Question posted on May 16, 2014: “I am recently appointed as manager for a small local food chain based in Northern Philippines. WE have about 3 branches. Can you please provide strategic advice on how I can keep and increase loyal customers”
Answer from BusinessMango, May 26, 2014: Thank you for your note. We did some research and had some discussions on how food chains such as Mcdonald’s, KFC, and Krispy Kreme have gained massive following. We agree that there are three common qualities of these stores which explain their customer loyalty and success.
Our sources told us that great tasting food plays an important role in ensuring customers’ constant visits to these restaurants. This idea may sound simple, but many elements are responsible for great tasting food as illustrated by KFC’s highly popular Original Recipe and Hot n Crispy chicken.
Many people know that the founders’ family tradition led to the creation of KFC products, while subsequent product development efforts have enhanced them. The Original Recipe is tasty, flavourful, and addictive, while Hot n Crispy is spicy and extra crunchy. However, not too many know that KFC products have achieved their exceptional taste through thoughtful preparation, as much as through their recipes.
For its Original Recipe, KFC fries the chicken in a covered pressure fryer, resulting in tender and flavourful chicken. Meanwhile, for Hot n Crispy, KFC double breads the chicken and fries them in an open fryer, resulting in little dotted crispy crumbs coating the fried chicken.
One will likely notice that KFC chicken is golden brown and never dark. This is achieved through the use of fresh and transparent cooking oil all the time. Freshly fried chicken pieces are left on a rack for a few minutes to drain the excess oil so as to ensure that chicken served to the customers is not greasy. This step also lowers the fried chicken’s temperature to a manageable level, after which the chicken is transferred to an oven cabinet to keep warm.
KFC chicken is always served at a specified temperature, so that it is never too hot to burn the lips or tongue, nor too cold to reduce its flavour. KFC policy dictates that chicken not sold within 90 minutes of cooking be discarded to guarantee that only freshly fried chicken is served to customers.
With its original recipe and through thoughtful preparation, KFC chicken is always delicious, fresh, clean and warm, thereby convincing customers to patronize KFC for an exceptionally tasty chicken eating experience.
Experience: Krispy Kreme
Another key factor in the success of food retail chains is experience. In today’s consumer market, food retail chains need to manage the feelings, activities, and sensations that a customer experiences in all possible touch points—from the instance customers see the store from afar, walk in, place their orders, and sit down to eat, to the moment they exit the store. By paying attention to these elements, Krispy Kreme is able to make the store a fun and enjoyable place to visit, experience, and create sweet memories.
Visit a Krispy Kreme store and you will feel like you are facing the stage in a theatre. Why? Inside the store, one cannot help but notice the well-lit doughnut display—a set-up that enhances the freshness and colours of the doughnuts visually. So too do the colour-coordinated tub chairs, tables, frames, and walls; the special red ceiling lights; and the general cleanliness of the store including its restrooms. Further, the professional and lively crew contribute to the pleasantness of the store visit. In some countries, Krispy Kreme stores have a doughnut factory, where passers-by or customers can see how the doughnut is made, fried, and then dipped in the original glaze.
On top of the stage-like set-up, Krispy Kreme aims to minimize pain points and make the customers feel special by adding extra touches. For instance, crew members occasionally give customers free glazed donuts while they line up to order. This, of course, is aside from the special dough which Krispy Kreme is known for, Krispy Kreme has likewise made its brand distinct through its take-out boxes, its “unmistakeable red and green boxes”, which are sometimes placed in a white eco tote bag. The crew serves customers who dine in the Krispy Kreme doughnuts on clean white plates with matching silverware. Even the recycled coffee sleeves are extra special as they almost feel like cloth and not at all like the plain brown paper carton most often used in coffee shops.
Lastly, the Krispy Kreme experience shows “mirror genes” in action, that is, customers following the behavior of other customers. The sight of customers coming in and out of Krispy Kreme carrying red and green boxes on their way out, stimulate the curiosity of casual observers and lure them to experience Krispy Kreme themselves. Customers who do walk in end up buying a dozen doughnuts for themselves or for their loved ones, sooner or later.
The most significant trait we see in successful food retail chains is authenticity. Authenticity refers to consistency of action with the brand character – the values, human personality, and image that distinguishes one brand from the rest. When a brand character is authentic, it establishes a genuine relationship with its target market. This leads to the fostering of trust and loyalty among customers, both of which are crucial to sustaining a business.
McDonald’s is a great example of authenticity. We can describe the brand character of McDonald’s as youthful, spirited, and dynamic–characteristics manifested in all aspects of the restaurant from its design, the personality of the crew, the activities, on to the menu items. McDonald’s bright and casual welcoming design, colored yellow and red, sets a happy tone for its customers. The crew consists of individuals who are upbeat, friendly, and pleasant, regardless of their age. They flesh out McDonald’s promise to make customers happy while in the restaurant. The Happy Meals and Kiddie Parties reinforce McDonald’s thrust to be a fun and exciting place. Children are often eager to see what toys are inside their Happy Meal box. During Kiddie Parties, they are happiest when they meet the Happy Meal Gang led by Ronald McDonald.
The brand’s dynamic personality is reflected in how McDonald’s readily adapts to changing customer tastes. For example, the restaurant now serves premium coffee in response to the shifting trend of customer taste toward gourmet quality coffee. In the Philippines, McDonald’s is one of the first few restaurants to use environmentally friendly packaging to help promote sustainability. Meanwhile, in the United States, the restaurant has introduced low calorie and healthy food options to cater to customers demanding better nutrition. By being true to its brand character, McDonald’s has earned the trust of its customers and continues to fulfill its mission to be their favorite place and way to eat and drink.