Flame Broiler Inc. didn’t have to do much in the way of marketing for the start of its online ordering rollout.
Given digital ordering has become the norm for many consumers, the Santa Ana-based Korean-inspired rice bowl chain’s head of technology and brand Daniel Lee said the orders immediately came in when corporate began piloting it at its eight company-owned restaurants in the fall.
“It didn’t take any coaxing,” said Lee.
Flame Broiler currently counts 180 restaurants, with roughly 60 now offering online ordering. The goal is to have it launched systemwide by the end of the year.
Implementing the technology had been in the works for awhile at Flame Broiler, as has been the case for many restaurant companies.
“It was something that most in the restaurant industry had already started toying with and then the pandemic just accelerated a lot of that,” Lee said.
Most of the Flame Broiler locations offer online orders for in-person pick up, but Lee said the chain has begun testing delivery at corporate-owned stores.
“It’s a little bit different on the operator side for stores, so it requires a lot more. There’s just a lot more to think about on our end,” he said, explaining a lot of planning goes into aspects such as packaging and refunds.
Franchisees will begin testing delivery in the next couple weeks, according to Lee. The final phase of channel diversification for Flame Broiler would be the launch of curbside pick-up in the next few months but that, he explained, “is an entirely different animal” when it comes to the operations portion.
For now, the company’s restaurants will service online orders from their respective kitchens, although the company’s monitoring the environment around ghost kitchens, Lee said.
Tech to Stay on Brand
The executive balances two different responsibilities in his role at Flame Broiler.
Lee, as head of technology, is at the forefront of bringing new tools to the company, something particularly important considering the current business environment. Software to help with forecasting and trends is key.
“From a data front, that’s become really challenging all of a sudden because if you’re trying to forecast demand, all of a sudden all the historical data we have, it’s not useless, but if you think about this time period last year versus this time period this year, it’s just very different,” Lee said.
He added most brands are scrambling just to figure it all out.
The executive’s other role, as head of brand, also keeps him busy with a loyalty program currently in the works. That could launch as early as year’s end and could be tied to an app.
The company also has more promotions, something it’s had to carefully map out considering COVID.
“One of the biggest challenges we have right now is the in-store real estate, just how much pure signage square footage we have to be able to promote certain things we’re doing,” Lee said.
Areas where indoor dining used to occur are essentially dead space for marketing materials or anything else. That’s made it more difficult to market new offers. Social media or display ads have helped offset that to some extent. In other cases, some promotions have simply been delayed.
Added Lee: “We’ve had to prioritize what we want to launch and when.”