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Episode 17  |  54:40 min

S2:EP17 - Renae Scott, Creative Marketing Powerhouse

Episode 17  |  54:40 min  |  02.11.2021

S2:EP17 - Renae Scott, Creative Marketing Powerhouse

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This is a podcast episode titled, S2:EP17 - Renae Scott, Creative Marketing Powerhouse . The summary for this episode is: In this episode, I interview Renae Scott, CMO of Ike's Love and Sandwiches and is a creative marketing powerhouse in the restaurant industry. She is the former CMO of Carl's Jr. among many other leading fast casual concepts. Renae has successfully navigated Ike's through the pandemic by launching buzz worthy promotions, enhanced delivery options, and menu innovations. Ike's under her direction will be launching a new app later this year to move their restaurant further into the digital space. After opening 20 locations last year, and 21 more to come this year, Renae is a seasoned marketing veteran in the restaurant industry and in this episode, she dives into her success.

In this episode, I interview Renae Scott, CMO of Ike's Love and Sandwiches and is a creative marketing powerhouse in the restaurant industry.

She is the former CMO of Carl's Jr. among many other leading fast casual concepts. Renae has successfully navigated Ike's through the pandemic by launching buzz worthy promotions, enhanced delivery options, and menu innovations. Ike's under her direction will be launching a new app later this year to move their restaurant further into the digital space.

After opening 20 locations last year, and 21 more to come this year, Renae is a seasoned marketing veteran in the restaurant industry and in this episode, she dives into her success.

Guest Thumbnail
Renae Scott
CMO and Restaurant Industry LeaderLinkedIn

Brett Linkletter: In this episode, I interview Renae Scott, who is the CMO of Ike's Love and Sandwiches, and is a creative marketing powerhouse and longtime veteran of the restaurant industry. Renae is the former CMO of Carl's Jr., Togo's, PizzaRev, inaudible, among other leading fast casual concepts. She has successfully navigated Ike's through the pandemic by launching buzzworthy promotions, enhanced delivery options and menu innovations, and is in the process of launching a new app and website to push the brand even deeper into digital this year. Renae opened 20 units last year, and will open another 21 Ike's locations in 2021, nearly doubling the unit count during a pandemic. There is so much to share, and I can't wait for you to listen, so let's dive right in. Hi, my name is Brett Linkletter, CEO and founder of Misfit Media, best damn restaurant marketing agency on the planet. Here at Misfit, we help restaurant owners grow and scale their business through strategic online marketing practices. Right now, you're listening to our podcast, Restaurant Misfits. We'll discuss all things related to restaurant marketing, management and everything else in between growing a restaurant business. This podcast is also brought to you in collaboration with total food service. For over 30 years, total food service has provided the restaurant and food service industry with exclusive interviews to the latest news on products, trends, associations and events. You can sign up for a free monthly subscription by visiting totalfood. com today. From all the Misfits over here, we hope you enjoy the show. Cheers. Renae Scott, how are you doing?

Renae Scott: I'm doing great. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Brett Linkletter: Thanks for coming on the show. You are the CMO of Ike's Love and Sandwiches. You've been there for about, what, two and a half years now? It looks like.

Renae Scott: About two and a half. Yep.

Brett Linkletter: What's that been like? I mean, obviously, the restaurant space took a hit this last year. How's everything going for you guys as a business?

Renae Scott: We're doing great. We are having double digit growth, and in a crazy expansion. I'm going to be opening a new store in El Segundo next week. We had a lot of folks, so a little dip for three weeks right after the shutdown hit, but we pivoted quickly, and we've been firing on all cylinders. It's all good.

Brett Linkletter: Amazing. Amazing. A little background on yourself for someone who has no idea who you are, and maybe hasn't heard of Ike's, and wants to learn more. How did you get into this industry, and can tell a little bit about Ike's in general?

Renae Scott: I mean, quick background on me. I've been in restaurants my whole life. It's my first job. I was with PepsiCo for a while, but I grew up at Carl's Jr. I started there as a young field marketing manager working with franchisees to grow their business in their trading area, and just grew through the organization to be the VP of marketing and media, a good 12- year run. I mean, Carl's taught me everything about process and structure, and being in a big organization, and where the silos exist, and how to respect the silos. Then Ike's blew that all up. It's been a fun drive after Carl's. I should fill in the blanks. But after Carl's Jr., I did a short stint with Round Table Pizza out here on the west coast, and then Togo sandwiches for eight years, where I headed up their menu and restaurant design revamp, and ran a team of about 20 people, and learn the sandwich business. Everything inaudible me to this point with Ike's, where I have the structured background. I've got the sandwich background. I'm not sure I was quite prepared for the world device, which is very different from a corporate environment.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. What are the key differences you've seen so far?

Renae Scott: I mean, similarities and differences, but differences. Ike's grew exponentially from one sandwich chain. Ike Shehadeh, our founder, started Ike's Love and Sandwiches 13 years ago in San Francisco with one unit, and with a partner quickly grew to 50 units without a big infrastructure, without a marketing department, without real training or ops department, but because of the strength of the brand and the product, just was really able to be successful. Like I said, with 50 units and no real infrastructure to speak of, I think that speaks to a couple of things. Like I said, Ike Shehadeh, Ike, our founder, who is the bald guy image on all of our marketing materials is really iconic. He loves what he does. He's created over 800 sandwiches. He is the sandwich wizard. What else is Ike? Oh, international sex symbol, at least, that's what we put on his business cards.

Brett Linkletter: 800 sandwiches, how do you guys do that? That is crazy.

Renae Scott: He just is an innovation whirlwind. He'll see something, and five minutes later, it's this amazing sandwich. The core of all of our sandwiches is Ike's secret dirty sauce. It goes on the bottom and top of every sandwich that we make, and it just has this craveable distinctive taste that people love. I think the other reason that he's able to come up with 800 sandwiches is from the beginning, he had a vision of Ike's being for all, Ike's for all, no exclusions for dietary reasons. He was one of the first 13 years ago to really focus on gluten- free bread. We have eight plant- based proteins, so a huge menu of vegetarian offerings. Over 100 sandwiches of ours are vegetarian. This isn't like Tofurky and non- dairy cheese. This is wasabi- based veggie chicken nuggets with a crazy sauce. I first learned about Ike's, because both my kids are vegetarians. When my son was in college, he was just raving about Ike's, because it was a place he could go and feel like, " Hey, I could go with my buddies who love their regular sandwiches, and I could get my vegetarian sandwich, and it tastes amazing.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: I think that's how I... Like I said, he's an innovation wizard, and he just keeps things going.

Brett Linkletter: So cool. It's probably a lot of fun to be able to market a brand when you have that many options of things you can market and so much innovation going on, right? I'm imagining.

Renae Scott: Oh yeah. I mean, 100%. I mean, the other thing is because Ike's is really a Cult Bay Area brand. We've got a huge number of celebrity fans and followers that Ike has made either tribute sandwiches for or made sandwiches with, so-

Brett Linkletter: I love it.

Renae Scott: ...from Steph Curry to Marshawn Lynch to Halsey. We're cooking up something right now with Lizzo. It's an interesting, iconic, fun brand to work on.

Brett Linkletter: Wow. Talk to us about some of the more marketing initiatives you guys are currently doing. You've been there. Well, you said originally, when they first grew, you said to 50 locations originally with no marketing really?

Renae Scott: 50 when I came on with basically no marketing-

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: ...I mean, other than Ike, and then now we're up to 70 restaurants. We'll open another 20 this year. We've got six. We're building out right now, and finishing up.

Brett Linkletter: Something that we deal with at Misfit Media is a lot of clients that we're looking to work with, similar situations. It's like, " Hey, they've never done marketing. It's a totally foreign thing to them. Now, they're finally looking at actually doing this because they see that there's some value. We tell that's especially during COVID, because so many restaurants will rely on this walk by traffic, and they're like, "Well, we don't have that anymore," so they were looking at marketing as a nice to have service, and now it's a need to have service and part of the company, right, because, hey, they're not walking by, so how do we now get in front of these people? For you obviously coming in, obviously, they were looking to beef up the marketing. What have you been up to? What kind of marketing issues are you guys been doing?

Renae Scott: Well, I think number one, it's interesting when you have a restaurant that really grew without marketing, without structure, and then you come in with my background, and you see this vast opportunity, and how do you focus on what's the most important thing. Right now, we... This is an initiative I started pre- COVID, but we're in a complete digital revamp. Our website, please don't look at it. It's awful. It's like from 1998, but we're in the process of revamping that, and the interesting thing is it's a 1998 website without any of the bells and whistles that you'd see now or any of the backend SEO metrics, but look where we are today with it. I'm just amazed at the opportunity in front of us because once we really are firing on all cylinders from a digital aspect, we'll be golden.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Renae Scott: What happened last year, of course, is with my big MarTech overhaul, it was just put on the back burner, and we had to focus on brass tacks, man, with COVID. Luckily for us, we're mainly to- go business or delivery, and online orders make up over 50% of our business right now.

Brett Linkletter: 50%, wow.

Renae Scott: I mean, but that was built after COVID. I mean, we just pivoted immediately. Number one, we embraced working with our third party partners, which was rough for a small brand. We've been really negotiating with them pre- COVID to get better rates. We were able to do that, but then just really embracing the relationship. As challenging as it is with third party partners, we just opened our arms and said, " Let's go."

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: The business increased. There has been great. We did the same thing on our app. We offered free delivery, and then we did some brand right promotions. We didn't want to just discount, and play the discount game. We figured out how we could bring$ 5 Friday sandwiches. I should say our average check, our average sandwich is about 12 bucks.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: We brought to our fans who ordered on the app$ 5 social D sandwich every Friday. It was really cool. It's based on the programs that Ike was watching and bingeing on. We did a social di sandwich around Tiger King and Schitt's Creek and all of the people that-

Brett Linkletter: I love that.

Renae Scott: ... allthe shows people were talking about, and that was a huge hit. Then the other thing we do-

Brett Linkletter: Is that-

Renae Scott: Go ahead.

Brett Linkletter: Well, what's crazy about what you guys do is you're taking what's trending through the media, what people are talking about, it's the buzzworthy stuff, and then you're making a sandwich of it. I mean, you just said it. I'm already like, " I want to try it. What's the Tiger King sandwich like?" You know what I mean? That's cool. That's really creative.

Renae Scott: Thank you. I mean, the good thing about being just a small team, which we are, it's really... Ike is the brains of the menu. I came in. We have a new CEO, Mike Goldberg, and the three of us just pow- wow, and make things happen. It's not like a big organization that you gotta go through inaudible. Ike will pop into a restaurant, and create an amazing sandwich. I'll have it on the app two days later, and away we go.

Brett Linkletter: Nice. Nice.

Renae Scott: We had a little bit of experience in that. We just do some crazy things. We do, to your point, tap into April 20th, the whole 4/ 20 thing that's become huge now, right?

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Renae Scott: Big brands are even there.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Renae Scott: We created a promotion around that all week. We called it our smoking deal. You got a$ 4. 20 sandwich. We had a little history with how you capture that cultural moment, and bring it in restaurants, so we were well poised for social D sandwiches.

Brett Linkletter: What were some of the challenges you said you faced with a third party app? I mean, obviously, the margin they're taking are great, but what are some other challenges maybe you guys saw?

Renae Scott: Well, I mean, that was number one. Number one was it was just killing us to hand over sometimes 30% before we negotiated it down.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Renae Scott: We had issues, I think, with service, when you needed help and support, and then I think some of the third parties are very sophisticated in how they can help you get new guests through their platforms, and others are not. In some instances, I'm taking what I've learned from the big dogs in third party, and tell the little dogs in third party, " Here's what we need to do." It's funny, there's a little coaching involved, but...

Brett Linkletter: For you guys, I know you said right now, 50% of your sales are going to takeout delivery. That's because of COVID, or are you guys also in general always had a large takeout delivery business?

Renae Scott: I think that's what we always did. I mean, our format, our restaurants tend to be a little bit smaller. I mean, it's amazing sandwiches, so generally that's a more portable off- premise occasions.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: We were well positioned. Other brands of course like casual dining and those guys just got hit hard, because they probably were 90% dine in before COVID.

Brett Linkletter: Totally. You guys are having a good spot for this. I saw your guys' website. I know you said it's old, and you're in the process of revamping it. Do you do direct online ordering too? Would I be able to order direct, or do I have to download the app in order to do so?

Renae Scott: Well, that's another part of our marketing pivot. I mean, currently, and for Ike's app life, you had to download this app. We know that 70% of people are going to order from either desktop or mobile. They don't want an app. The exciting thing for me is once we get our desktop online ordering, mobile online ordering, we may have 70% increase in our own business. That's what I'm excited now.

Brett Linkletter: Wow. Well, you're saying you're looking towards creating, let's just say, a mobile web app, or just ordering through the desktop online. You think that there could be that much of an increase potentially.

Renae Scott: Oh, I do.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Renae Scott: I mean, statistically, it's really only 30% of your online ordering guests that engage in an app or rewards, so I think a lot of people, if you're not a super fan, super fans are the ones that, " I've got the app," but certainly, we've seen it too in the younger generations that they're like, " Forget the app. Make it easy for me just to tap in Ike's logo."

Brett Linkletter: Totally. I was at a conference back when conferences were a thing. Good old days, right?

Renae Scott: Who thought we'd miss conferences.

Brett Linkletter: I know. A couple big brands, I don't want to mention specific names, big brands talking about their apps, and how excited they were about their apps, and then I asked a question. I said, " Well, what percent of your sales are coming through this app?" Then they laughed and said, " Well, it's actually less than 1%."

Renae Scott: Oh my God.

Brett Linkletter: I'm not saying the app is the wrong move. Sometimes, it's the best move ever. I mean, look at someone like... Sweetgreen, for example, has made a really great app, I think, that does really well. Domino's, they're more of a tech company than restaurant. They've really figured out their app. Definitely, it's possible, but it was amazing to me how little some of these brands who invested so much into the app. I think I have to agree with you. I think people want an easy way to order. I think what's happened during COVID especially is consumers weren't aware of the margins that Uber Eats and DoorDash were taking originally. Consumers had no idea.

Renae Scott: That's right. They didn't.

Brett Linkletter: But I think since COVID, people are are more cognizant of it, and they're thinking more like, " I want to support my local restaurant, and I don't want to do so through Uber Eats." inaudible.

Renae Scott: That's right. Well, I loved that observation. I really hadn't thought about that, but I think it's right on that the curtain's been drawn back on third party business models, and now, your everyday consumer does have an understanding that this is eating the margins of my little mom and pop. There's a plus for COVID.

Brett Linkletter: Totally. You could say that is a plus. I mean, again, you do got to recognize that, " Hey, Uber Eats and DoorDash, they are doing some pretty amazing things for people." I mean, they are doing partly the new channel. They're reaching all these people on the online ordering capabilities, the drivers. Yes, they are getting a lot of value, and I don't want to say all these bad things about them, because they're doing great things too. But I think a lot of consumers have seen that... I mean, we're based in the LA area, and so many people I know personally and through our community and clientele, they're like, " Yeah, the uptake in our online ordering direct, online ordering just through our site has been through the roof, because people, they want to support us." They know it now. They get it.

Renae Scott: I mean, I totally... I think that's awesome. I do think you're right. That was a good observation. People get it now. At the same time, I also feel like there are some people you get to dance with at the party. Maybe that's the Misfit in the corner at the party you got to dance with, because look, there are some people that are ordering only on DoorDash. That's just what they do. Then there are some people who are Ike's super fans. They're going to download our app. Some people are going to go just pop in and order it. You've got to be there. I think-

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Renae Scott: I think what you have to be careful of is just how much energy... Is your energy and focus disproportionally put into a channel that isn't returning the revenue?

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Renae Scott: You know what I mean?

Brett Linkletter: Which honestly, we see as an agency is one of the biggest problems in general with a lot of restaurants. They're doing all these different things, and they don't know what actually is making the money back or not, right?

Renae Scott: Right.

Brett Linkletter: Let's go back to some of the marketing stuff. What are some of the channels you guys are focusing on? I know you said digital is obviously a big move for you guys. Talk to us about some of the strategies you're pursuing. I mean, you got some really cool, it looks like, collaborations you've done with celebrities, you've done with cool shows, stuff like that. I love that. But how are you reaching these customers? Is it through social, or what kind of channels are you guys working on?

Renae Scott: I mean, you're so old school right now, you'll crack up. I mean, we do have this app, but really, our main communication right now is our a- list rewards email club.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: We've built that up from about 40,000 to almost 200,000 during COVID. That's what's keeping us going right now, but the part of the digital roadmap is not only the new website with local landing pages. We are engaged with Paytronix. Paytronix is helping us develop an online ordering and rewards platform, and then it'll integrate with our gift cards. We're mapping out to be where we should be probably in the next six months, but it is pretty amazing for our old school tactics and unsophisticated platform. It's really gotten us to where we are today. It's a little bit of both.

Brett Linkletter: Totally. Well, hey, I mean, I don't think email lists are bad. I think email lists are great. I mean, you'd be amazed how many restaurants haven't even thought about that. I mean, you've probably seen it all the time, I'm sure. I mean, it happens a lot. The thing I've always been coaching our clients on and thinking about is if you look at digital ads, ads on Facebook, Google, Instagram, whatever, there's a common trend that's been happening over the last couple years, and it's going to continue happening is that ad dollars are going up. It's going to get more and more expensive to reach people over time. That's the reality we're dealing with, because there's more and more people moving to digital, and there is not a whole lot more platforms coming out that people are advertising on. It's getting more crowded, basic supply and demand, right? Well, if that is to be true, which it is, we have to, if we want to be competitive in the digital space, be building a list so that we're not so dependent on reaching people through running ads on these social platforms. I think it's brilliant what you guys are doing. You guys should be-

Renae Scott: Oh, thank you. Maybe it's full circle. It's old school, but it's new school. I think you're right. I think what you're hitting on is right on, it's about owning your data, right?

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Renae Scott: That's the problem with third party. They own all our customers' data. They know what DoorDash and Postmates. They know what my customer Jane down the street orders every Thursday, and then they can start marketing to her direct, and keep their flow going. Through our club and our email, I own that data, so I can beep you up three times a week with your favorite sandwich.

Brett Linkletter: Yes. 100%. That's exactly what I was getting at to. You own that. That's another big pain point of that perhaps. You don't get that. Other than emails, what about phone numbers? Are you guys dealing with phone numbers as well, texting?

Renae Scott: Not right now, but that's what we're working towards is text, SMS, everything to get the digital customer where we need them.

Brett Linkletter: A question for you too, I don't know if this has been some of you guys have looked at or not. Have you ever considered also utilizing Facebook Messenger for anything?

Renae Scott: You know what, I looked into that with the previous brand that I was working on, but not through Ike's. We're not there yet.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it. That's been for us, I mean, an amazing channel, because it's just like a text, right? You get basically about a 90% open rate within a couple minutes, almost as good as the text. It's essentially free. There is a time restriction on the time that you're able to engage with a customer. For instance, if someone were to send Ike's a message through messenger, Ike's now has the ability to follow up with them or message them back within 24 hours. Once you move outside of that, you can't, but just talking about data and communication channels, there's another great channel which for us has been really, really part of our marketing system and program. It seems like a lot more restaurants are starting to catch up too, because hey, it's also a way that the brand can connect one on one with the customer very easily.

Renae Scott: That's right. No, I love that. That's a great insight.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. Talk to us about... You guys obviously have had a lot of success. It sounds like you guys are opening up a lot more stores this year. It looks like, what, opened 20 units last year, and about to do another 20 this year. Is that what the plan is? Amazing.

Renae Scott: Nope, 20 in pre COVID. What was that year? 2019.

Brett Linkletter: 2019. Yep.

Renae Scott: 2019. We had a couple trail in January, February pre COVID, and then we just hunkered down during COVID. Last half of the year, we really saw a lot of opportunities for expansion, right?

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Renae Scott: The real estate market, it was like somebody else's loss is our gain, and our model is we're down and dirty. We'll just go in, take over a subway, take over a Togo's location. Boom.

Brett Linkletter: I love it.

Renae Scott: Put some brand colors on the wall. Get some amazing sandwiches spitting out of those restaurants, and we're doubling sales from the previous sandwich shop that was in that location, same location, sandwiches, but we can go in and double sales.

Brett Linkletter: Wow. That's cool, though. I don't know why I've never thought about it that way. When you guys look at new locations, you are generally speaking looking for something that was previously a sandwich shop. That's the most ideal situation for you guys.

Renae Scott: I mean, that works out great, because there's so much similarities in the footprint. A lot of times, you'd be shocked. Some of these, if it's a franchise or it's a corporate ownership, they'll walk away, and leave half their equipment. We're in there harvesting refrigerators, and make lines. I mean, it's crazy, but we're just swooping in and making things happen.

Brett Linkletter: That is a massive opportunity. Wow. They're just leaving their refrigerator and all their equipment. Good for you guys. I mean, hey, way to... You're thinking on your feet, and that's amazing. You wouldn't be resourceful. Wow. I love that. I'm imagining also during the pandemic, a lot of things opened up. We had a podcast with someone in New York. I forget who it was exactly, but they were saying, " There's never been a better opportunity to expand the restaurant business, because everything's on discount." I mean, everything. It's crazy how many new amazing places are opening up for rent and at crazy discounts, right?

Renae Scott: 100%. I mean, you're are getting some good leasers. You're getting just great value, just like what you said.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. Renae, I have here in your notes that you guys have been obviously very relevant during this crazy time. You're looking at real world trends with exciting promotions, obviously, the celebrity stuff you guys have done, the TV shows stuff you guys have done. How else have you guys stayed relevant? What's been another key component of that you think?

Renae Scott: I mean, Ike himself, like I said, is a great personality. He's out there meeting with customers, doing podcasts, doing appearances. He's just a really down to earth person that people... If I say Ike's going to be at a location, you'll have 100 people there within an hour or two.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: Really having that passion and focus, we're all very focused on the brand and the fact that we're audacious and cheeky, irreverent. One of our slogans is this ain't your mama's sandwich shop, which to me, it also serves a little bit as a brand filter, because it is really who we are. This isn't a Subway or Togo's. I mean, this is something completely different, and so when we think about what we're going to do from a marketing perspective or brand interior design perspective, we do think like, " This isn't your mama's sandwich shop. This can't be something that Subway or Togo's or Jersey Mike's would do." We're different, and that gives us a great filter to keep pushing where we're going. That's crosstalk.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. It's interesting you mentioned that... Obviously, Ike is this celebrity figure. He's this well known guy now. He's the logo of the company. I think that's brilliant. I mean, it's something we're not... I haven't seen a lot of restaurants do it, but I feel like the ones that do it... I always tell people that people don't buy from businesses. They buy from people, right?

Renae Scott: That's right.

Brett Linkletter: You're creating this connection. You're creating this celebrity thought leadership image of this guy is the sandwich guy, the most amazing sandwich guy. It's really cool to see. I mean, there was this one pizza client we're working with. I believe they're in the Midwest, and only one location, but they were doing... I believe they're doing 300, 000 a month, and tiny little pizza shop. It's because this guy, the founder of the business, same thing, his face was the logo. He was out there making pizzas. Actually, I think what he did also was he had this great YouTube channel where thousands of thousands people just want to watch him make pizza. I think when you put the founder out there, and if they're alright with it, and they have this kind of character about it, there's so much to that. It does so much for the brand. It's really, really cool.

Renae Scott: I think so. I mean, as a marketer having been through so many different more corporate brands and brands without that face of the brand, it's like a godsend. You can't ask for some as a marketer. Now, look, there's always risks. We all know of the issues that have popped up for other companies, but Ike's very invested in the success of the brand. Like I said, it's just passion. It's what he does.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. Absolutely. What about your staff during this time? I mean, a lot of restaurants we've spoken to, it's been somewhat of a difficult thing to make sure their staff is motivated, excited, staying active every day, energetic. Any tips on how you keep your staff motivated and excited every day?

Renae Scott: I mean, look, I'll be honest. When COVID hit last year, the marketing team was me. We had nobody else. When I say, " Look, we're homegrown. We're like a startup, basically," but during that time, the current CEO, Mike Goldberg and I have built up our various functional areas. We've really used the COVID time to really... I think when COVID hit, we had to steady the ship right away. We secured our online ordering partners, and really started working with them. Then we had to... I say risks to get reward, so some of the risks was around those$5 sandwiches or people saying like, " You're crazy. You're going to eat your margin." But then the next piece of it was just really sharpening the tools in the toolbox. That was not only me, but everybody. Mike hired a VP of operations, director of operations. I have a digital marketing manager now and a guest response LSM manager.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: We were trying to take a breath during COVID, and then build our teams. But now, here we are, right? This is how we meet with our teams. It's all about Zoom. With my team, we're all over California. I'm northern. They're Southern. That's just how we communicate. My most recent higher marketing technology, Gal, we didn't meet until she'd been with us for six months.

Brett Linkletter: Oh wow.

Renae Scott: How does that happen?

Brett Linkletter: On the corporate side, are you guys all working individually from home, and then just Zoom for everyone?

Renae Scott: Well, initially, yes. Initially, that was the plan. We did open a small corporate support center in Long Beach.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Renae Scott: As restrictions open and close, those folks are getting together, and then the plan is for all of us to meet there on a regular weekly basis. Eventually-

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Renae Scott: I mean, 90% of what we've been doing last year was remote and by Zoom.

Brett Linkletter: God, Zoom is getting so much business right now, aren't they?

Renae Scott: I know. It's crazy. Why didn't we invest?

Brett Linkletter: I know, right? I always keep thinking like, " I can't believe it's been really a year now."

Renae Scott: I know.

Brett Linkletter: I mean, it's just wild how this is still a thing, but it's been really amazing the innovations that we've seen during this time, what we've seen in the restaurant space, how strong some of these operators are during this moment. I know it's been a tough time for many restaurants, but it sounds like also for you guys, you've taken inaudible some opportunities, right? It isn't all bad, right?

Renae Scott: I do. I see it that way. I think there's been some positives, right? For somebody like me, who's been in the restaurant industry my whole life, the one thing I think that really made me feel good, even as I saw some brands that I've worked on and really loved and cared about falter and close, frankly, what I really have appreciated is how much our guests is... Like you brought it up earlier, they want to support their local restaurants. It's how much people really value the role restaurants play in their lives. We might have taken for granted that they were just coming in for a sandwich, but it's more than that, right?

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Renae Scott: It's actually the relationship. I don't know. I guess that is what came to life for me is we're really part of people's lives every day, and an important part.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: There's been some good things.

Brett Linkletter: Awesome. Speaking of that relationship with your customer base, how do you guys maintain that relationship? Any specific tactics or tricks you guys do?

Renae Scott: I mean, I mentioned email before, but it is really constantly trying to be in their face. We have also a really fun social media stream. You mentioned it earlier, but Ike does YouTube videos, and just like, " Where's he at?" He'll just be like, " Hey, I'm looking for a site in Las Vegas," and boom, there he is, or making some crazy new creation like he did a tortilla sandwich thing video, where-

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Renae Scott: ...the tortilla he made this... I don't know. He was doing something like origami with a tortilla. People love that connection, so the brands they love, they want to hear from you in social or in email, or connect with you where they can.

Brett Linkletter: Are you guys doing TikTok yet or no?

Renae Scott: We've played around with it. Ike's done a few of them. We had some media group that helps us with TikTok.

Brett Linkletter: Has that been beneficial, or not so much yet, or what are your thoughts?

Renae Scott: I think we're just getting or posing it right now. I just feel like you got to be where you can engage with your guests, right?

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Renae Scott: Everybody's on TikTok, so yeah.

Brett Linkletter: For me, TikTok has been a very interesting thing as of lately. I mean, a lot of our clients are asking me about it. Frankly, I'm not running ads on there yet. We spent a lot of money on Facebook and Instagram, about five million a year. That's our main focus. TikTok, super new still, I think a younger audience, but it's one in six restaurants I speak to now, maybe one in five, they're asking me, " Can we do TikTok ads, or can we be on TikTok? Can you help us?" We don't do that yet, but I mean, I'm seeing the growth on this app is just going crazy. I think-

Renae Scott: It is crazy, but don't you think brands need to be careful though, because it's like that club? Snapchat was like that. I think you can get a lot of rejection too when you're popping into some of these club like, " Hey, buy a sandwich," and they're like, " What?"

Brett Linkletter: I don't know. I mean, what I'm always looking at is where are people? If you look at, let's just say, mail was such a big thing for so many restaurants and still is, which drives me nuts, but people still do it. Mailers versus, let's just say, the ability to text someone or email them. Let's look at those three in comparison. Let's just say social media. We're looking at digital versus print, high level. The average American checks their mailbox couple times a week to maybe three times, but they check their phones over 100 times per day.

Renae Scott: Oh my God, for real.

Brett Linkletter: I don't know. I'm looking at TikTok as like, " Hey, we have looked at some of the targeting on it. Unfortunately, the targeting by location isn't nearly as advanced as Facebook and Instagram." Facebook and Instagram, you can target someone within a mile of the restaurant, which is so incredible. TikTok, I think it's by state right now. I don't know. It's still new to us, but I've been posting on it a little bit here and there. It's not-

Renae Scott: I'll check you out.

Brett Linkletter: Check me out. It's not too difficult to build a following there right now, because it's still so new and growing, I think. I think for brands who are looking to reach a large audience fairly quickly, it is a cool platform. I mean, especially if Ike is cool being on camera and doing YouTube stuff, I would say it might be cool thing for you guys to check out, play around with even more so.

Renae Scott: I want to make sure I'm clear. We have done some TikToks with Ike. It's just, like I said, the focus part, where are we going? He's done a few really fun ones. I do think it's how do you create that... It's a really organic platform, right? They really value authenticity, I feel like.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Renae Scott: Which is great for us. Ike's a very authentic person. Brands have to navigate that carefully.

Brett Linkletter: I think for you guys because you guys have that uniqueness with Ike, and you guys are probably way more authentic than the average brand out there, that's why I think you guys would be cool. I want to tell this to everyone, because I don't think a lot of people would succeed on that platform.

Renae Scott: Let me write it. I'll write it. Let me write it down.

Brett Linkletter: No, you guys are cool, though. I mean, you guys definitely have a great looking brand. It's awesome to see, and props to you guys.

Renae Scott: Thank you.

Brett Linkletter: What would you say... I mean, you've had so much experience with so many different types of brands, doing so many different kinds of things. Over your experience, what have you seen as some of the just major problems in the restaurant space that needed change?

Renae Scott: That's a good question. I mean, there's a place and time for everything. I mentioned that at Carl's Jr., it was a great place to grow up because of the structure and the process and the silos, the functional silos, but you know what, at Ike's, all that had to be blown up, because we were so lean and mean. What made me really appreciate is people within our organization that can work cross functionally. I learned a lot about operations at Carl's Jr., and that has served me so well throughout my career. I could comment on some operational initiatives and feel that that was welcome within our organization. We're really good about working across those silos. I think that that is something all brands should look at. Are they valuing voices from across the aisle, if you will, because that's often where the great ideas are coming from outside of that functional silo?

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. 100%. Have you heard of Ordermark, by the way, or do you guys use Ordermark?

Renae Scott: No, or maybe I have. Possibly.

Brett Linkletter: They're basically a really interesting company, but they basically... I spoke to their CEO last week. His name's Alex Cantor. I don't know what they're valued at, but they got $ 120 million in funding recently from SoftBank, so they're doing some things right. Basically, all they do, though, is... It's not all they do. They do a lot of great things, but one of the great things they do is they sync up... When you have, let's just say, Uber Eats or DoorDash or whatever, you have a variety of different iPads you have to use for each of those platforms.

Renae Scott: That's right.

Brett Linkletter: You have to sync it all together into one, and then they'll allow you to change your menu on one iPad to all of them, which I think is really solving a major pain point. But when we spoke, he said, " What restaurants need to be thinking about more and more, and it sounds like obviously, you guys are thinking about this, which is incredible, is just the ecommercesation of restaurants." He's like, " Look, this is something that was probably going to happen over the next couple years, maybe even five or 10 years. Now, it's just been accelerated to COVID because they had to." I would say that's an opportunity, but what are you guys doing to take advantage of that opportunity? What are some other things you guys are working at right now?

Renae Scott: That you just hit on a huge opportunity. The iPad cluster, as I like to call it, is that's a real problem at restaurants. We did a quick analysis when we were noticing some of our third party sales fluctuating week over week like, " Oh, this is 50% down. This one's... What the heck's going on?" When you do a deep dive, there's a lot of, at the restaurant level, control of those iPads, right?

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Renae Scott: If they called in sick, I'll turn off this third party iPad, and then there goes all those sales. Companies like Ordermark, there's a couple other ones. We're addressing it right now through our partnership with Paytronix.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: As they're building our online and rewards, we'll feed everything through our POS and through Paytronix. The vision will be no more iPad clusters.

Brett Linkletter: I've seen it all the time. It just makes sense. I mean, God, it's just a nightmare, all these orders coming in all over the place.

Renae Scott: It is. It is.

Brett Linkletter: You know what I mean?

Renae Scott: Like I said, it's an opportunity for lost sales when that happens, and the controls at the restaurant level. That's problematic.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. Renae, what about what advice would you give to some restaurant tours who... Let's just say they're at the five to 10 location range. What are some of the things that you think they have to be thinking about if they want to get to, let's say, 30 or 40? What are some of the big things they should be thinking about?

Renae Scott: It's so funny. I mean, before I joined Ike's full time, I was a shared CMO across a couple different brands. I was Com at Ike's, but then also a small four- unit yogurt shop and a 39- pizza team.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Renae Scott: I've been all over the place. I mean, the interesting thing is that four- unit yogurt shop needs the same marketing technology infrastructure as a 1, 200- unit Carl's Jr. They gotta have online ordering. They need to have a rewards club. They need some customer relationship marketing tools in their toolbox. It's tough for the smaller chains out there. I mean, luckily, there's a lot of nimble, new companies like the one you mentioned earlier that can come in and assist, but man, MarTech fees start adding up, right? You think about even 15 years ago, you didn't have all these fees. Now, you've got whatever. Let's just round numbers like 100 for your online ordering per month, another 100 for your loyalty club per month. Now, we need to have a guest response platform, where we could go in and respond to reviews coming at us from every angle. Man, those marketing technology fees per month per restaurant just really added up.

Brett Linkletter: It does.

Renae Scott: I think for smaller restaurants, you gotta start with being clear about who you are. It doesn't have to be a formal brand positioning statement. We bring X to Y. It can be as simple as a brand filter, like I talked about for Ike's. At Carl's Jr., our brand filter was big, juicy burgers for young hungry guys.

Brett Linkletter: I love that.

Renae Scott: You saw how that was... Although it was dressed in the sexy Paris Hilton commercials, it was also expressed at the local level by the individual restaurant operators by using that filter to say, " Hey, we're going to have a unified message, so I'm sorry, I can't sponsor your kid's parade, because I'm going to have coupons being handed out on college campus." That's just a simple example. I would say to smaller brands, " Just focus. Know who you are, and know who your consumer is, and just focus." It's okay to say no. That's what I would say. It's okay to say no.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it. I think that's a big one, though, honestly. There are so many things you can do as a business. It's hard to decipher what's best for you. You gotta be able to say, " No, no, no, I don't need that. Yes, I need this." But I think for a lot of restaurant tours, we see all the time for these smaller operators, they're people that have been at GM or at some restaurant, local, independent restaurant for 20 years. They finally save up enough money. They open up their own location. Maybe they open a second, and then they're like, " Uh, the marketing. Uh, this and that, and this and that." It's just there's so much. It's difficult.

Renae Scott: Exactly. It's marketing, supply chain, training, it's all of that back the house stuff for brands that that's inaudible.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. That's also one reason I really like working with franchises or larger channels like yours is because there's standard operating procedures that are set up. There's systems and processes. I always say that you don't build a great business, you build a great system, and that becomes the business. Systems and processes is so. so important in this space, obviously. Renae, how do you get better in general? Marketing changes. You've been in this space for a long time. How do you learn? How do you get better? What resources do you have? I mean, what do you do in general?

Renae Scott: I mean, I'd say a couple things. Number one, I loved working across different segments. I've been in fast food, fast casual, casual dining, yogurt. I worked on a woman's fitness chain called the Bar Method for a while, so I learned a lot about subscription model businesses. I think working across different segments and different types of restaurants has really been helpful. Look, I can't know everything about everything that's happening right now, obviously. I really value partnerships with our vendor partner. I don't even like to say vendor, but with our partners. I expect and rely on them to bring the latest and greatest in their area of expertise. I want the folks building our website to show me what they love about the competitive sites and what's important for us as a brand to bring to life. Same thing with guest response. We've got a great relationship with Merchants Centric, who's just... They've been a game changer for Ike's, and the ability to really respond to guest reviews and engage with guests and satisfy them. Same thing with Paytronix. You learn really the brands that are the backbone of the industry, and then you learn from them what are the latest technologies? Where are we going?

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Renae Scott: Again, we can't know everything.

Brett Linkletter: I think that's a brilliant thing to say, though, and it's good that you know that. I mean, all of us, we can't all be experts at everything. We used to joke at our agency, because we work with, " Uh, we did restaurants. We did gyms. We did ecommerce brands. We did women's fitness brands. We did bikini brands, sunglasses, shoe companies." I'd say we were good at everything, but we weren't great at anything. Until we just did this one thing for restaurants, we got really damn good. Like you said, you gotta know what you're good at and what you're not so good at, and you gotta know when to look for help when needed. I mean, I think there's no shame in that. I mean, I ask Rob all the time. There's a lot of things I need help with. Everyone needs help in some areas.

Renae Scott: That's right. I think sometimes the best thing to be good at is listening, and then deciding when to act, but being the expert at everything, that's never going to get anybody anywhere, right?

Brett Linkletter: 100%. You guys are working on some of these new, sorry, digital initiatives. When do you guys roll out the new website and some of this online ordering stuff you've been talking about? Comment on this.

Renae Scott: Oh man, every digital roadmap, there seems to be a lot of speed bumps along the way. We're targeting website launch, April, rewards and online ordering, May, gift card probably will get in front of the holiday gift card season. We're really having to phase it out. I mean, the intersection of all these things is amazing. Probably if I was smarter, I would have sequenced them a little differently and done website one year, but it feels like we don't have time.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Renae Scott: We got to get it going.

Brett Linkletter: No, I mean, I don't blame you. Time is money right now. I mean, these are... Hey, you guys are making these moves. I mean, I'll be honest, some of our clients, which I honestly feel embarrassed to say this on the podcast, but we had a few clients that, man, they got fully shut down. The only option was calling orders, and so we had this really advanced marketing funnel that would take these customers down this funnel, collect all their information, and then they click a number to call. I was like, " Oh God."

Renae Scott: It's crazy, but it goes back to something we were talking about earlier. You gotta be where people are comfortable. Hey, look, there's still plenty of people that are only comfortable picking up a phone and calling somebody.

Brett Linkletter: That is true. That is true. Renae, for anyone who's been listening to this today, and they want to learn more about you and just Ike's in general, what's the best way for them to do that?

Renae Scott: I mean, check us out. You can check me out on LinkedIn. I've got a couple articles and other podcasts on there. I'm happy to connect with anybody out there who wants to just connect on things. Then Ike's, you can go to our website if you want to, but remember I said it's 1998. Go to our website in April, but check... Like I said, we've got 70 locations. I have a passion for this brand and for our food. Go buy a sandwich. If I'm there, I'll buy you one, but check out one of our top sellers. Check out a Matt Cain or a Madison Bumgarner, or better yet, try my favorite, the Menage A Trois.

Brett Linkletter: The Menage A Trois, I gotta try Ike's. I honestly haven't tried Ike's before, and I'm going to maybe try this today for lunch.

Renae Scott: Well, hey, Brett, we've got an opening next week, grand opening, Thursday in El Segundo. Pop by.

Brett Linkletter: I will.

Renae Scott: I'll introduce you to Ike.

Brett Linkletter: I would love to stop by. inaudible next Thursday?

Renae Scott: Yeah, I'll send you an invite.

Brett Linkletter: Actually, I will be leaving out of town on Thursday, but when I get back, I will stop by 100%. You guys are at now 70 plus locations. I'm 100% going to stop by the moment I'm back from my trip. This would be really cool, because I do need to try Ike's.

Renae Scott: I'd love to host you, so let me know when you're coming by.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. Well, again, Renae, thank you so much for your time today. This has been incredible. Such a great learning experience for myself, and I'm sure our audience. Really cool.

Renae Scott: Sounds great. Thank you so much, Brett.

Brett Linkletter: All right. Thanks a lot.

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