Prentiss Hall, President & Co–Founder,
LifeWorks Restaurant Group
How has your marketing approach evolved within the last five years?
While our marketing has evolved over the last few years, I think that the most important question here is how it will need to change over the next five years. There is no finish line here and the need to keep up will undoubtedly accelerate. The way that people make decisions about where they go, what they do, what they buy and how they buy has fundamentally changed.
More and more people today check out opinions on platforms such as YELP or Google before they even consider buying anything. This has also proven to be true with business-to-business decisions, too. Research shows that there is a growing trend for decision-makers to check companies out via the web and social media to better understand who they want to deal with.
From this, springs the opportunity to drive customer advocacy and its potent ability to replace and far exceed any traditional marketing activities of the past. The golden nugget of finding a message that goes viral and reaches millions of customers is rare but would never have been possible with traditional marketing. The importance of drip feeding your messaging to the customer universe across a varied range of platforms is more important than ever before.
How has the advent of social media changed your company’s approach to marketing?
It has forced us to be even more creative and to move with greater speed. It’s a real time world and there are opportunities to win or lose every moment, every day, every week and we need to capitalize on those moments. And as I said before…there is no finish line here. Just when you think you have it figured out, a new generation comes along like the Gen Z’ers who think a little bit differently than Millennials and even use different social media networks. It’s quite an exciting time actually, it keeps us on our toes and forces us to be more creative than ever before.
What has been the most effective way your company has attracted Millenials (both as customers and as employees)?
In a word, inspiration. It works for both attracting and retaining talent. The millennial generation looks for an environment where they can grow rapidly, to do something that is important, to have a shared mission, vision, direction and strive for noble goals. This generation rejects the notion of long-term careers with the same company, cubicles, workplace uniforms, or the three meal a day approach. This demographic is better educated, less financially reliant on their salaries alone, more mobile and are more likely to take a cool, lower paid job than a dull, uninspiring job with higher pay.
That is why Inspiring Life at Work is so important. Our mission is to enrich and nourish lives, not only for our clients and guests, but also for our team members. Not just as a marketing catch phrase but truly as a mission.
What do you think creates the greatest challenge to our industry?
We have allowed ourselves to become somewhat commoditized over the years and our voice to drive differentiation and value has been diminished. Food is one of the most valued amenities on any corporate campus. As an industry, we need to do a better job re-establishing our true value and the difference we make for our clients and guests.
Where do you see the most opportunity to grow our industry?
I think an opportunity for growth in our industry is for leaders to encourage younger generations of managers and high-potential associates to pursue leadership positions in our industry and its associations like SHFM. Fresh, new and diverse eyes on our business will help keep our industry vibrant and relevant.
Please share a good story about your early foodservice career that still serves you well today.
There used to be a saying that “the customer is always right”. I grew up with that and when I was much younger would quote it as well to the teams I worked with. I noticed that when a conflict would arise between a customer and one of our team members that many of our service team members would go to great lengths to prove that they were in fact right and the customer was wrong! And in many cases they were absolutely right. The “customer is always right” approach automatically puts the service team on the defensive. By definition, it means they are always wrong even though they may have been right. We found a better way to approach this by changing the mantra to this, ”It’s not about who is right or wrong, it’s about making the situation right now”. It worked wonders as there was no longer a need to try to prove who was right or wrong and there was actually a reward for making the situation right at the time. I still use this philosophy today.