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HT Talks Tech With Velvet Taco's Marketing Director

HT caught up with Cassie Cooper to talk about the brand's 'Secret Menu' loyalty hook and upcoming tech initiatives.
Velvet Taco Nashville Chicken Waffle taco
Velvet Taco's Nashville Chicken Waffle taco.
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Recently, Velvet Taco announced new additions to its loyalty program, including a secret menu reserved for its loyalty members.

HT caught up with Cassie Cooper, Velvet Taco's Marketing Director, to talk about the brand's marketing initiatives.  

HTHow are you trying to win over 3PD customers?  

Cassie Cooper, Velvet Taco's Marketing Director: 
Realistically, third-party delivery services are our partners, but they can also be our direct competitors if we are trying to target the same guest. It’s not about winning, it’s about driving incremental business for both parties.

There are consumers that will only download one food app on their phone – usually one that gives them access to an entire marketplace of delivery options like the UberEats of the world. And on the flip side, there are consumers who will want to download the app for their favorite restaurants, like Velvet Taco.

Velvet Taco’s goal is to make our app and ordering experience something you can’t get anywhere else – with some perks positioned only for mobile or pick-up ordering like a direct digital-only menu or adding rewards to your order without having to tell a counter server. The Velvet Taco mobile app provides experiences and rewards as part of the guest’s loyalty, but the biggest benefit might be that the consumer can control their entire experience up until the point they place their order. From that point, the guest has complete access to view the order status and post-order details.

With inflation at an all-time high, consumers want and expect an experience distinctly tailored to them. The Velvet Taco loyalty app delivers on that idea.

HT: How is VT marketing to new customers?

Cooper: Our Influencer collaborations have helped us create great relationships when it comes to content delivery and Velvet Taco gives them an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere to create content in. When it comes to internal strategies, we are constantly reviewing our website and SEO strategy and search terms to ensure we are marketing our services in a way that aligns with our business. We also partner with local businesses to create mutually beneficial relationships like food donations, giveaways, silent auctions, etc.

Word of mouth is huge for our brand. We’ve built a product and experience that people talk about. Our online reputation, Google and Yelp reviews, are extremely important to our success. So much so that our GMs respond to every single review for their restaurant, and they report on their rating scores.

HT: In addition to the secret menu, what other incentives does Velvet Taco offer customers to download the app? 

Cooper:  With the Velvet Taco App, you can order and pay ahead, get access to exclusive rewards and offers, receive insider information, and more. Specific app features include exclusive access to the Weekly Taco Feature menu and Backdoor Menu, which is only available to Velvet Taco guests through the mobile app and dine-in. Guests can redeem rewards and offers, place orders and pay ahead, rate recent orders, and save previous orders all exclusively through the app. The Velvet Taco app also allows guests to earn rewards like free chips & queso for signing up, a free slice of red velvet cake on your birthday, and as guests move through the ranks, they will get free tacos and surprises throughout the year. The top five loyalty members will be awarded a trip to Dallas, Texas to attend a taco tasting with Velvet Taco’s culinary team.

HT: What role does social media including Instagram and TikTok & the Metaverse play in VT’s marketing efforts? For this secret menu program?

Cooper: We have an extremely visually stimulating brand and social media allows us to be highly successful in this space. While we’ve been building our brand on Facebook and Instagram since our inception, we are just now breaking out in the TikTok world. We’re using influencers and team member’s content to inform the content creation. TikTok is all about not taking yourself too seriously which is a perfect fit for Velvet Taco.

HT: When it comes to analytics, data is king. How does Velvet Taco collect and utilize data to their best advantage? 

Cooper: We utilize data from several inputs (POS, Online, Loyalty, Third-Party) and aggregate into one BI tool allowing us to make decisions based on how the business performed the day, week, month, or even year before. We’re constantly looking at sales (digital, dine-in, delivery), average check, sales mix, and shifts that occur to ensure our game plan is always ready for industry’s and our consumer’s ever-changing behavior.

Thanx, a leading provider of guest engagement technology, specifically allows us to track over 100 attributes about our guests – favorite time of day to dine, average check, frequency, LTV, home restaurant – to name a few. We’ve been using the loyalty audience to build a look-a-like audience for our media campaigns. We’re currently in the process of building brand guest personas to inform real estate decisions and marketing campaigns; our loyalty audience will inform this study.

HT: What's next on the technology to-do list that you can tell me about?  

Cooper: Digital storefronts and the metaverse are intriguing because it’s rather topical right now.

For Velvet Taco, we are looking at how to streamline our catering program and the technology to support it. We are prioritizing building a true event space for our best-in-class catering program as well as ensuring we have the tools to focus on customer relations.

Gamification, which has been around for years, is also something that ties well into the Velvet Taco brand. I envision a “taco passport” or something similar to allow guests to follow their taco dreams digitally while being rewarded for their engagement.

HT: Pick a technology and give us your predictions for restaurants when it comes to: AI/ML, robotics, crypto payments, NFTs, the metaverse.

Cooper: Technology certainly has allowed us to spend more time providing guests with delicious tacos and new, memorable dining experiences. I am personally interested in creating more access to our food without jeopardizing the integrity and quality of it – for example, do robot drone deliveries have a future?

I am a big fan of personal interaction with our guests, so I am hesitant to say that chatbots might have a place in the restaurant industry future. Since chatbots don’t require much investment and can easily integrate with different communication mediums, I predict that brands will use chatbots to recommend dishes, suggest food, pair drink options, and announce events. Presumably, this is for the guest who wants to control their entire experience without talking to anyone at the restaurant.

I also predict that there will be an increase in ghost kitchens or host kitchen concepts. Leveraging existing restaurant brands or creating new ones powered by social communities may be the future of virtual restaurant markets.

velvet taco
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