HT Talks Art & Science of Marketing with Wings and Rings VP of Marketing Kelly Hoyman

Hoyman spent 17 years working on marketing for McDonald’s.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor, Restaurants
wolfe
Wings and Rings valet
Wings and Rings' store design features a valet lane for off-premises order pickup.
Kelly Hoyman Wings and Rings
Kelly Hoyman

HT caught up with Kelly Hoyman, Vice President of Marketing, Wings and Rings, to talk about catering to customers’ desires for convenience as well as anticipating their future demands. Before joining the Cincinnati-based restaurant operator in September, Hoyman spent 17 years leading marketing at a major McDonald's franchisee. 

“At McDonald’s, I had a lot of success empowering franchisees to grow their businesses and building a strong local presence for the brand,” said Hoyman. “The opportunity to join such an incredible brand with enormous growth potential like Wings and Rings was a chance I couldn’t pass up. The quality of the food, the unique brand identity, and the exceptional roster of franchisees make us a force to be reckoned with in the full-service dining space.”

Wings and Rings is on schedule to add three locations to its network of 84 locations this year. Hoyman’s efforts will play a key role as the franchisor works to enhance the customer experience both in-restaurant and for off-premises orders. 

With a new website and loyalty program, updated store design, menu enhancements and the introduction of online ordering, the Wings and Rings team is dedicated to continued innovation to support both franchisees and their guests.

Hoyman said one of the projects on her to do list is understanding the changes in customer behavior. “That's something that we'll be diving into … to really understand the changes in our customer behavior.”

Driven By Convenience

In 2020 Wings and Rings debuted a new building prototype complete with a valet lane for off-prem order pickup and an order-at-the-table section for guests 21+.

"Wings and Rings is continuing to build off that idea of providing the most convenience for customers," explained Hoyman. "Understanding that our guests have different technology needs when they're visiting us or different experiences when they're wanting to interact with us, whether that's the food is being delivered to them, they're picking it up curbside. We're constantly innovating on taking care of our customers’ needs. When we grow with new restaurants, we're definitely looking at having that valet service, where customers can just pull right up, and the food will be brought out to them so they can stay in their car. It’s so convenient."

Geolocation technology baked into the mobile app helps reduce the friction in the pickup experience, she added. (Customers who opt in to using the mobile app pull into the valet lane; the technology notifies the restaurant's staff the customer has arrived, and their order is brought out to the customer who is waiting in their car. )

For 67 percent of millennials and 63 percent of Gen Z adults,  ordering takeout from a restaurant is an essential part of their lifestyle,  according to findings from the National Restaurant Association 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry Report.

Wings and Rings is among the restaurants seeing sustained demand for off-premise dining; more consumers are opting to order direct and pick up their order themselves vs. using delivery services and incurring third-party delivery fees. 

“They (third-party delivery companies) definitely changed the dynamic of our industry and how we serve our customers,” Hoyman said.  “I think we had a lot of lessons in how to provide convenience with quality food, knowing that maybe everyone doesn't necessarily want to go to a restaurant and sit down. They want to take the food to their home and enjoy it with their family. Now it's about getting ahead of what does the customer want and need. And maybe they don't even know they want and need. It is about how to get ahead of that desire so you can create solutions to solve these needs."

Evolving Customer Preferences

Wings and Rings is already leveraging feedback from its very engaged clientele from its strong loyalty program. This year Wings and Rings plans to do a new customer segmentation model to better understand changes in its customers’ behaviors; its previous version predates the COVID-19 pandemic, she explained.   “Customers have changed how they interact with their restaurants of choice. We can broaden our target audience and look at how customers use us, how they're wanting to use us and then how we can meet their needs.”

Rich data from the brand’s website, mobile app and wallets is helping the brand understand who their current customers are. 

“We have an opportunity at Wings and Rings to better understand our existing customers as well as potentially new customers and segmenting our database to better communicate offers that are the most relevant to them,” Hoyman said.

“When you think about a sports bar concept, you don't immediately go to family. Yet it is amazing how many families come to visit our locations… How can I creatively communicate and market to families that we are family friendly and a great place to come watch a game or just catch up with your kids… That customer segmentation study will help us drill down to create personas and to then be able to market to those groups.”

Using social media, including TikTok is “vitally important” to reach today’s consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z.   “It’s so important to stay on top of the different social media channels where your customers are. It's a great way to interact with them. Gone are the days of communicating out a message to a broad audience and letting them digest it. It is now a two-way interaction where you post and then it’s game on.” 

Customers are quick to respond with feedback, comments, criticisms and concerns. “They’re sharing their experiences and interacting with your brand,” she added. “Social media is where we absolutely have to be. We can interact in a way that's relevant and engaging with the customer so they feel that we're not necessarily talking at them but engaging with them.”

Some of the most engaging social media campaigns have been organic ones that have stemmed from loyal guests. (Remember Dogg Face skateboarding with his Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice to Fleetwood Mac? That garnered 100 million views on TikTok.)

“There are some brands out there that have just amazing loyalties within their customer base,” she explains. “They help promote your brand for you; they're posting and interacting with your brand and giving credibility to the experience because it's coming from your customer. It’s not coming from the corporate office marketing team.” 

“That's the great thing about marketing; it's an art and science. There's no crystal ball, but I think we're very data-driven marketing department and we get as much information as we possibly can and then really work creatively to figure out how we target those different customers and how we engage and interact with them,” Hoyman said. 

Wings and Rings is putting forth a lot of energy to create excitement around its loyalty program. “Being able to differentiate messages to the different segments within your loyalty program, that’s the future and showing the most traction,” she said.

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