At MURTEC, Marc Butler, SVP, Strategic Planning/Off Premise, HOA Brands, shared recent tech initiatives that have made a difference at Hooters and its fast-casual concept Hoots Wings and its virtual brands.
Butler shared how Hooters was able to pivot to 100% off-premise dining and the lessons learned along the way.
“You don’t understand how broken something is until you start pushing a little volume through it,” said Butler about the brand’s digital channels. When Hoots Wings made its debut about four years ago in 2017, the brand experienced “some difficult times, and we reworked what we had already built. On the bright side, when dining rooms were closed, it was a pretty simple transition (to off prem).”
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Now Hoots Wings is “a big growth opportunity in 2021,” said Butler. The brand is expanding nationwide, having recently announced its development plans for the state of Texas and a 16-unit agreement in Philly. “It fits perfectly with what we’ve seen over the past year. More shifting and migrating to off-premise business … We anticipate 60% or more of that business being to-go, and a high percentage of orders being placed through digital channels.
Curbside was added as a “necessity” during the COVID-19 lockdown, but Hooters’ consumer re-search indicates sustained demand for the service for the foreseeable future. “It was a pretty important addition to our operations,” Butler said. “We knew there was a lot of interest, but we knew we could not do it in the format we had been doing it (as dining rooms were reopening) ... We need those eyes on the parking lot to help with the handoff to the customer.”
So, HOA Brands selected Radius Network’s FlyBuy solution to provide seamless curbside and in-store pickup experience for all stores. It gave “complete coverage” from the point the customer placed the order, to clicking “I’m on my way,” to arriving in the parking lot, explained Butler.
This year the company is focusing “on getting better at what we do.” HOA Brands is currently testing smart lockers with delivery service providers for both Hooters and Hoots locations to reduce friction for drivers and the customer.
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