September 13, 2023

How Guest Feedback Fuels Starbird’s Innovation and Growth

tinku saini tarka indian kitchen quote

Editor’s Note: This article is a recap from a panel discussion — you can watch the full recording by clicking on the thumbnail below.

Winner of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Chicken Showdown, master of trend-setting, and specialist in product reinvention, Starbird has achieved meteoric success just seven years after its inception in the Bay Area.

What’s the secret behind this highly popular brand? Something simple yet powerful: guest feedback. And most importantly, operationalizing it well.

Hear from Casey Hilder, Starbird’s Director of Marketing, on how the company revolves its culinary inventions, marketing, operations and technology around guest feedback and customer data, in order to:


  • Casey Hilder, Director of Marketing at Starbird Chicken
  • Alex Kuzmanoff, Head of Analytics at Tattle

What’s Starbird’s strategy around building a brand experience, and how does feedback play a role?

Casey Hilder: The brand experience of Starbird has changed a lot. We’re about 80% digital at Starbird. We’re really focusing on every single touchpoint in the branded digital experience, from DoorDash, to Olo, to Google… and we try to get Starbird on as many platforms as possible so we make it easy for guests to find us.

Tattle play such an awesome role because we can get feedback from every single platform. Delivery guests expect different things than dine-in guests. Therefore we use different metrics for these different user journeys, and Tattle allows us to track and measure all that.

Alex Kuzmanoff: All brands have a million different ways where guests interact with them. Every single touch point is an important step in the user experience. Guest feedback platforms help these brand by optimizing these touchpoints. There are so many ways an order is brought to a restaurant — it’s like running 2 or 3 restaurants under one rooftop. A brand should look at each individual journey as an individual brand experience, and you work with a listening post like Tattle to optimize that.

How does Starbird go about adjusting the menu and LTOs (limited time offer)?

Casey Hilder: We just re-launhced our entire sandwich series. We’ve been serving sandwiches for 7 years now. We love the product but we felt like it’s time to start from scratch and make it better. We have brand new brioche buns, sauces and slaw etc. We’ve been serving hoagie style roll for years, so understanding feedback on it is crucial.

We launched a single store test for a month. We have some real legacy guests give those feedback. Through Tattle, we can compare and contrast previous and new data, and see how feedback differs between return guests and new guests. And then we make adjustments for that category. The feedback now has been really positive.

When assessing the success of an LTO, we don’t just look at sales — which is what most brands automatically react to. We also use Tattle data to understand what sandwiches do people like the most, come back for the most, not just order the most.

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What are the phases of LTO testing?

Alex Kuzmanoff: Start with what problem you’re solving that will meet a business need. It could be boosting sales, getting rid of products due to excess, or other things. But you have to establish those goals and metrics first to determine success.

Once you have that process established, go through a testing process to know what to expect. That starts with a bench test or culinary test in house, which answers the question “can we make it and do we like this product”. Then the operations team comes in to answer the question “can we produce it and make consistently.”

Lastly, continue to scale up if you have the resources. If you have new stores opening up, you can start testing it in different geographical regions too. 

Starbird chicken sandwich

Are there any surprising findings as a result of Starbird’s LTO testing with Tattle?

Casey Hilder: I was surprised by the number of responses we got. We know that everyone experiences the food differently. When we try it in the kitchen, we’re eating the products fresh. Learning from our consumers as to how they get the food, open it, where they eat it (in the car, at home…) helps us understand their unique experiences. We always try to meet customers where they are, so we tweak the packaging etc. to make sure they get the best experience possible. 

Sometimes we receive some feedback that we take with a grain of salt. We look at what percentage of the customer base is the same feedback to determine its impact. Not every feedback leads to immediate changes, but we try to look at the big picture.

Alex Kuzmanoff: I really loved seeing how much love and brand affinity there is for Starbird. People love the brand, and they’re willing to provide constructive feedback, positive or negative, to see you succeed.

This is generally true across the restaurant space — they’re giving you feedback because they’re proactive and want to tell you what you’re doing great and what opportunities are.

How does Starbird align both marketing and operations teams in this LTO process?

Casey Hilder: At Starbird, we say that everything lives and dies within operations. Whatever we put on the menu, we have to be able to execute. No matter who joins the company, the first few months is spent learning at the restaurants how things are made and how we serve customers. When it comees to products and development, operations is involved since the beginning: sourcing, bringing in different SKUs etc. I wok hand in hand with ops until we get it live on the menu board, every step of the way. Also, technology is the bridge between the two, since we’re 80% digital.

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