-ordering and takeout initiatives. We’ll be adding a senior-level person to spearhead this program as we see a lot of potential and opportunity in this segment for our brand.

Where do you see innovation happening for restaurants over the next few years?

In technology. Our industry is extremely behind the times. From a marketing standpoint, we’ve already seen adaptation of social networking platforms, location-based services and visual search. As consumer demographics and behavior continue to change every aspect of how they live, work and learn, marketers will need to convince our operators to adapt technological innovations to stay ahead of the competition. Successful operators will retain a personal touch element if strategy is adapted correctly.

We marketers have to be extremely careful and understand that today’s consumer is smarter than us, especially the Millennials. They have been raised on an instant-access formula: Everything should be at their fingertips. Hence we have to adapt technology to get our message out to them quicker and in a more targeted way. Currently, most of our campaigns are extremely targeted and focused on social-media platforms. We continue to find out and measure data provided by our fans to cater to each and every one of them separately. With shrinking marketing budgets, due to shrinking margins, I believe less is going to be more.

What restaurant brand other than your own is doing a great job in marketing?

I like what Taco Bell is doing. It has been smashing on the digital frontier, and not just because they’re a big company, but also because they’re innovative and pushing the “Live Más” bar higher. They threat their employees and customers like friends online.

Another brand that I watch is Firehouse Subs. They also do a great job interacting with their customers and tying in their message with relevancy about the brand and their cause. Obviously, you have your Starbucks and Chipotle up there to learn from, but they have much deeper pockets to experiment.

What marketing trend do you see outside of the restaurant industry that you feel should be incorporated into our business?

Mobile commerce will become top of mind to a campaign’s success. With more focus on real-time marketing, content that is easy, quick, affordable and disposable will drive ad growth, like with Pinterest, Instagram and Vine.

Data management and using technology like RFID sensors — mobile-location data captured in real time to get a picture of what consumers are doing at that moment — is also something marketers will benefit from as the current data is not real time and changing so often. I also see mobile payments trending upward in 2014, with more adaptability of Google Wallet, Square and others that have introduced electronic payments, loyalty and couponing systems. With our crowded restaurant industry, transactional marketing will be a key to build loyalty programs that segments and markets to individuals based on purchase history.