S2:EP19 - Field Failing, Good Chicken CEO
S2:EP19 - Field Failing, Good Chicken CEO
On a new Restaurant Misfits episode, I interview Field Failing, CEO and Founder of Field's Good Chicken, a 6 location chicken concept based in New York.
Field's restaurant adventure began in 2007, after his professional cycling career came to an end and he found himself back in the kitchen.
That year, he filled the fridge in his New York apartment with brines and marinades, blasted the Rolling Stones, and set out to make the perfect chicken.
Shortly thereafter, his chicken restaurant concept was born.
However, like many other restaurant around the world, they have had an extremely tough time during the pandemic but despite the tight regulations, Field's Good Chicken has found success.
Field is a super inspiring guy who has had to change his business to survive and thrive during this time.
We discuss what their plans are to continue growing afterwards, the importance of restaurant branding and simplifying their business approach.
This episode is packed with insightful information so, let's dive in!
The Restaurant Misfits podcast is in collaboration with Total Food Service.
Field FailingCEO & Founder - Field's Good Chicken
Brett Linkletter: What's up, guys? Brett here. In this episode, I interview Field Failing, the CEO and founder of Fields Good Chicken. They are a restaurant with six locations, based out of New York, and as you can imagine, they've had a really tough time during the pandemic, like many restaurants all over the world. But specifically New York, they've seen a lot more of a lockdown in comparison to some other states, obviously. So he's been through a lot. Nonetheless, he's been successful, though, and he's super inspiring. We talk about all kinds of great things they've changed as a business to survive and thrive during COVID, and what their plans are to continue growing afterwards. We talk on a number of topics, including branding and just how important that is for a restaurant. We talk about how they are focused on simplifying their approach and focusing on what matters to grow the restaurant, and a variety of other interesting topics I think you're going to love. Without further ado, let's dive right in. Hi, my name is Brett Linkletter, CEO and founder of Misfit Media, the 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. Field, how are you doing?
Field Failing: I'm great. Thanks for having me. How are you?
Brett Linkletter: I'm doing well. I'm super glad to hear that it looks like certain states are finally opening up in our country for the restaurant space, which is great news as of literally yesterday. I think it's Texas and Mississippi are now opening up, which is cool to see in our industry, I guess, I think.
Field Failing: Yep. New York just opened indoor dining a few weeks ago.
Brett Linkletter: Oh, wow. Yeah, that's amazing.
Field Failing: 25% capacity, but still, it's something.
Brett Linkletter: That's progress, right? Hey, that's a big comeback from where we were at previously, so there we go.
Field Failing: Yeah.
Brett Linkletter: Anyway, Field, for all our listeners that are just tuning in today and learning about you for the first time, can you just give them a quick into on yourself and what you guys do at your restaurant?
Field Failing: Sure. Fields Good Chicken is a fast casual restaurant concept. We've been a business for coming up on seven years now, which is crazy to me. It's a healthy chicken concept. We do roasted chicken and grilled chicken and fresh veggies. It's all about the approach to clean chicken, which is something that, when I started the concept, didn't really exist. There's a lot of fried chicken out there, a lot of chicken restaurants, but not the healthy, better for you, better ingredients- type restaurant. That's what we're all about.
Brett Linkletter: Love it.
Field Failing: I made a run at trying to being a professional cyclist a long, long time ago and failed miserably at that, but got in the restaurant business because I'm into healthy eating, started working at a restaurant because I thought I'd be able to train during the day. That didn't work, but the rest is history. But the concept is inspired by the healthy, active lifestyle that I had when I first got into the restaurant business.
Brett Linkletter: Nice. That's awesome. You're saying most chicken concepts, the whole healthy chicken... What are most of them, do you think, doing wrong in comparison to what you guys... What's the biggest crosstalk-
Field Failing: I don't think they're necessarily doing it wrong. I just don't think there's very many health- focused chicken concepts out there. There's a few new ones, but when I first started, there was none. Most chicken concepts serve fried chicken. There's rotisserie concepts, but they're still serving chicken with french fries and mashed potatoes that are loaded with bad fats and stuff like that. Yeah, not so much people doing things wrong, it's just no one was doing what we're doing.
Brett Linkletter: Got it. Yeah, I noticed your hashtag that I saw on your guys' Instagram page is# radhealthy. I love that. Could you talk to us a little bit more about that, how you came up with that, what that means for you guys?
Field Failing: Yeah. A lot of the inspo for the brand in general, it started with my bike racing days, but I'm also a big skier. I've been skiing my whole life. When I first got into the restaurant business, I did the ski bum chef lifestyle out in Colorado. I was living in Vail, and I was literally cooking at night and then skiing during the day. I would roll into the back of the kitchen with my ski stuff, throw it in the corner, put on a chef coat, and go to work. I love that ski vibe, and so a lot of that has made its way into the brand, from the color palette and the way the restaurants look and feel and how the brand feels.# radhealthy is inspired by that, but we came up with that tagline as a... It was actually a riff on sad healthy. The sad desk lunch is kind of a thing in New York, where there's a lot of healthy fast casual quick- serve concepts. You can get healthy food that you can take back to your desk, but the sad desk salad has become a joke in New York.
Brett Linkletter: Oh my God, I love that.
Field Failing: We want to be, not sad healthy, but rad healthy, which is food that tastes good, that's filling, that's satisfying-
Brett Linkletter: I'm going to tell my partner about that because I think he's the definition of sad healthy lunches. No, but this is good, actually. I've never heard anyone say this. Is this a new term that people are starting to say in New York?
Field Failing: I don't know if it's an industry term or if it's become just something that's thrown around in New York, but I think the desk lunch has become a thing in New York. It has for years, but over the last maybe 10 years, with the advent of fast casual, and just people working more, people will go to takeout restaurants like ours, like a lot of them in New York, get their lunch, and they're eating at their desk. Everyone is trying to improve on that takeout meal, but it just becomes an improvement on the desk lunch.
Brett Linkletter: Wow. I'm going to start saying this to my company, and more specifically, telling my partner this all the time, because it does look sad. My whole thing, I've always thought it's good to get away for lunch when you can. Hey, sometimes, for sure, I'm working through lunch because my hours are crazy or whatever, but hey, if you can get out, God, get away from the desk if you can. Jesus. Go out and enjoy yourself for an hour. You deserve it. You know what I mean?
Field Failing: Yeah, totally.
Brett Linkletter: I love that. So you said you were on your way to becoming a professional cyclist. You said that didn't work out for you, and then you pivoted to this. Have you always been interested in the food space in general, though, or how did that come about? I know you said it was inspired from all that, but really, what pushed you into this industry?
Field Failing: I got into cooking in college, I guess. I was a chem major in college, which is kind of random at this point looking back on my life, but there's a lot of parallels between cooking and being in a chem lab. I didn't want to go to graduate school and get a PhD and be stuck in a lab the rest of my life, so that was career turning point number one. But I liked working with my hands and I liked creating, and so cooking became an extension of that. That started in college, and then I guess I got into restaurants shortly after college.
Brett Linkletter: Interesting. I love it, mean. I think that's cool. So many people we have on the podcast, I think they have a similar drive. They wanted to experiment, they wanted to try new things, but also they wanted to make people happy with their meals. I think a lot of, specifically, chefs, they get the most excitement from seeing people's reaction from their food, right?
Field Failing: Yeah, totally.
Brett Linkletter: Seeing the experience they can give the people, seeing that kind of impact they can make on someone's life through their food, which is really cool.
Field Failing: Yep, and creating. Food is such a great medium to create. Every time you make a meal, you can create something totally new, totally different. There's few mediums like that, where you can just, in an hour, create something from scratch that someone else can appreciate and enjoy, and you can make it different, put your spin on it and experiment, have fun with it.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, 100%. Obviously, I know a big thing for you guys is healthiness, being healthy, a clean chicken concept. What's a better question for this? What kind of marketing message do you use to get that out? I know you said# radhealthy is obviously your hashtag. What else are you guys doing to promote that kind of healthiness?
Field Failing: I don't want to contradict myself. # radhealthy is the tagline, but we don't overtly push health intentionally. I would not describe us as a wellness concept or one of the concepts that's all about health as the organizing idea. We try to let the food speak for itself. If you read our menu, you're going to see that it's a healthier concept. We have a food philosophy where there's certain ingredients we won't bring in. We don't have fryers in the restaurant. We don't fry anything. We try not to harp on the idea of health too much. The reason for that, honestly, is I think the, how do I say this, the wellness trend is almost getting to a point of unwellness, where it's really pushing restrictive diets onto people, and I don't want to be that. I want to be the" this is good food that's good for you and enjoyable to eat," and let's leave it at that. Enjoy your meal. Don't stress about it. Don't overthink it. We're not pushing ideals on you. We're very measured in how we use health in our marketing messaging, if that makes sense. It's more about this is incredibly good chicken, this is where it's sourced, this is how it's prepared, and we let the food speak for itself.
Brett Linkletter: I love that, man. That's awesome. I think there's something to be said about what you just said there, too, is the wellness trend is almost... We're based in Los Angeles, and I know, obviously, in New York there's a lot of similarities in this regard. The healthy push is almost just too much in your face sometimes, I feel like, versus, hey, what is the brand about? The cool thing with you guys, too, by the way, though, Field, is I notice your guys' Instagram page, the profile picture isn't your guys' logo. It's your face. Actually, I like that. I think that's kind of cool. You're getting a lot more personal with your audience. Talk to me about what was the reasoning behind that, or what led to that decision to do so?
Field Failing: Yeah, so that's a change that we made recently. I've been really trying to figure out how to make the brand more human and engage with our customers more easily and really encourage our customers to engage with us. I see social media as a way to do that, to actually have a conversation with our customers and to create more of a community. Previously, and I think this is where social is going right now, but it's a one- way conversation. Every time you post a proper photo, whether you think of it this way or not, that's an ad, and customers are starting to filter that out, literally, by either not following or hiding stuff, or just mentally tuning it out. I think that's happening more and more and more frequently with social media, with email marketing. There's so much digital noise. This was just an attempt to actually connect with our guests. I just did this maybe three weeks ago, a month ago, so it's very much beta. How are people going to react to a brand that, when they go there thinking they're going to the brand's page, they're getting me? So far, engagement has been up, and I've started to be able to have meaningful conversations with people through Instagram, which is kind of cool. Particularly right now, one of the things I'm missing because of COVID is being able to walk into the restaurants and talk to our customers, so we're having to turn more to our digital mediums to continue to connect with people.
Brett Linkletter: I love it. Man, you know what's so cool about that, actually? By the way, I just want to say I'm totally for this, and this is something that I have recommended to so many of our clients. I don't know if you know much about our agency, Misfit Media, but we help restaurants get customers, we say, the smarter way. The big thing with us is digital marketing to drive traffic from an online source in- store or for an online sale. That's what we do. We've had a couple clients that have done something similar. We had this one client somewhere in the Midwest. They have only one location, it's a pizza concept, but the guy was doing like a quarter million per month with this tiny little pizza store. The big thing for him was kind of like you're mentioning here, is connecting with people on social, creating that conversation back and forth, but also really being the face of his brand. Everyone wanted to go into his pizza place to see him. I don't want to say his name, but it was all about him. He created all these videos on YouTube where it's him making pizza, it's him talking with his customers, it's him opening up his recipe book and all this kind of stuff, and really creating that back- and- forth communication. Field, even for me, in our agency, the way we go about acquiring new restaurants to work with us is I run a lot of ads through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube to get in front of restaurateurs like yourself, saying, " Hey, this is what we do," blah, blah, blah. I actually run ads through my personal pages versus our agency page. I think what you're doing, man, is killer. I think it's awesome. I'm all on board with this.
Field Failing: Glad to hear it. As I said, this is sort of a beta test. We just did it, but my plan is to continue it. What you just said about that guy being the face of the pizza shop, that was the other goal here, was to put me more as the face of the business. I have to credit my marketing director and our creative agency for really pushing this and saying, " Dude, your name is on the door." Over on my personal Instagram, I'm posting all kinds of chicken pictures and stuff like that and the things I'm cooking. They're like, " Why don't you just step in and do it on the company Instagram and start using that as the way to connect people?" I'm just like, " All right, awesome."
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, dude, I'm all for this.
Field Failing: Put my face out there, talk to people. If you send us a DM, it's going to go right to me. So yeah, it's a way to have conversations with people. It's awesome.
Brett Linkletter: I'm assuming that takes up a lot of your time, right? You are personally going in and replying to all these messages?
Field Failing: I am personally doing everything right now, yeah. We'll see how long being able to do everything works, but it's totally manageable right now. If it starts to take off more, I will call in reinforcements from our marketing director, but right now I'm good.
Brett Linkletter: Okay, so obviously social and sliding into the DMs, conversations like that is big for you guys. What about texting and email? Do you guys utilize those channels as a business?
Field Failing: We don't use text. We do use email. We use email marketing, which is the traditional e- blast. Then we've got, also, the just standard hello @ for customer complaints, questions, shout- outs, whatever it may be. We just did a campaign that was pretty cool, and it was successful. We made postcards that we put on every to- go bag, and it was a note from me just saying, " Thank you for your support over the last year. If there's anything else we can do, shoot me a note," and we put an email address that went right to me. Then I was able to start responding to people's feedback, suggestions, experiences, whatever, directly. It was another direct engagement tool. Through that, that was awesome. I had some conversations with customers that went back and forth over 10 emails about like, " Hey, here's a sauce we'd love to see" or" This didn't quite work very well in our order. Could you fix it?" Someone asked if we could talk on the phone to talk about our catering process and how we could smooth it out for him. It became a way to collect feedback and then act on our customer feedback, which has been really something we're trying to focus on.
Brett Linkletter: Can I make a suggestion for you right now? I normally don't just dive into this, go into marketing mode, but I just see a massive opportunity for you guys that I just want to suggest, if that's cool.
Field Failing: Yeah, totally.
Brett Linkletter: By the way, again, I love what you're doing. I'm all for it. This is all great stuff. What I would suggest, though, as opposed to sending out a postcard with the to- go orders, you can create a little flyer or the same style- design postcard, but rather than just supply an email, you can create a QR code that can go on that postcard, so when someone scans that, it's going to open up, not email, but I would suggest, actually, Facebook Messenger. Have you guys ever touched Facebook Messenger or done anything with that?
Field Failing: No, at least not to my knowledge. Our marketing director might be using it, but I'm not.
Brett Linkletter: We're huge on Messenger. Literally, what you were saying specifically about how most brands, it's just one point of communication. You're just like, " Hey, this is me," blah, blah, blah, and there's no conversation back. That's why I like Messenger specifically, because it literally is a texting platform. Basically, someone can scan that QR code, it'll open up a message directly to you if you'd like, or your restaurant, however you want to set it up, you can immediately ask a question, " Hey, thank you so much for ordering," you can send any message you want to them, it can actually greet them by their first name because they're actually engaging with you through Messenger-
Field Failing: That's cool.
Brett Linkletter: ...and now you've opened up a conversation in an inbox. Now they're already in your inbox communicating back and forth. Later on, also, if you want to collect their email or phone number for other marketing purposes, you can do that also through Messenger. But the reason I would suggest this versus just putting your email there is there's a lot less friction. The barrier to entry is a lot easier. If they just scan it, boom, they're in conversation, versus looking at the email, going to type it in their email browser, or whatever the case. It sounds like whatever you're doing is already working, and I think this would even just continue adding to that benefit that you're seeing-
Field Failing: No, that's awesome. I guess my only question on that is, when you do that, you end up having a real- time conversation, so other restaurants where they're doing this, do they have someone that's on that all the time, so that anytime a customer sees that and chats, they're ready to chat back?
Brett Linkletter: For us as an agency, we set up a lot of these automations that will gather feedback and do that kind of stuff. There's a lot more you can do with it, a lot of advanced stuff you can do. But to answer your question, in this simple scenario we're talking about now, yeah, you'd probably want someone in there ready to reply, if it's a human reply, or you can set up an automation. It sounds like, obviously, gathering feedback is crucial for you guys. I love that, man. You're doing the kind of stuff that I do the best I can to get my clients to think about, so that's awesome, man. Clearly, it's been working for you guys in a lot of ways. What else do you think is working for you guys? Obviously, it seems like you guys have had a lot of success. It seems like you guys have grown. It seems like you're obviously enjoying what you're doing. The one thing I'll say, though, obviously, which is the obvious thing, is obviously this pandemic has been very tough for the restaurant space. More specifically, it's been extremely tough in New York. How have you guys been getting through this whole thing, and it sounds like not just surviving, but thriving on through?
Field Failing: Well, we've been surviving. Make no mistake there. We are trying to figure out how to thrive in survival mode. New York has been hit every bit as hard as everyone has heard. It's been pretty brutal. There was a period earlier this year where it was touch and go, where we didn't know where things were going to end up and how the business was going to make it through. There's been a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of uncertainty, closing restaurants, reopening restaurants, re- closing restaurants. It's been tough. The way I look at it, we just have to survive until mid- 2021, and the world will start to come back, albeit it might be slowly, but it starts to come back. But yeah, it has been tough. I was just walking the street in New York a couple days ago after I was going from restaurant to restaurant, and there are so many empty storefronts right now. I pass restaurant after restaurant after restaurant where it was For Lease, For Lease, For Lease. It's sobering, but we've been making the most of it. Back in April, we launched a campaign called Birds for Good, which was to support healthcare workers. We were down to one restaurant at the time. Literally, just all of the meals going out the door was to feed healthcare workers. That was March, April. Then a bunch of restaurants did that. We were one of the first, which I think was awesome. Then we went through the summer figuring out, " Okay, what do we do? How do we survive?" Then we actually ended up, in September, we pared things way back. We took our menu down by like a third. We took like 17 recipes out, like 30 SKUs out of the menu, and we really pared it back to the core. The restaurant got, not surprisingly, way easier to run. Our sales continued steadily, so it didn't hurt us from a sales standpoint, but it really improved our operation. In terms of how are we thriving in survival mode, that was number one, is simplifying and paring back and making this thing way easier to operate, which translates to being able to make food more consistently. Now we're in the process of starting to add back and starting to sketch out, " Okay, what does the post- COVID menu look like, and what's the sweet spot?" It's too lean right now, but we're adding back in a very systematic way. The byproduct of that has been just a business that's more efficient. We've got our costs in a better place than they've been in years. Yeah, we're trying to make the most of it.
Brett Linkletter: You're saying that the menu, though, you feel like it's too lean as of now? You want to add some back to it in a little bit?
Field Failing: Yeah, I think it needs a little more variety, a little more choice. I think we're going to add another side. I'm working on a sauce, potentially another bowl. I've been working on tacos, which is a new menu category that should drop in a month or so. Yeah, more choice for the guest.
Brett Linkletter: I see what you're saying. Nice. What else? What else have you guys done during the pandemic to pivot and survive and make it on through?
Field Failing: That one, that was the operational, what we did with the restaurants. One of the big pivots that we are still in the works on is, back in April, we started working on a marinated chicken that will sell in grocery stores. It's a raw chicken that's already been brined and marinated, that you literally just throw in the oven or throw on the stove, cook, and you have the perfectly seasoned, perfectly marinated chicken.
Brett Linkletter: Oh, I love that, man.
Field Failing: Yeah. The direct- to- consumer component, I think, is probably going to be the first to launch. This is still in the works. I'm giving you an early look. It's not done yet, but that's the big pivot. Can we transition into we're a restaurant company that also sells a similar product in a grocery store, with the end goal of being let's just get healthy, better- quality chicken into people's homes for dinner however we can? If you don't want to cook, get delivery from the restaurant. If you want to cook, buy raw chicken and cook it up. I'm psyched about that one. Again, it's still in the works and it's been a process, but we're almost there.
Brett Linkletter: Got it. What about online sales for you guys? Have those gone up quite a bit, obviously, since the pandemic?
Field Failing: Yeah. They were climbing before the pandemic, and then the pandemic just totally accelerated everything. We're 50- 50 in- store to delivery right now, I'd say. That's a mix of third party, Grubhub, Uber, and then we launched a mobile app back in December, so we have pickup and delivery through the app as well. We went through the first few months of that of working out the kinks, and then we'll start to market and promote that.
Brett Linkletter: Got it. Is that a custom- built app that you guys created, or was that something that you guys plug and play with?
Field Failing: It's custom built on top of our ordering engine. The front end is custom, yeah.
Brett Linkletter: What do you guys use for your ordering engine?
Field Failing: We use Olo.
Brett Linkletter: Got it. Without the app, though, a customer could just go to your guys' website and also order online, right, direct through Olo?
Field Failing: Not through Olo. You have to go through a third party. You either have to go through our website... Olo is literally just the ordering engine, so our website funnels orders into Olo and that talks to our POS-
Brett Linkletter: But if I wanted to do takeout or delivery, you're saying I have to use a third- party app, as of now, on your site?
Field Failing: No, you can use our app or our website, or you can use third party. If you go to fieldsgoodchicken. com, you can click Order Now and you can get pickup or delivery, and same thing with the mobile app. You'll accrue loyalty points if you do it that way.
Brett Linkletter: Nice. I think, look, in general, when it comes to restaurants, for apps, it's one of those things for me. Sometimes it's great for the restaurant. Sometimes it's a huge, great, awesome move for them in general, that's a lot more profitable, connects them in a lot better ways with their customer base, and all these other benefits to it. I've also seen some restaurants just spend literally hundreds of thousands on an app, and it only counts for 1% of their sales. For you guys, what's been the strategy as far as getting customers to use the app? Has that been something you feel like you've been pretty successful in as of now, or has that been a struggle? What's been the strategy to do so?
Field Failing: It's a good question. We had an app before that was a white- label app, before we built this custom app. It's been migration, which, still, in COVID, has been more of a challenge than it would've been otherwise. People need to download a new app, migrate their rewards over, so there's some friction. We are constantly nudging our existing guests, " Hey, here's our new app. It's better. There's new perks," and then we have a marketing campaign that's in the works that should drop sometime in the next month or so, starting to call out the app. Intentionally, when we roll out something like this, we usually give it a few months to work out all the kinks before we're starting to drive people to it actively, but yeah, that's coming.
Brett Linkletter: Do you know how many users you guys have on the app as of now?
Field Failing: Not off the top of my head, but I could find out.
Brett Linkletter: Got it. Yeah, again, look, I'm all for it, I think, when a restaurant can make it work. If you look at sweetgreen, for example, man, they're just killing it with their app. It's so impressive. Another company, Domino's, obviously they're killing it. Some of those bigger concepts have a lot bigger budgets. They can do a lot more interesting things with it. But even smaller concepts I've seen have success-
Field Failing: Yeah, slightly bigger budget.
Brett Linkletter: Of course.
Field Failing: Domino's has done tech a lot. Of all the restaurant companies, they've done a good job at that.
Brett Linkletter: Well, it was kind of funny because I was at a restaurant conference, this was 2019, before the pandemic, the good old days, but I was sitting in this session and it was about apps for restaurants. Sweetgreen was up there on stage, Domino's was on stage, and then a few other concepts. I think Qdoba was on stage. Again, this was mid- 2019. Of course, I asked the question, " What percent of your sales are coming through the app?" I forget who it was; it might've been Qdoba. I don't want to call them out. But they said 1% of their sales were coming from the app. They were talking this big game with the app, and only 1% of their sales are coming through it. Then, again, you see someone like Domino's, and their entire business is built around it. They are a tech company. Same thing with sweetgreen. I'd say they're a tech company more so than a restaurant right now. I think the idea of an app is, hey, if you can make it work, hell yeah, more power to you guys. Just sometimes, for a lot of people, it's hard to get people using it, getting people to download another app when they already have all these other apps. You know what I mean?
Field Failing: Yep. I will say, in COVID, we did see... We've had an app the whole time. We have this new app, but it's replacing an old app. But more people are ordering through desktop than mobile, which makes sense because people are sitting at home or sitting at their desk. They're not ordering from the subway on their way home. Yeah, both are important, but it's significant for us. The pickup component is pretty huge. That's true everywhere, but in New York in particular, the walk in, pick up your food off the shelf, and leave, has become huge. That drives a lot of the traffic to the app. People kind of expect it of a New York restaurant. If I can't walk in, skip the line, and pick up, I'm going somewhere else because I don't have time to stand in a massive line.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, New York is definitely an interesting market in the restaurant space. We do restaurants all across North America, so the U. S. and Canada. Specifically, New York, the buying habits for restaurants there, with the customer base we've seen, are very different. It's very quick, close by, so it's interesting.
Field Failing: New York is a different world unto itself, for better or worse. I think restaurants entering New York, it's a wake- up call. I also have heard an equal number of stories of restaurants getting out of New York for the first time and getting a wake- up call going into a different market and not understanding it. Yeah, it's a bubble.
Brett Linkletter: 100%, man. Field, I'm curious, how do you personally get better? What do you do to push your brand forward, to push yourself forward? Do you read any books? Do you listen to any podcasts specifically? How do you get better as a CEO?
Field Failing: I read when I can. I have two young kids, and so life is just literally insane right now. I go from work to I walk in the other room and there's a baby eating paint. So I read when I can. This has been my latest read, Marketing Rebellion. I just picked this up. The subtext is The Most Human Company Wins. I've been really into that, particularly we were talking about with our social media and connecting with guests, putting my personal story more forward. That whole book is about connecting with customers, and your customer basically being your best marketer. I recommend that one. I'm trying to educate myself on marketing more right now. Then lately it's been getting back in the kitchen, honestly. I hadn't spent a lot of time in the kitchen over the last several years, and then with COVID, it's gotten me back in the kitchen creating new recipes, new menu items, thinking from a product offering standpoint, " How can we grow the business? How can we sell our product?" That's gotten me to reconnect with our food. It's gotten me deeper into the kitchens working alongside our team. In terms of growing as a CEO, that's, in some ways, the best growing in can do right now, which is getting closer to our product and closer to our teams in the restaurants.
Brett Linkletter: 100%, man. By the way, I think that's amazing that also you're looking to educate yourself more in the marketing space. I don't know, look, I'm a marketing agency for restaurants, so I've heard every story you can imagine, as you can imagine. The big thing for us that I see is a lot of restaurateurs have this resistance to new technologies or doing marketing in general. They think the idea of just great food and service will help you get to where you want to go. Well, I promise you the Domino's of the world, the sweetgreens of the world, the McDonald's of the world, any brand that's surpassed to that level, they don't think that. It takes having a great product, great service, and marketing to accelerate that.
Field Failing: They're all just as focused on product and service as everyone else is, and they market the hell out of it.
Brett Linkletter: The big thing we say at our company is marketing will accelerate the truth of your brand. If you have a great brand, great product, people love you, love talking about you, love coming back, with the right marketing campaign, you're going to accelerate the success you're already seeing. But if it's the opposite, you're going to get the opposite. If you have a shit product, things aren't working out for you, people don't say great things about you, the marketing is going to get more people to say more negative things about you. It's the truth. Yeah, man, I think that's awesome that you're looking to do that. That is, for me, as a marketer, that's music to my ears. I love that, man, because, again, more people need to be like that. You have-
Field Failing: With the times, we've really hunkered down because of COVID in New York and the winter and everything, but we are now looking ahead and going, " All right, April, May, June, people are going to start to come out of the woodwork. People are getting vaccinated. The city is going to start to come back." We can do everything right with our food, but we need to market. We need to be out there screaming, " We're here," when people are looking for food. We're getting ready to put our foot on the gas in marketing.
Brett Linkletter: 100%. The thing, too, you've got to remember is people change habits. People forget things. Man, COVID, a lot of restaurants shut down. They're not aware of who's still open, whatever the case. I think marketing, in a lot of people's minds, before the pandemic was something like, " Oh, it's nice to have." Now they're looking at it as, " I need to have this big time," right?
Field Failing: Yep.
Brett Linkletter: It sounds like obviously, again, that's something that's super important to you. You've been educating yourself in that regard. You've got a PR team, a marketing team. I'm just curious, what are some recent marketing campaigns you guys have done that you guys have seen as very successful? What have you guys seen as working for you guys on the marketing front?
Field Failing: I've got to think. We're converting all of our restaurants from ovens to rotisseries. We went back to our original location down on Maiden Lane, and we put a rotisserie in there. Now you see the whole chicken being cooked while you're waiting in line, which is super cool, and something probably we should've done a while ago, but we had these fancy combi ovens cooking chicken with very specific specs. We've gone a little more old school to be able to show off the product, and I actually think we're getting a better product too. In marketing rotisserie, you have to go the store to see it, but have I think the most cohesive campaign we've ever done, where you walk into the store and the window says Healthy Rotisserie Dinner and the signs say Healthy Rotisserie Dinner, and there's all these touchpoints through the store. It's in a pink and orange color combo, which is super on brand for us in terms of our brand palette. You can't get through the store without seeing it, but it's not offensive and in your face. It's not too loud, and it's cool. It adds to the vibe of the store. I'm psyched about that because that's the product of literally three years of branding work with the same agency, dialing it to the point where words on a page in the right two colors look awesome. That's, to me, the holy grail of branding, if that's all you need is words and colors, and people get it. That's been successful. We've seen sales really grow at the store. That store, even though it's our smallest, has become our top- performing store. I think it looks great, and it's a super simple, cohesive message that drives home dinner, which is one of the things that we're trying to push right now.
Brett Linkletter: 100%. No, I love that, man. I love the look of that, being able to see a chicken on rotisserie versus an oven. I think that's awesome. That's really cool. Very cool. Social media. You said that, obviously, connecting with people is big for you guys. Are you guys also running ads on social, or is it just mostly an organic approach? What are you guys doing there?
Field Failing: It's all organic right now. We were running ads up until mid- summer, and then we decided to put a pause on it. Everything is organic now. I think we'll probably restart that again spring, summer, right when we feel like the time is right in terms of the critical mass of people in New York. But yeah, I totally believe in social media advertising as being effective and tolerated by customers in general.
Brett Linkletter: 100%. What about TikTok? Have you guys used TikTok?
Field Failing: We have not used TikTok yet, no. The only problem with me doing the social is I don't have the bandwidth to do multiple platforms. Just taking on Instagram has been enough. I'm busy. On top of my normal job now, I'm doing Instagram, I'm also creating recipes, and I'm crosstalk-
Brett Linkletter: Well, I'm kind of curious, your customer base, what's the average age you see coming through, generally speaking? What's the demographics look like?
Field Failing: It's a pretty wide range. 25- 40, I think is our peak set if you go look at our data, but yeah, it's a pretty broad range of people.
Brett Linkletter: Look, I think for a lot of people, they hear TikTok and they go, " I don't know yet." I'll tell you, for me, and I've actually spoken to a few people on our podcast recently about this, but I'm hyped on TikTok right now, honestly, man.
Field Failing: Really?
Brett Linkletter: I honestly think it's a huge opportunity. I started posting TikToks four to six months ago, and I was like, "God, this is a little kids app. What am I doing? This is stupid." Then I started getting a little more serious about it. Dude, you can post a video, and it can go totally viral within a couple days. I posted a video three days ago that got 200, 000 views, and all I said-
Field Failing: Can you see if it-
Brett Linkletter: 200, 000 views. All I said was, " Here's five things you should ask at the end of a job interview to make you look legit," and I just go through five questions. The reason I've been suggesting to people or just asking questions about it is because I think what Instagram was in 2015, you could post and so easily you could reach a lot more people, now it's a little more difficult, obviously.
Field Failing: So much easier then. Yeah.
Brett Linkletter: But man, on TikTok, you could probably post a video of chicken on rotisserie and get some employee going behind it, doing a thumbs- up, drizzling some sauce on it or something, and that would go viral. I'm serious. That would reach thousands of people in a couple days.
Field Failing: All right, I'll check it out. It's been in the back of my mind, but I'm just like, "I don't have time for another platform." But maybe it's time.
Brett Linkletter: I know, man. Trust me, I know it sounds like an undertaking, and it's probably the last thing you want to do because it sounds like you already have a lot on your plate, but maybe ask your team about it like, " Hey, I talked to this crazy guy on a podcast and he said I should try TikTok." I'm hyping it.
Field Failing: I'll check it out. I will.
Brett Linkletter: Well, here's the thing too. You're the kind of person that I think could make it work. I think a lot of people, maybe not. A lot of people don't really have the personality. They're not willing to be on camera. They don't want to be the face of their company. They're a little old school. You guys have a sweet looking brand. You got the face and the personality for it. You're one of the few restaurateurs who could make it work, I think. I don't know, yeah, now I'm all hyping up on TikTok again.
Field Failing: I'll check it out. After this, I'm going to look it up. I'm going to see if I can get our handle on TikTok and I'll poke around.
Brett Linkletter: Make it a comment.
Field Failing: I will.
Brett Linkletter: Add me. I'll add you back. I'll show you guys some love. But yeah, man, I think it'd be cool. The other thing I notice with a lot of restaurants is they don't prioritize branding. I love that you're working with a branding agency. I love that you said you've been working on it for three years to make your brand look good. I've always thought it's crazy to me how many people in the restaurant space don't prioritize branding or just how the stores look. God, man, people want to enjoy food in a clean environment that looks good. At the end of the day, it's a fixed cost that'll last you years. Just spend the money on it. It's worth it.
Field Failing: Yep, totally. I'm obsessive about branding. I love it. Of all the things, that's one of the things that I'm most into personally.
Brett Linkletter: What would you tell some other restaurateurs who are listening to this podcast and thinking, " Ugh, another guy who's obsessed with branding"? What would be your biggest argument for branding?
Field Failing: Branding, it's what makes your restaurant stand out. The personality of your business comes through in your brand, so you want to create a personality that people can react to, relate to, latch onto. That's all branding.
Brett Linkletter: 100%. Thank you for saying that.
Field Failing: Yeah. I think of it as... Branding, it takes time. You have to grow it. It's almost like it's a child. You start out and it's an infant, and then it grows into a toddler, and then a teenager, and it gets a little bit of edge and gets its own personality, and it starts to talk back. That's when you know you've started to hit it. When the brand starts to talk back or it's got a little bit of edge, then you're in that teenager sweet spot.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah. No, I like that. That's a good way to look at it. Again, it's not an easy thing, so I know a lot of people struggle with it, of course, but god damn is it worth it-
Field Failing: For me, branding, it's an expression of me. I see branding as one way, aside from the food, as a way to express myself. The look and feel, the inspiration for it, the color palette, that's all an expression of me individually. We brought in additional colors because I wanted to be able to bring in a more vibrant palette and create a happier vibe, to be able to have fun with it. There's a reason for all of it, in terms of creating all of it.
Brett Linkletter: No, I think that's cool. Also, what are your long- term plans for your restaurant? Are you looking at franchising at some point, or have you guys already franchised? I wasn't sure, actually.
Field Failing: We've not franchised, and we don't have plans for franchising at the moment. The growth plan I think right now looks like... We're only in New York. We've got six locations. We expand in New York probably through ghost kitchens. We're looking at 2022 as the next expansion year. That becomes a way to expand our footprint in New York without opening a bunch of new locations, although we might open some. That's the next step. Then opening brick- and- mortar locations in the suburbs, I think is part of the next phase for us. We've been in New York for, again, almost seven years. I actually think the sweet spot for the concept is going to end up being in the suburbs. We're rotisserie chicken and vegetables that are great for a family, great for dinner at home. I'm dying to get into a suburban market.
Brett Linkletter: 100%. You guys look like you have a scalable concept. You sound like the kind of operator that, obviously, branding, like we just mentioned, is a very important thing for you. You've refined the menu to the point where it's just the right size. You've optimized it up and down because of the pandemic. You're paying extra attention to these things, which I could see scaling with a franchise concept. We're actually in talks right now with this one restaurant based out of Atlanta. They have three locations. They've just started the route of turning it into a franchise. We're in talks with helping them do that. It's actually a new thing for us. I've never done this before, so it's going to be exciting. I'm really excited about it. But you have that look and feel of a brand, I think, that could franchise, or just scale under corporate, whatever the case. You guys have scaled six locations. But seriously, your guys' brand is cool. That's why I just mentioned it, because, hey, I don't know if that's a goal of yours or not at some point, but maybe something to consider. Kind of cool.
Field Failing: Yeah. No, totally. Thanks for saying that. Yeah, definitely, the goal for the brand has always been to make it a national brand and to scale across the country, whether that's company owned or franchise. At the moment, I think it'd be company owned, but who knows?
Brett Linkletter: 100%. What are some of the problems as you've gotten to this space... It's funny. A lot of my client stories tell me, " Hey, stick to the marketing thing. You never want to be a restaurateur." Restaurateurs love saying negative things about the restaurant space. Whatever the case, you've been pretty positive through this whole pandemic, it seems like. You've been able to make it work through this whole time. What about this? What are some problems that you see that people are currently making? Then, also, how do you stay positive during this whole?
Field Failing: Compartmentalizing. You have to actively stay positive sometimes, particularly in this pandemic. There's been times where things are upside down and the last thing I want to be is positive, but I've forced myself back into that mindset. Yeah, the restaurant business is hard, and it's really freaking hard. I think what's so hard about it is you can be working your ass off, you can be doing everything right, and something just explodes for no reason. You're having the best sales week you've ever had, you're finally killing it after really working to get things going, and then a piece of equipment explodes and the restaurant is shut down for a few days or whatever. Sometimes you feel like you just can't win. Yeah, it can be brutal, and it beats you up. Yeah, it's tough.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, you're right. Like you mentioned, you could be working your ass off, doing things all right, and then boom, something explodes, legit, which is unfortunate. What about some of the opportunities you see now? Obviously, look, the pandemic, again, has been tough, but I think in a situation like this, a lot of opportunities do open up as well. I think a lot of restaurants have seen major opportunities, specifically, in pushing more online ordering. I think before the pandemic, I think a lot of people were already navigating towards that, but now more than ever, online sales are through the roof. What are some other opportunities you see in this space, though?
Field Failing: I think big- picture opportunity, the restaurant industry is going to come back, so if we're left standing on the other side of this, which I think we will be, and a lot of other restaurants, fortunately, will, there's going to be a few years where restaurants can rebuild and there will be periods of growth. There's a big opportunity there. Then I think there's going to be probably some reinvention, in a good way. It sucks to walk down the street in New York and see all of the closed storefronts and the places that are for lease. That was a downer the other day. But then thinking about it, I have no doubt that this is New York City, and New York is New York, and businesses will start to fill those storefronts, and they will be new businesses, new concepts, new takes on food, people reinventing things in a way that I think in a few years it'll be really cool to see what's out there. I'm excited to see what the restaurant industry looks like in three years and how people have bounced back. That's my big- picture take on the industry, is I think there is opportunity for everyone as we come out of this and we're going to see some really cool stuff. I'm psyched about that.
Brett Linkletter: Do you think we're... How soon until you think we're really bouncing back and things are totally normal again? What's the timeline that you think is going to happen?
Field Failing: Oh, man. Personally, I think 2022. As much as we'd like to think that it bounces back with a snap of the fingers, I think it's a slow, steady recovery over the course of this year. I think in April, we'll start to see business start to come back. We've got vaccinations increasing. Winter plays a big role in our business. We're always slower in the winter because people aren't out walking around. So the weather gets nicer, people are out walking around in the streets, business will pick up because of that. People are vaccinated, so they're more comfortable, and it'll come back. It's just it's probably going to take all year. Then in New York City, the office population has a big impact on it, and a bigger impact on the restaurant industry than a lot of people realize. For restaurants like us, we depend pretty heavily on the corporate lunch, and we do a lot of corporate dinner too. A lot of people, when they work late, they order delivery from us. When the offices are empty, we don't have those customers. Also, every fine- dining restaurant in Midtown depends on a corporate clientele. So the office population is important too. We have to wait and see when offices are going to be back at capacity or close to capacity. That could be, I think, September- ish, depending on when companies may come back. I guess, big picture, slow, steady recovery over the next nine to 12 months is how I'm looking at it.
Brett Linkletter: Got it. Hey, man, I'll take that, though. A lot of restaurateurs or other people in general I have spoken to about this think it's even further out, so I love the idea that 2021, we're back in action. I think that's great. I'd like to see that.
Field Failing: Could be. I don't think we're fully back until'22, but we'll see. That's my best guess. No one has got a crystal ball here, so it's-
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, it's hard to say.
Field Failing: At one point, we thought it was going to be August of 2020, and obviously we couldn't have been more wrong.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, I know. Oh, God. I saw some post on social media, and it was like, "And now we're back with season two of America." It's a drama. It's a TV show we're living. It's just wild what's going on. Field, a lot of our listeners on this podcast are restaurateurs with one or two locations, and they're looking to scale out to three, four, five, six, like yourself. What are some pieces of advice that you would recommend to those people who are looking to expand their business? What are things that have... Obviously, running a single- location operation versus six is very different. What are some of the biggest learnings that you've taken as a restaurateur as you've scaled the concept up?
Field Failing: I guess, first, to me, the hardest moves are one to two and two to three, and then three to four to five to six is actually quite a bit easier. If you get those out of the way, it does get easier. That's because going from one to two, you're doubling the size of the business. Doubling the size of a restaurant business is crazy, and bigger chains never do that. But you have to to go from one to two. I guess I would say just be prepared to grind it out in the first three, and standardize wherever you can, because as you scale, you scale all the good, but you also scale all the bad and all of the inconsistencies as well. We're still going back and standardizing across our locations right now. The more you standardize, the easier it becomes to run. If I had one mantra to give to someone that was like, " I want to go from one restaurant to five or six," I would say simplify and then simply again and then simplify more than you think you need to.
Brett Linkletter: I love it.
Field Failing: It just makes things so much easier. Even though I feel like I've always believed in that, it's taken us really five or six years to fully embrace that and say, " All right, focus and simplify is going to be our mantra, and we're going to make this thing way easier to run, and then we're going to be able to turn out better food more consistently, and we'll actually be able to scale."
Brett Linkletter: Got it. Very cool, man. Very cool. Right now, there is still a lot of uncertainty about when we're going to be back to normal, whatever the case. What are some pieces of advice that you would give to some restaurants who are just maybe struggling right now and want to just do better, any lasting piece of advice, given the situation we're all in?
Field Failing: First, I would say you've just got to ride it out. I think most of us are struggling in some way just to make ends meet and to stay alive in the restaurant business. As I said earlier, we're trying to thrive in survival mode. Sticking with it and just trying to get to the other side of the tunnel, I think is number one.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, I see what you're saying.
Field Failing: I've talked a lot about trying to engage with our customers more, and that's a shift for us. I think that's super important because if you want to be successful and come out of this quickly, the best thing you can do is understand what your customers want and how you can serve them better and how you can deliver more value to them. Yeah, that's the reason for all of that.
Brett Linkletter: One other thing I just thought about, Field, is you mentioned that as you're growing your concept you're looking to grow virtually, going into some kind of cloud kitchens or something like that. Was that the idea, or are you looking to also... I don't even know the proper name for it, but a lot of our clients and other virtual brands are actually pitching restaurants to exist in their own kitchen. Have you looked into that, as well, or are you actually looking to rent your own kitchen space?
Field Failing: We're looking to rent our own kitchen space. What I would do is we either go lease a kitchen somewhere or you jump into a ghost kitchen concept, of which there are a number now. You're just renting a kitchen so that we can get into a new market without having to build a high- street-
Brett Linkletter: Entire location, yeah.
Field Failing: ...brick- and- mortar restaurant.
Brett Linkletter: That's something that I have seen quite a bit, though. Have you heard of 5 Napkin Burger in New York?
Field Failing: Yep.
Brett Linkletter: Okay, so they're one of our clients, and they're working with, I think it's called Chef Picky's Wings or something. They also now do Chef Picky's Wings within, I think, two of their stores or something like that.
Field Failing: Okay, so they're doing someone else's concept in their extra-
Brett Linkletter: Yeah, and they've got extra space. That's becoming more and more popular, I've seen. I was just curious if you've looked into that because, again, you guys have a pretty badass- looking concept. I love what you guys are doing. I just think that's kind of cool. I don't know, this is the first time I've ever heard of restaurants doing that type of thing like 5 Napkin is doing. I just think it's cool, though, because the concept going inside the restaurant's kitchen, they don't have to pay these insane fees for rent, even if it's a virtual kitchen. They're using existing kitchen, existing employees, and then they're splitting the revenue with that restaurant. I was just curious the route you guys were going through. Again, this is new to me, so I haven't heard this until very recently, this kind of idea.
Field Failing: Yeah. It sounds like part of what you're also talking about is virtual concepts, where a restaurant will create new restaurants within their restaurant and say, " I'm going to launch a chicken wing concept and a taco concept and a burger concept all virtually," and you can go on Grubhub or Uber and you can go to Fields Good Burgers and Fields Good Wings and feel like you're going to some wings restaurant, and in reality you're just going into a Fields Good Chicken and it's being made in our kitchen. You could create branding for that and everything. We haven't done that, but I know of restaurants that have, and have been pretty successful. That's a whole other way to approach it.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah. All right, man. Well, hey, look, I really appreciate your time today, Field. That was awesome. It sounds like you guys... I know you said you guys were in survival mode, but you guys are doing a lot better than most restaurants, I think, out there. Props to you guys for that. Seriously, that is awesome. I'll be looking out for you on TikTok, though, man. I'll be looking for your account, looking for these videos, looking for some rotisserie chicken videos, whatever the case.
Field Failing: I'm going to go look at TikTok now. You have my word here.
Brett Linkletter: Yeah. Awesome, man. Awesome. Well, hey, again, appreciate your time. We'll be in contact real soon. Thanks for coming on.
Field Failing: All right. Thanks so much for having me. It was great chatting with you.
Brett Linkletter: Thanks, Field. Talk soon then.
Field Failing: All right, take care.
Brett Linkletter: See you.