Welcome to Getting Granular
The podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the digital marketing industry.
Leadership Series: FreshFin Poke, Nate Arkush
In this episode, Steve Kroll (VP) of Granular sits down with Nate Arkush, the Co-founder of FreshFin Poké. FreshFin is a fast-casual restaurant based in Milwaukee. Nate and Steve discuss FreshFin’s origins and how digital advertising on the Google network and social media platforms has played a role in their rapid growth.
What you’ll learn in this episode of Getting Granular: • Nate’s unique background in the food and service industry • How Nate and his team conducted the ideation of FreshFin • How FreshFin experimented with running their digital ads in-house • How FreshFin’s website and social media has built their brand • Nate’s decision to outsource digital ad management to Granular • Which digital channels have worked best for FreshFinh and why they work for their brand
Welcome to Getting Granular, the podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the industry, whether you’re here to learn how to grow your business, improve your digital skills, or just want to hear some Midwest PPC experts rant about digital media, you’ve come to the right place.
Steve Kroll: Welcome to the Getting Granular podcast. I’m your host, Steve Kroll. I’m the Vice President at the agency Granular. Today I am joined by Nate Arkush, Co-founder at FreshFin Poké, and we’re going to dive right into his business and the role that digital marketing plays in growing their restaurant.
Steve: I’ve got Nate Arkush here with me. Thanks, man, for coming in to chat. I guess before we get into it, can you just tell me what you do, the company that you started, and just talk about that a little bit?
Nate Arkush: Awesome. Yeah, we started in early 2017 is when we opened our first location, FreshFin Poké. We have four locations now that we operate and a fifth in Fiserv Forum. Yeah, we started on the East Side of Milwaukee in totally cold weather in January 2017, and it quickly grew. We opened our second location right outside you guys here in the Third Ward about 10 months later. It was really small, efficient operation. Then we’ve now recently opened up a couple locations in Brookfield and Madison.
Nate Arkush: Yeah, I mean, it’s great. It’s a great fast casual concept. We’re really into whole, clean ingredients. Everything is basically made in-house. We’re handcrafting sauces every day and using just clean, whole ingredients for all of that rather than purchasing, which some of the other fast casual concepts are built for that. We’re built a little bit more on the craft focus and that handcrafted element.
Nate Arkush: We’re very excited about how the community has responded since we started. There’s been a lot of support, and we’re very glad to be making a footprint in Milwaukee.
Nate Arkush: My background definitely has been kind of all restaurants and hospitality since I was 15. I started bussing tables and washing dishes at a local fine-dining Italian restaurant, went to culinary school after high school. I finished a bachelor’s at UNLV in Vegas and went with Starwood, moved into a position with Starwood, and kind of did everything at the Sheraton Chicago I could in management. I managed all their restaurants, did some catering management, actually managed the housekeeping department for a couple years, and also was doing large convention account sales there.
Nate Arkush: I was able to learn more about contracts and negotiating larger deals, which has obviously been a very good element to what we’ve done with the growth of our company, something I didn’t really realize. Even the housekeeping experience, I say all the time, was probably the best experience I could have ever had to prepare for what we do with this.
Steve Kroll: Yeah, that was going to be my comment and observation. Obviously, myself and everyone here at Granular, we love FreshFin. I think it was our colleague Ian, he’s the one who introduced it to me prior to you guys even opening here. And when we came in, you’re like, “Oh, yeah, we know Ian. He comes in.”
Steve Kroll: Something that’s always stood out as we’ve gotten to know each other more, and I eat there two, three times a week at the location right outside in our lobby, is whenever I see you, you always make it a point to say, “Hey, how’s the food? How are wait times? How’s everything front of house with customer service?” I think that’s pretty neat. I’m just kind of surprised that that question doesn’t get asked more with different restaurant owners that I meet with. I feel like you should want that feedback, but I don’t know how many people are actually doing that.
Nate Arkush: Yeah. For us, it’s an opportunity to… We obviously have a network of customers that’s a very large network, but I may only know by person 2% of those people. So, when I have the opportunity to chat with them, and somebody who’s regular, I like to ask that question, and I always take it.
Nate Arkush: I know that sometimes people might be holding back because they’re worried about offending the owner or the manager, but to me it’s about just understanding what the experience is, because we recognize in the hospitality industry, in pretty much any industry, the goal as an owner or managers is that you hope that 99% of the “transactions” go well, but there’s going to be that 1%, 2%, 3% that might not be exactly what you’re looking for, and we just want to be aware of it.
Nate Arkush: I understand, and we try to train this with our team, as far as empowerment when something doesn’t go correctly. We understand not 100% of the things are going to go correctly, but as long as we understand that and are in touch with our customer and have the ability to make it right, that’s when we can win those customers back.
Nate Arkush: That’s something that I typically do ask almost anybody I see in store. My wife’s friends, for example, that say, “Oh, I’ve been to FreshFin. I love it,” I typically always ask, “Hey, how was the experience?” Reviews are nice, getting feedback from customers via email is helpful, but you also understand that probably 90% of people with a good or a bad experience, you’re not going to hear from. That’s just important to us to really keep a pulse on our service levels.
Steve Kroll: Something that I’m curious about, I’ve never got the full story, is I’ve met you, I’ve met James, I’ve got bits and pieces of the origin story, but I definitely want to get into, in this conversation, the role that website plays, what does marketing look like as a restaurant owner in 2019, but I guess just the genesis for, all right, you create FreshFin Poké, poké isn’t really a thing in Milwaukee to the extent that it is now, how do you get the idea?
Nate Arkush: Yeah. I was in Chicago for 10 years and came up to Milwaukee with my wife, and we knew that we wanted to open up something. One of my best childhood buddies, James, and I pulled together some of our money, pretty much my entire savings from working corporate for 10 years, and basically started to look at what we wanted to do.
Nate Arkush: We kind of narrowed it down to, okay, we have a couple choices. We could go full service and invest $750,000 into a large restaurant and get all the bells and whistles, or we can go super lean and efficient and see how this thing goes. And we decided fast casual is the route we wanted to go.
Nate Arkush: I had designed a menu for a burger concept, actually, at the time and was doing tastings and kind of had everything narrowed down in that, and James called me one day and said, “No, no, no, you’ve got to come out to…” He’s actually on the West Coast. He said, “You got to come out and check out what’s happening with poké.”
Nate Arkush: It was very eye-opening. I hopped a flight out to LA and checked out about a dozen places in kind of an R&D trip, and at the first one, absolutely fell in love and said, “This is what we’re going to do.”
Nate Arkush: We really felt that it checked all the categories from an entrepreneur’s standpoint as far as being able to open up in a lean operation, relatively low labor, even though that’s been, because we’re doing handcrafted, our labor costs are on the higher side because everything is handcrafted, cut fresh daily, all that. But we’ve still been able to be efficient as far as the leases we’re doing and the buildouts we’re doing.
Nate Arkush: Then from a customer side, I felt like like, as a customer experiencing it for the first time, it was healthy, it was customizable, it was bigger portions than sushi, it was affordable, and as long as we could get that last part, which was making the flavors great and making it as tasty as possible while still delivering a healthy, whole-ingredient, clean, raw-ingredient bowl, we felt like it had a very high chance of differentiation in the market in Milwaukee, especially since nobody had done it at that time.
Steve Kroll: Yeah, that’s awesome. I guess just diving into some of the getting the word out, I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff that you tried that worked, probably a lot more stuff that didn’t work. All right, you’ve been a real stickler for the quality of the food, the service, the portions, but you start the business, you still need to get the word out. I’m sure there is everything from people telling you to discount, to not discount, to you need a website, do you need a website, all these food delivery services. What, I guess, was that process like, ebbing and flowing, learning what worked and what didn’t?
Nate Arkush: Yeah. Our other partner Heather handles all of our marketing. She does a phenomenal job. She actually does it remotely because she’s not in in Milwaukee. But she really gave us that kickstart in the beginning with her focus on social media and website.
Nate Arkush: We were lucky enough to have a good wind beneath our back when we first started because it was this new concept to Milwaukee, which really helped us build. I remember we were so excited when we got our 200th follower on Facebook and Instagram, now she’s built that into… I think we’re close to 4,500 or 5,000 on Facebook, and I think we’re well above… I think we’re close to 10,000 on Instagram now. She’s done a phenomenal job with that messaging to keep people engaged and has also done…
Nate Arkush: Our other partner Andrew, who is basically an operating partner with me, joined the company in about the first six months and has been just an integral part of working alongside with Heather as far as the cohesive branding as far as how we’re messaging on the website. I think our website has just… Each year, it’s been improved drastically.
Nate Arkush: So there’s all those different layers. I know we’ll talk a little bit more about the digital side, which kind of brings the customers in. The website is just a huge tool for us to educate our customers on what we are, what we’re offering, what differentiates us, where we’re sourcing, what our menu is, all that, and then obviously the functionality of ordering online, which is a bigger element nowadays in the restaurant industry than I ever expected, as far as using these delivery portals and online portals. We’re considering maybe doing an app in the future to connect with our customer in that way from a technology standpoint. And obviously, the social media. Heather, again, has done just a phenomenal job with keeping our customers engaged.
Nate Arkush: It’s almost different tiers of bringing in customers, educating customers through our website, and then keeping them engaged constantly on social media. That, I think, is a really difficult part too, is keeping content, trying to think about what your customers are going to be interested in, and then that rigorous every day, every two days, continuing posting and trying to keep things relevant.
Steve Kroll: Yeah, you covered a lot of ground there in terms of some of the questions I was going to ask. You’ve got all these different platforms, you have your website, you have Facebook, you have Instagram, you have YouTube, all these different channels. How do you use each of them? You’ve answered a lot of those questions.
Steve Kroll: Instagram is a social platform we’ve really seen just exploding, and you guys do it really well. Maybe can you talk more about how you’re engaging customers, how Heather is engaging customers on that platform?
Nate Arkush: Yeah. Actually, Heather would be… She does such a great job with that. I’m relatively hands-off on that. She’s just always looking for new content. And it is a little bit difficult because she’s not here. I think it would be a lot easier if she was in Milwaukee and was able to come into the stores and literally take pictures of our items.
Nate Arkush: But what she’s done a really, really good job in is she has actually used a lot of our voice of the customer, when our customers have been posting stuff, which we’re lucky and blessed that we have so much interest in that. I think part of it is that we really focus on… One of my and Andrew’s big focuses is the presentation of our bowls, so that we kind of train our team that we need to assume that every bowl that’s coming out is going to be on Instagram. Heather has really done a good job of taking that feedback and taking those images and using them as a tool for us to communicate out to the masses of our other customers.
Nate Arkush: We’re focused a lot on in-store promotions. It may be a holiday promotion or maybe it would be Tuna Tuesday or we’re giving $2 off for a spicy tuna bowl if you mention it. We try to keep our promotions, in that sense, around mentioning it when you come in to shop, so that we can really track an ROI on how effective are these social media channels when we’re doing these types of promotions.
Steve Kroll: Sweet. Yeah. I guess one of the other questions I have is, what are some of the things, if you can go back and tell yourself when you started FreshFin that you’ve already had the experience and foresight to have invested in and tried, that maybe you wouldn’t do again from a marketing or sales standpoint?
Nate Arkush: Well, we’ve been pretty lucky. I would say that any marketing or sales platform or partner that we would start to work with, we put a lot of effort into researching that. I would say that there have been literally thousands of people reaching out, trying to sell us marketing products, that we’re pretty discerning on that.
Nate Arkush: We’re very, very picky on who we select to do business with, because that’s one of the things that we have found, especially from marketing, may it be somebody trying to sell us an app or trying to put us in some type of listing. We’ve had a lot of people with more of the traditional marketing standpoint, like the paper advertising and stuff like that that we’ve just chosen that’s not the direction we would go.
Nate Arkush: I would say we did test a few things. We tested some radio ads and we tested some print ads, and we just didn’t really feel like we were able to really quantify an actual ROI on that. It was just very difficult to do. And we feel like, especially with our experience with the digital marketing side, especially with Google and Gmail and YouTube, that we’ve been able to really pinpoint a specific ROI and literally tell, to the exact amount of people, the amount of new customers that these channels have brought in.
Nate Arkush: We just feel a little bit more comfortable investing our money into more of the digital marketing side, may it be through boosting Facebook or boosting Instagram, down to more of the Google and YouTube ads, where we can really quantify where our dollars are going and also hone in on a specific demographic. I think that’s a little bit more, too, of where that general traditional marketing of print and radio, it’s very difficult to understand who am I getting this message in front of. That’s one of the things that we find is a huge benefit to the digital side is that we can pinpoint exactly where it’s going.
Steve Kroll: Yeah, you guys were doing digital ads by the time you came to us. I know that you were self-critical of maybe how good of a job you guys were doing, but I think you were talking about ROI, getting people in, getting in front of users. I guess, what led to that decision to, hey, let’s start running some ads, versus just relying purely on word of mouth or some of those other traditional channels?
Nate Arkush: Yeah, I think for us, we obviously know that it’s an investment to acquire new customers, but we are confident, based on our service execution and our food quality, that we have a high chance of return customers. So we probably look at it a little bit differently than maybe the standard restaurant out there that may not have as differentiated a product or as high quality of customer value proposition, where some traditionally, where you’re looking at… If you’re looking at an $8 or $10 customer acquisition, to a lot of restaurants, that may be like, “Well, if our bowls are $10, that just doesn’t make sense.” But for us we look at the lifetime value of a customer.
Nate Arkush: We started looking at how we can diversify and get new customers in the door. We did try Google, and it’s funny, we did it in-house originally to kind of test it out. We like to bootstrap almost everything as much as we can, so that we understand what we’re working with. I think that’s made us, even though we had a lot of bumps and bruises with the Google along the way, I think it’s made us a little bit more educated. We’ve learned a ton, a ton more working with Granular, and really, I think come full circle with our digital marketing program.
Nate Arkush: One of the funny things that I talk about with my partners is when we were doing it in-house, the North Avenue store was getting calls on a regular basis from the county jail and at Greyhound, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on and we couldn’t tell why are we getting… Is this some weird listing?
Nate Arkush: It came down to… Obviously, we had no affiliation with the county jail or Greyhound on our Google, but it just came down to that specific… I think we didn’t have quotation marks around the word and, or it wasn’t around the word or, and it was something, a small detail like that, that we were literally… These people were clicking, they were searching for the Greyhound bus in Milwaukee, and somehow FreshFin was coming up on that search.
Nate Arkush: So not only were we getting the calls and it was bombarding our team, and we couldn’t figure it out for like weeks, but we were also paying for those clicks, which was just… It was just a learning experience, where it’s like, okay, we like to bootstrap stuff, but it doesn’t always make it better.
Nate Arkush: I think that’s one of the things that we’ve learned growing the business. That first year, we bootstrapped almost everything that we could, and it doesn’t always come out with the best result at the end. I think that goes for tiling your own floor to… We tried doing all of our books in-house for the first few months. It didn’t work out and had to bring professionals in. Now that we’ve learned from them, now we’re starting to take that back over.
Nate Arkush: I think that the digital marketing side is the same, where we are now getting a much, much better actual ROI and coming full circle now that we have a program that is going to the right demographic. It’s not going to that Greyhound customer per se; it’s going to the exact demographic that we’re looking for. We’re seeing a lot more new customers in the shop now due to it.
Steve Kroll: Cool. Yeah. Like we’ve talked about here, I know you guys are self-critical and beat yourself up over it, but I’m glad to hear that you also can see the silver lining in, hey, we bootstrapped it, we tried it out. From our standpoint, I think I mentioned like, “Hey, it gives us data to work with. We know what doesn’t work,” and it made it much easier when we had that foundation.
Steve Kroll: If you wouldn’t mind talking about it some more in terms of… Around last year we started working together with FreshFin and taking a look at how we can take your pay-per-click advertising and digital channels and help you meet your goals. Maybe talk about how that process was like and how we’re looking at the pay-per-click advertising we’re doing with us versus when you guys were doing it in-house.
Nate Arkush: Yeah. I think what has been the biggest benefit with that, and Jeremy has done a phenomenal job with our account, is looking at what is our end goal, but then there’s all these 10 steps in between. I think really identifying what is our customer was the most beneficial, and finding that, where we’ve really narrowed down like, “We have been all right, at these higher levels. Okay. So we can look at YouTube,” which we never thought about before meeting with you guys, especially understanding the value that’s along with that as far as the pay-per-click is just a phenomenal value with that versus a lot of these other channels, and being exposed to a broader digital marketing presence where you can be on Waze and you can be on Google and you can be on Gmail.
Nate Arkush: But the nice thing is that we knew that you could narrow down a demographic before; we just didn’t know how to get there. I think that that’s been the most beneficial is we’re finding a much higher ratio of customers actually coming into the shop because we’re hitting that specific demographic for these new customers.
Nate Arkush: Also, I think creating a call to action that makes sense and that’s cohesive with our brand is incredibly important. Something as large as that was something that we were kind of overlooking in the past. Our message wasn’t really….. It was 75% capturing attention, but it wasn’t really putting it full circle as far as getting that customer in the door.
Nate Arkush: Then the other part that we have found a ton of value in is really being able to track that ROI, send them to our website, get them to sign up for a loyalty program and be a part of our e-newsletter, which then keeps us engaged with them, and then also kind of working with our point of sale to be able to really track the ROI.
Nate Arkush: Those are all the things that we went from… We stepped up our game multiple times by just kind of looking at that cohesive, not just looking at, okay… I think when we were doing it, we were looking at how can we just… how can we get these customers in the door and get awareness out there, but we weren’t coming full circle with all those other elements of really hitting the demographic that we were looking for, looking at multiple digital channels so that we can get to a wider audience still within the similar budget, and then driving them to our website, driving them to our loyalty program, and ultimately getting them into our shop.
Nate Arkush: To be honest with you, these are all things that we knew could happen, but when you’re running a business and there’s all these other things that are happening, it’s that organization of getting… It was a three or four-month process for Jeremy to hound us for a long time to get all those components done. There’s a lot of elements to it.
Nate Arkush: I think having a firm that understands that, that’s able to be very efficient in that, and help us get to that step, was just really huge benefit to us and has really upped our game in that sense.
Steve Kroll: Sweet. Yeah. Selfishly, that’s awesome to hear, but at the same time it’s been really cool seeing how you guys have been able to grow and just seeing the FreshFin leadership team, you guys now are throwing out acronyms and talking about things that a year ago you wouldn’t have been talking about. That’s really cool just seeing that you guys have more insight and are empowered.
Steve Kroll: I guess that leads me to a question around sales calls. You talked before, you get inundated with tons of people trying to sell you stuff. A lot of these people are credible, they’ve got good expertise, but you’re a business owner, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on, a lot of people coming at you, especially as you’re growing. What do you use as your framework for deciding, who am I going to trust to work with versus what are we going to try and hold onto in-house?
Steve Kroll: I know you talked about switching the bookkeeping externally, partnering with us here at Granular. We’ll focus there. What made you feel comfortable working with us versus a lot of these other people that you had coming at you?
Nate Arkush: I think for us it was because it was more relationship based off of… I felt like it wasn’t a hard sell. I think I’ve learned previous to being an entrepreneur, and as an entrepreneur especially, if somebody’s really trying to sell you hard, especially if it’s over the phone or they’re constantly coming in, in my mind that’s typically because it’s a high- commission-based position, which means that there’s probably a lot of reason that there’s a lot of margin on the table.
Nate Arkush: I’m not that type of thing, and we get that constantly. I get it to my emails, to my cell phone, to the shops. When we always have new cashiers that say, “Oh, somebody called for the owner,” I say, “If they called for the owner, I don’t need to answer it because they’re trying to sell us something.”
Nate Arkush: For me, it was more of we were able to develop a relationship, and I think Granular was able to step back and say this is something we could provide value on when the time is right for you guys; you just let us know. I think that we, once we had some of those bumps and bruises with our Google ads in particular, we started talking about conversations again, and it just seemed like something that was organic and it seemed like more of a partnership than a transaction. That, to me, was really, really important specifically to why we are working with Granular for our digital.
Nate Arkush: I think that we’ve found that with everybody that we’ve partnered with. The guy that does our website is a good friend of ours, and the person who does our branding is a good friend of ours. And Heather has a network of everybody that’s on her team. And vendors are people that we trust and aren’t trying to just give us a hard sell.
Nate Arkush: We’ve sometimes gone down that route in smaller capacities where something sounds good and it’s more of that sell rather than that organic partnership value proposition, and that’s really what we found as the most beneficial to us as our long-term partners, even may it be general contractors or vendors, that we found that people that like our product, that like us, that we have somewhat of a previous relationship with, those are the partners that we’ve found to be the most beneficial for us.
Steve Kroll: Sweet. Yeah. No, that’s super helpful. I guess to that point, I think through people who would be listening to this podcast, especially others that can relate a lot to you, restaurant owners, small business owners, I guess what advice would you have as far as if you’re looking to dip your toe in the water, get involved with this, versus outsourcing it, what the right approach is to take in terms of you’ve got to figure out how much am I going to spend on this, how much can I do, how much can I outsource? It can be a bit paralyzing.
Steve Kroll: Your team was structured where you had multiple partners, you had resources from people that you could trust, that you could kind of share the load. For maybe some individuals where it’s maybe just them solo, what would you recommend?
Nate Arkush: I would recommend just testing, always testing. If it sounds like it’s a good opportunity, try to test it before diving all the way in. That’s what we did on Google and we found that there was value, even though we weren’t 100% full circle on managing it ourselves. We were more educated and knew that there was value in it.
Nate Arkush: When we sat down and talked with you guys about how can we improve this, we were probably a little bit more educated from a client standpoint, and we knew what we liked and what we didn’t like and kind of the direction we wanted to go, even though it wasn’t perfect. I don’t think that we had any damage per se from managing it in-house.
Nate Arkush: But that’s kind of what we look at almost everything, may it be maybe testing a new product out, maybe switching a potential vendor, is kind of testing, and it doesn’t always work out. Andrew and I talk about that constantly, is test, and sometimes you fail.
Nate Arkush: To be honest with you, and I joke about this all the time, probably seven out of 10 of my ideas are the worst ideas in the world. Either Andrew or somebody on our team will look at me and be like, “I don’t know.” But I’ll never stop doing that. I don’t mind that, when we toss an idea of mine out, or even if we try it and it doesn’t work.
Nate Arkush: I had the idea to put beets on our menu, sous-vide roasted beets on our menu, and I was the only one who was into it. We had a couple vegan team members who were like, “Oh, that’s cool.” I think Andrew was the one like, “I don’t know.” We tested it, and it was the worst idea ever. We sold like three in the first month. I looked at Andrew and I said, “You’re totally right. All right, we’re going to take it off the menu.”
Nate Arkush: But we don’t really have many losses like that. Yeah, we lost some product in beets, and that is what it is. Who knows, beets could have taken us to the promised land. You never know. It could have provided value to, especially, a vegan demographic; we found that it didn’t.
Nate Arkush: That’s kind of how we look at things is test and see what works. There’s a lot of things that we find, pretty quickly, not the right fit, but once you dive in 100% on something without really knowing if this is going to be a good fit or not, you’re either allocating too much resources into something that may not be a good fit or you’re not able to test more quantity of things.
Nate Arkush: Obviously, typically want to be more quality than quantity, but testing new concepts, testing new ideas, I like to be a little bit more quantity on that so that we can narrow down, all right, this is a good idea or this is terrible. Sometimes the ideas that you think are going to be the worst, you test it and you find out it’s great. Others, they just don’t work out.
Nate Arkush: We go through that constantly. I think the thing that I personally go through with that a lot is more like testing products and vendors and trying to keep things as efficient as possible while improving like our supply chain as well.
Steve Kroll: Sweet. Yeah, so definitely heard testing in their lot, just having that mindset and just having the courage to do something, versus overanalyzing and you’re not putting anything out there.
Nate Arkush: Yeah. That was one of the things that I learned actually in business school from one of my professors, and Andrew and I talk about it a lot. It’s almost the lean startup model, where if you wait until everything is 100% perfectly lined up to do any type of project, may it be launching a new company or may it be switching over to a digital marketing firm, whatever it is, or anything in between, if you wait until you’re 100% there, you’re never going to do it, or you’re going to accomplish 10% of what you would.
Nate Arkush: We kind of go for it, like, “All right, sounds good,” we’re 60%, 70% ready, and let’s go. As long as we’re not going to totally flop on it and we can execute it, we try to do that, because if you wait until you’re 100% ready, you’re just going to accomplish less.
Steve Kroll: Cool. Yeah. I guess one of the questions I had for you before we wrap up here is obviously FreshFin was a new endeavor, but you’d went out to the West Coast and got to sample a lot of other restaurants. I’m sure you’ve gotten to know a lot of restaurants and businesses in your time running FreshFin. What are some of those businesses or organizations that you admire for their marketing or branding, or the way that they approach things as far as customer service, that you actively think about when you’re building and growing FreshFin?
Nate Arkush: I think with our model, it’s no surprise that I’ve always felt like the leader and king in the last 10 years of the fast-casual model is obviously Chipotle. I just have a ton of respect for them. I think what they’ve been able to do from a branding standpoint is really connect the customer with that sourcing aspect and showing the customer the differentiation of what what makes them different than any of their competitors, may it be Qdoba or may it even be if they’re competing with McDonald’s for that same dollar.
Nate Arkush: That, to me, has been very interesting, and we’re trying to up our game currently, spent the last six months really getting more of our sourcing in front of the customer. Because we are buying premium products and we’re spending a lot of money on it, we feel like messaging that to the customer, and using them as a model to look after. I think they’ve really been the first in the fast casual market to really capitalize on that.
Nate Arkush: From a marketing standpoint, also in fast casual, another leader that I have a lot of respect for is even like a Blaze Pizza, where they’re not focusing as much on that sourcing aspect, but they’ve been able to enter new markets rapidly in the last five or six years, and they’ve been able to make a big splash in those markets.
Nate Arkush: I haven’t identified exactly what they’re doing properly, but we know firsthand it’s very difficult to enter a new market and make a splash. There’s a lot of noise, especially in larger markets. I think for us, just when we do enter a new market, getting our food out there, doing as many events as we can, getting sampling out. I don’t know exactly what Blaze has done with that, but they’ve done a phenomenal job at really capturing the attention of the dozens and dozens of new markets that they went to within a two or three-year period.
Steve Kroll: Yeah. We’ve talked about Blaze before. Just myself personally, my wife, we’re big fans. It’s just one of those experiences when you go there for the first time, similar to FreshFin, where you think, “Boy, how come someone else hasn’t figured this out?” They’ve got that it factor.
Steve Kroll: I would like to think that a big part of their success doesn’t have to do with the fact that LeBron James is an owner and appears in commercials for them. I don’t know if that helped.
Nate Arkush: Probably didn’t hurt, yeah.
Steve Kroll: I don’t know if any of any of that is in the works.
Nate Arkush: LeBron, if you’re listening, we’re taking on new investors, man.
Steve Kroll: We’ve got our own MVP candidate here in Giannis for FreshFin
Nate Arkush: That’s true. That would be a great fit. Yeah, that would be a great fit. If you ever have a chance to talk to him, I would love the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about that.
Steve Kroll: All right. If Giannis is listening to this, or anyone from the Bucks, and he’s interested in partnering with FreshFin, the invitation is there.
Nate Arkush: For sure. The Bucks have actually been great, great partners to ours. We’re thrilled to be in the Fiserv Forum, and they’ve done a great job with that. Yes, we would love the opportunity if it was ever on the table.
Steve Kroll: Cool, man. Well, yeah, that’s all I had. Before we part, obviously want to give FreshFin another shout-out, freshfinpoke.com. On social, the handles are mostly FreshFin Poké on Instagram and Facebook. Those are the two platforms you guys are most active on with social. Are there other platforms that you direct users to?
Nate Arkush: Yeah. We’re a little bit on Snapchat as well. Obviously, yeah, just go onto our website. We have great delivery services at almost all of our locations. You can just go to the order online link so you can pick up in the store if you want to order ahead. Obviously, we have a newsletter where you can sign up for that. There’s a lot of opportunities to stay connected with us and a lot of promotional opportunities out there that we’re working with Granular on. Yeah, come on in, check out the food, and we’d love to see you in.
Steve Kroll: Cool. We’ll sign off on that. Thanks, man.
Nate Arkush: All right, thank you.
Steve Kroll: Thanks.