Editor’s Note: This article is a recap from a panel discussion — to watch the panel discussion in its entirety, click here.
Customer experience is a difficult thing to improve, let alone master. That’s why we decided to talk with three high-octane restaurant brands who are excelling precisely in this area.
In this discussion, we gathered valuable insights as to how customer feedback data was informing their operational optimization.
Here’s the lineup:
- Jim Bitticks, President and COO at Dave’s Hot Chicken
- Jennifer Faren, VP of Marketing at Hopdoddy Burger Bar
- Ryan Wilkinson, Director of Marketing at Primanti Bros.
What drove you to incorporate feedback into your operations?
Starting off the discussion, Jim Bitticks emphasized the value of using a feedback platform like Tattle to guide franchisees and hold them accountable for their restaurant’s performance. He believes that feedback is a window into how the restaurant is performing and provides actionable insights that help focus on one area of improvement at a time.
“A lot of the [Tattle] feedback is very actionable because it’s either related to a specific time, a specific person, or a specific area of focus in the restaurant. And so having that as a sort of meter helps us focus on one thing, make it better, and then move on to the next thing,” he said.
Jennifer Faren, VP of Marketing at Hopdoddy, stressed the importance of incorporating feedback into their culture. She noted that feedback is critical to keep raising the bar and that having a nimble feedback mechanism is essential to hear from more guests than they might see on social media.
Similar to Bitticks, Ryan Wilkinson highlighted the need for a playbook to address areas for improvement. He believes that understanding where the opportunities are to improve operations is critical and that Tattle provides them with valuable insights to do so.
“Tattle is a must for us, being able to really understand what those [improvement areas] are and then have kind of a playbook to address them.” Wilkinson said.
How do you know what feedback solution is best for your brand?
Faren said that Hopdoddy previously relied on inbound guest feedback on Google, Yelp, and Facebook, adding that Tattle helped them gain a more complete picture of guest experiences. With Tattle, they were able to gather insights from the “middle-of-the-road” guests who didn’t have a strong opinion but could provide valuable feedback on areas that could be improved.
“We like having a platform that gives a level set of feedback, in that we’re asking the same questions in all restaurants over time,” Faren added. “And so you’re able to start drawing from those correlations to say, ‘Hey, we changed something here. Did things get better? Did they get worse?’ And so that was really important too.”
Wilkinson commented on the importance of understanding the customer within the restaurant. The Primanti Brothers’ transition away from Yelp, Google, and Facebook – and to Tattle – allowed the brand to proactively inquire of customers, making it easy for them to quickly provide feedback that would be useful to operations.
“Those survey emails come through – they’re automatically triggered – and it doesn’t take that long for the customer to provide that feedback. That’s been really helpful in understanding what’s actually happening.” Wilkinson said.
For Dave’s Hot Chicken, Tattle serves as an early detection system of problems, intercepting unhappy guests and resolving their issues quickly. Tattle provides immediate alerts once an incident is received, enabling the brand to reach out to customers within 30 minutes of their visit. This helps push guests in the right direction and resolve their concerns, resulting in an overall jump in scores on Yelp and Google.
“The quick response helps to kind of push [the unhappy customer] in the right direction and resolve the concern. I think we’ve seen an overall jump in our scores on Yelp and Google since we started using Tattle about two years ago,” the Dave’s Hot Chicken COO said.
How do you have the time to implement another tool like Tattle?
For Bitticks and his team, implementing Tattle was a breeze, saying it was “just built into the system” and is as “easy as turning on Google or Yelp.” He reiterated the efficiency of the platform, in that it enables feedback to go directly to the restaurant and franchise owner, with responses tailored to each review. And if a review is positive, a request for a Yelp or Google review is made. If negative, the team reaches out to offer fulfillment or an apology and to win the customer back.
“It’s a lot harder to reply on Yelp and Google, to be honest with you, because you have to reply individually and you have to DM the guest and then you have to check that. From a corporate standpoint, if we have 86 restaurants, you’d literally be checking 86 different DM boxes – that’s not great.”
Faren agreed with Bitticks, noting that Hopdoddy GMs manage their own Tattle feedback as they come in. The system is set up to make it an easy part of their day, and they take feedback to heart.
The Hopdoddy VP of Marketing also added that acquiring new customers takes more work than winning back those who had a bad experience, making prioritizing guest feedback essential.
“if you’re taking a few days, a week, or any longer to respond to unhappy guests, the chances of being able to get that guest to give you another shot will dwindle. But if you can talk to them the same day or the next day at the latest, that’s awesome … you probably will get them to be like,”All right, great. Yeah, I’ll give you another shot. I’ll come back in.”
Wilkinson chimed in that responding to feedback can be done at different levels within the organization, “It’s interesting – Jim, you have a corporate person who’s responding. Jennifer, you guys are doing it at the restaurant level. For us, we have our regional folks that are managing responses.”
He stated that while regional managers typically manage feedback responses, the individual managers at Primanti Bros. can see the dashboard and understand where their opportunities are, too.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered after implementing Tattle?
“Before Tattle, we were doing eight mystery shops a month with our franchisees, and we turned Tattle on and we were getting 50 to 75 Tattle surveys a month. I think that was the most surprising thing,” said Bitticks.
In addition, the Dave’s Hot Chicken COO also found that the Tattle score was comparable to their mystery shopper average, and the star rating was within a tenth of a point of their Google and Yelp ratings. He further noted that Tattle insights kept the operations tight and ensured that staff adhered to their internal standards.
Wilkinson remarked that the entire Primanti Bros. team was blown away by the high completion rate of the survey (around 94%), despite it collecting over 55 data points. He noted that the structure of the survey allowed customers to answer more questions than they realized, leading to detailed and actionable feedback that the restaurant could address.
“The sheer number of respondents that we’re getting is wild,” stated Wilkinson. “We were all amazed that this is a viable survey and people actually are going to answer and respond.”
He didn’t stop there, adding that another surprising element of Tattle was it’s ability to offer different surveys for different order modes – such as delivery, online, and dine-in. This allowed for a more personalized survey that was relevant to the customer’s experience, providing valuable feedback for the restaurant.
“[Tattle] enables us to build a survey that is actually relevant to [the guest’s] particular experience, versus something that’s more generic. So it wasn’t something we had considered as readily-doable, and it’s been valuable for us.” concluded the Primanti Bros. Director of Marketing.
How has incorporating feedback impacted your operations positively?
Faren said the platform helped identify opportunities for their off-premise business, which is “a whole different animal.” She explained that their menu and restaurants weren’t originally set up for that business – just like many others during the onset of the COVID pandemic – but Tattle helped them identify two key opportunities during that transition: curbside service and addressing the quality of their hand-cut fries for takeout orders.
Bitticks shared a quick story about how Tattle came to the aid of a Dave’s Hot Chicken unit a few years back. The Pacific Beach location was receiving negative feedback about their pickup process. By parsing through feedback, Dave’s Hot Chicken identified that the pickup process was incredibly chaotic and confusing. They put up a table, a banner, and a staff member outside the location, bringing clarity and direction to the guest experience.
“And literally, within two weeks, their scores were a full point better because we fixed the problem area,” Bitticks said. “They’re great operators down there and wanted to fix it – they just didn’t have the information to really hone in on what the true issue was. And so they were able to do that within two weeks time based on the feedback.”
Wilkinson honed in on the Tattle Objectives, noting that the platform is particularly helpful for multi-unit operators, who can easily become overwhelmed by the number of tasks they need to manage. By providing actionable insights, Tattle helps restaurant operators prioritize their efforts and achieve meaningful results.
“When there’s too many things to focus on and there are a million things to focus on, then nothing is important,” he concluded.