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06/29/2021

P.F. Chang's CMO is Ahead of the Curve

“It’s going to be a race to see who can deliver an accurate order the fastest because consumer expectations will be higher in a post-pandemic world," says Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award winner, Tana Davila, CMO of P.F. Chang's.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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Tana Davila, CMO of P.F. Chang's, says exceling at brand building revolves around the understanding of consumer behavior, knowing your guests and how they want to interact in the digital age.

Hospitality Technology’s Top Women in Restaurant Technology Awards, now in their fifth year, recognize women who are making their mark in a male-dominated industry. In the coming weeks we will be profiling each of the 10 honorees in-depth on hospitalitytech.com/topwomen21.  

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Innovator
Tana Davila, CMO, P.F. Chang’s

During 2020, as restaurants nationwide faced the realities of doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic, they increasingly leaned in to off-prem.

But P.F. Chang’s was a few steps ahead, thanks for the forward-thinking of Chief Marketing Officer Tana Davila.

Davila, a Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award winner, continues to lead and refine the strategic roadmap for off-premises dining that she started seven years ago. Off-premises has grown during her tenure by +$220M.

Restaurants that have completed the holistic brand refresh that Davila engineered are seeing more than 10%+ revenue lift.

Davila says she’s most proud of the digital technology investment choices has made during her 7+ years with  P.F. Chang’s. “That collection of decisions has been the reason we as a brand will not only survive the pandemic but also emerge even stronger than before. We were an early mover in both the loyalty space with Paytronix and the delivery space as the first national restaurant brand to sign with DoorDash. Thanks to our consumer insights, we recognized where the marketplace was headed earlier than many of our peers. We’ve built a data-driven digital ecosystem and online ordering engine that has propelled growth for our business and created a positive experience for our guests,” she explained.

VIDEO: Watch Tana Davila accept the Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award. (30 seconds)  

Davila, who has a law degree and an MBA, admits she didn’t consciously decide to pursue a career in restaurant technology. “I learned early on that exceling at brand building revolved around the understanding of consumer behavior, knowing your guests and how they want to interact in this digital age,” she said. “When I joined P.F. Chang’s, I quickly realized that technology was imperative to winning with our guests, especially with the rise of off-premise dining and online ordering. Technology became a means to deliver our brand and, if we did that well, it made our guests love P.F. Chang’s even more,” said Davila.

Davila has led numerous enterprise-level projects for a variety of brands that required significant IT transformation. “Most of my technology training was on-the-job, real-world experience,” she says. “In my current role as CMO, overseeing technology initiatives is still one of my favorite parts of the job because I feel like I’m constantly learning something new while improving the experience for our guests.”

She has become passionate about building and constantly refining the tech stack. “The rapid evolution of technology, combined with the increasing number of technology partners with diverse service offerings, elevates the need for constant evaluation of our architecture to ensure we have the right partners and an integrated approach to delivering a superior guest experience,” she says.

A best-in-class user experience can create brand equity, Davila explains. Conversely, a bad user experience, especially when transacting, can be harmful to a brand. “Our industry is evolving at an accelerated pace post-pandemic. The ones that will win are those that strategically assess and constantly evaluate their tech stack for both the short- and long-term,” she says.

As a marketer, Davila is passionate about leveraging technology to better understand guests. P.F. Chang’s was an early adopter of in-house delivery and uses the data from its in-house delivery to better understand how guests are interacting with the brand. Just like its tech stack, P.F. Chang’s is “constantly optimizing” its organic and paid media targeting strategies, “which ultimately helps us to deliver more relevant and personalized communications to our guests,” she said.

 

In the Dining Room

With COVID restrictions lifting, Davila sees increased opportunities to use tech in the dining rooms.  “A huge opportunity exists for those that start to think more strategically about how to better use technology to deliver a better dine-in experience,” Davila says. “At P.F. Chang’s, we are very focused on elevating our brand across all the different guest touchpoints. For us, the most interesting technologies are those that help us deliver a more curated and seamless experience, such as being able to identify loyalty guests as they walk into our restaurant or offering one-touch virtual payment.”

She’s also impressed with UX as a service.  “We like that it provides medium-sized enterprises like ours the ability to deliver a curated digital brand experience without a heavy custom development cost,” she explained. “Technology that delivers this type of innovation has been a game changer for us.”

Technology is becoming increasingly important to a restaurant brand’s survival, she noted. “It’s going to be a race to see who can deliver an accurate order the fastest because consumer expectations will be higher in a post-pandemic world,” she said.

Davila, who has a law degree and an MBA, admits she didn’t consciously decide to pursue a career in restaurant technology. “I learned early on that exceling at brand building revolved around the understanding of consumer behavior, knowing your guests and how they want to interact in this digital age,” she said. “When I joined P.F. Chang’s, I quickly realized that technology was imperative to winning with our guests, especially with the rise of off-premise dining and online ordering. Technology became a means to deliver our brand and, if we did that well, it made our guests love P.F. Chang’s even more,” said Davila.

Davila has led numerous enterprise-level projects for a variety of brands that required significant IT transformation. “Most of my technology training was on-the-job, real-world experience,” she says. “In my current role as CMO, overseeing technology initiatives is still one of my favorite parts of the job because I feel like I’m constantly learning something new while improving the experience for our guests.”

She has become passionate about building and constantly refining the tech stack. “The rapid evolution of technology, combined with the increasing number of technology partners with diverse service offerings, elevates the need for constant evaluation of our architecture to ensure we have the right partners and an integrated approach to delivering a superior guest experience,” she says.

A best-in-class user experience can create brand equity, Davila explains. Conversely, a bad user experience, especially when transacting, can be harmful to a brand. “Our industry is evolving at an accelerated pace post-pandemic. The ones that will win are those that strategically assess and constantly evaluate their tech stack for both the short- and long-term,” she says.

As a marketer, Davila is passionate about leveraging technology to better understand guests. P.F. Chang’s was an early adopter of in-house delivery and uses the data from its in-house delivery to better understand how guests are interacting with the brand. Just like its tech stack, P.F. Chang’s is “constantly optimizing” its organic and paid media targeting strategies, “which ultimately helps us to deliver more relevant and personalized communications to our guests,” she said.

 

In the Dining Room

With COVID restrictions lifting, Davila sees increased opportunities to use tech in the dining rooms.  “A huge opportunity exists for those that start to think more strategically about how to better use technology to deliver a better dine-in experience,” Davila says. “At P.F. Chang’s, we are very focused on elevating our brand across all the different guest touchpoints. For us, the most interesting technologies are those that help us deliver a more curated and seamless experience, such as being able to identify loyalty guests as they walk into our restaurant or offering one-touch virtual payment.”

She’s also impressed with UX as a service.  “We like that it provides medium-sized enterprises like ours the ability to deliver a curated digital brand experience without a heavy custom development cost,” she explained. “Technology that delivers this type of innovation has been a game changer for us.”

Technology is becoming increasingly important to a restaurant brand’s survival, she noted. “It’s going to be a race to see who can deliver an accurate order the fastest because consumer expectations will be higher in a post-pandemic world,” she said.

"Our industry is evolving at an accelerated pace post-pandemic. The ones that will win are those that strategically assess and constantly evaluate their tech stack for both the short- and long-term."
Tana Davila, CMO

About the Top Women in Restaurant Technology Awards

Winners were chosen by Hospitality Technology magazine and members of its Research Advisory Board. Winners will be profiled in the Summer 2021 issue of Hospitality Technology magazine and throughout June and July in digital profiles on www.hospitalitytech.comThe winners were announced and honored during a virtual awards program on April 14 at the 26th annual MURTEC (Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference), which was streamed online. In the coming weeks we will be profiling each of the 10 honorees in-depth on hospitalitytech.com/topwomen21.