Huddle House CMO on social media, value


Huddle House sales began turning positive early last year with internal improvements, like restaurant remodeling and new limited-time offers, but the brand sought marketing help from outside the company to sustain its positive momentum in 2012.

Chief executive Ken Keymer — who was elevated to his post full-time last April after serving as interim CEO following the departure of Phil Griefeld — found that fresh perspective in new chief marketing officer Marc Butler.

Butler took over advertising, social media, and culinary research and development responsibilities at the family restaurant operator on Dec. 5, and said his new role comes with the welcome problem of facing same-store sales comparisons that reached the mid-single digits by last April.

Nation’s Restaurant News spoke with Butler about how his experience as senior vice president of marketing at Church’s Chicken and on the agency side with Carat USA would help him refine marketing practices at the more than 400-unit, Atlanta-based Huddle House this year.

Since becoming permanent CEO last year, Ken Keymer initiated a lot of changes. How do you want to carry that momentum, but also put your own stamp on things as the new CMO?

The biggest challenge for me is to roll over the high top-line numbers. We’re trying to refine a lot of our procedures, relating to product testing and engaging customers, more than in the past. We’ve got a lot of menu items in our pipeline now, and our job now is taking a step back and asking which is most likely to get guests to come to Huddle House. First and foremost, everything we take out on a national basis has been thoroughly tested from a sales and margin-building standpoint.

From a product standpoint, we’re looking at doing new menu lines, each of which might take one or two different products and allow us to use them multiple ways, like taking an appetizer and using it as an entrée, so that they help with flow-through in the restaurant and have broader appeal. Take our shrimp, for example. We can use our high-quality shrimp product in a basket appetizer or as a po’ boy sandwich, or in surf-and-turf or a shrimp salad. In the past, it was more of a single-purpose product, but now we’re looking for a product we can use more often in the system.