Bonus head-spinning moments: Business innovations & oddities

While consumers were showing a newfound craziness, restaurateurs tried to turn saner patrons’ heads with some unusual moves, including these.

1. “Intraday marketing”

That’s what Luby’s is calling an initiative currently being tested by the company’s Fuddruckers brand, which has been stung by a significant decline in traffic. Members of Fudd’s “e-club” loyalty program are being micro-targeted with bargain offers redeemable only at off hours on low-volume days. The deals are apparently brought to customers’ attention via e-mail.

2. “110-percent staffing”

Potbelly Sandwich Shop, like seemingly every other chain, is striving to boost throughput during peak periods like lunch. One of its solutions is encouraging unit operators to overstaff  to “110 percent of their assigned staffing levels,” as CEO Aylwin Lewis explained to investors. The fast-casual sandwich specialist is also deploying managers to the dining room during the crunch, in part to win back customers who show signs of walking away because of the wait. And separate milkshake stations are being installed to remove what can be a bottleneck on the regular serving line.

3. Gridiron job titles

New positions are cropping up in the business as chains strive to improve operations, execution and throughput. The inspiration for what to call those newly created jobs is clearly coming from the football field.

Chipotle cites its gain in productivity to the addition of a linebacker—a floater who keeps the production line stocked during peak periods. Panera Bread Company has created a similar position, technically known as the expo but known to management as the quarterback.

Potbelly, meanwhile, is looking to boost its delivery, big-order and catering sales by hiring what it calls a national leader of backline. And Burger King attributes its operational improvements in part to dispatching multi-unit coaches into the field.

4. Buffalo Wild Wings as kingmaker

Word emerged this week of Buffalo Wild Wings’ unwitting role this week in almost pulling off a huge political upset in Virginia. The challenger in the state’s gubernatorial race, Republican Ed Gillespie, learned from his staff that the conservative voters most likely to support him also tended to be fans of BWW. So he made a point of visiting the chain and having his picture taken there as the campaigning drew to a close. The maneuvering probably didn’t hurt BWW’s sales, either.


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