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Recently, the QSR Nation Podcast team sat down with PFSbrands VP of Customer Success, Joe Chatman, to discuss his take on what foodservice marketing will look like coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a recap of their discussion from podcast episode #151. For the full episode, click here.

Let’s start with your background and how you got to where you are today at PFSbrands?

Chatman: After graduating with my MBA at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, I worked at FedEx in their retail marketing and international marketing departments. The majority of my career has been in consumer packaged goods – I worked for Nestlé Purina for 13 and a half years working on brands such as Beneful®, Purina ONE®, Pro Plan® and Tidy Cats®, and also had the opportunity to work for Pabst Brewing Company for a year and a half. I started off there in brand management and then moved to a regional general manager position before I came over to PFSbrands.

Within the field of marketing, you’ve gone from Purina (animals) to Pabst Brewing Company (beer). What is the most impactful marketing strategy you've seen, regardless of what product you’re trying to market or what industry you’re in?

Chatman: Regardless of the category you compete in, it all comes down to consumers - leveraging key consumer insights to deliver a product or service that they’re looking for. The brands and marketers that can deliver on those key consumer insights on a day-to-day basis regardless of brand or industry are going to have success.

Another thing that is true in my experience, is that if you have a good product or service, you want to get it in as many households or consumer’s hands as possible. If you can increase household penetration, you will see success in the long-term. Now, that isn’t easy – and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but if you can do it, you’ll have a winner.

How have you seen the consumer landscape change?

Chatman: In the last several years, it’s gone from a mass media/mass marketing dominated landscape to more personalization. Consumers are looking for brands to have empathy and to really understand how they are going about their day-to-day lives or consuming their product. The more you can put yourself in the consumer’s shoes, have that 1:1 dialogue, and provide personalization wherever possible, the better chance you’ll have success in the long-term.

Customer service continues to be a hot topic these days – providing superior customer service is something every company should strive for. But with everything going on with COVID-19, how do you think that the service industry, specifically QSR’s, will change?

Chatman: Safety and cleanliness/sanitation will be the first and foremost focus coming out of COVID-19. I also think we’ll continue to see growth in curbside pickup and delivery, too. Staffing is going to be more important than ever. A lot of people have lost jobs, so there is a lot of talent on the streets. Many businesses have really struggled with labor and using staff in new ways, so the places that can recruit and retain that top talent with have a competitive advantage in the long-term.

As we (hopefully) get on the backside of COVID-19, there are a lot of businesses who don’t have a plan in place for the future. Business owners are finding food costs skyrocketing, labor costs increasing and other protective supplies are now needed that weren’t needed before. What is some advice for the next 30-60-90 days to get us moving through this difficult time?

Chatman: Restaurant owners and managers are weighing the pros and cons of opening back up right now. For me, the 30-60-90 would look like focusing on safety first. Get that right. Then, continue to focus on curbside pickup, delivery and takeout services. And that final 90-day plan would be to secure that top talent that needs a job right now.

Moving forward, the businesses that can pivot, shift and adapt their menus to things that people are looking for will succeed. A simple menu, delivering on a value proposition (value meals, family meals, etc.) as budgets tighten with consumers, and family meals are going to be very important moving into the holidays and into 2021.

What are some strategies for convenience and grocery store owners, specifically, as they navigate through the end of COVID-19?

Convenience stores and grocery stores have upped their game in terms of cleanliness and sanitation and I see that trend to continue moving forward. The unfortunate reality is that many restaurants have been and will continue to close due to this pandemic, so a lot of consumers are now looking for new places to pick up hot food.

If you, as a c-store or grocery owner, can continue to deliver on the promise of a clean, safe place with superior customer service, then you can attract those consumers and have a better chance at surviving and thriving moving forward.



Listen to the full QSR Nation podcast (#151) or subscribe at https://qsrnationpodcast.com/.