A conversation on adaptation, innovation, and maintaining relevance.

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Give An Ovation is the number one resource for ad-free, bite-sized interviews with restaurant experts. For advice on how to build your brand, hire better, navigate COVID-19, and more, SUBSCRIBE! Available on all major podcasting sites.

Today’s guest is Craig Dunaway, COO of Penn Station East Coast Subs, who shares insights from his 25 years in the restaurant industry. Learn how to spot lasting trends, adopt new technologies wisely, and use a ‘fast follow’ approach to stay ahead without breaking the bank.

We’ll dive into how third-party delivery services are changing the way customers interact with restaurants and why building personal connections is crucial. Discover how brands like Chipotle keep customers loyal despite challenges like rising labor costs and changing preferences.

Thanks, Craig!

Here are some highlights:

What’s the most important aspect of guest experience nowadays? (8:32)

I think it’s to serve the customer the way they want to be served.

… A guest wants to get their product, whatever they’re buying, they want to get it a certain way. And we’ve had to learn that a little bit.

I don’t think you can change consumers’ habits through willpower. I think if people want to use third-party, they’re going to use third-party. You can’t make them come in just because you don’t want to be on third-party platform.

And so I think the last five years that has really shifted from ‘I am the brand, I will tell you how you will buy product for me,’ to ‘I am the consumer and I want you to fill my need or I will go somewhere else.'”

What’s a tactic you’ve used to improve the guest experience? (12:32)

“We have to make it as seamless as possible for the customer.

As an example, one of our biggest selling items is a cheesesteak. And options are onions, mushrooms, banana peppers, and mayo. Well if 90 percent of our sandwiches come with that, why not just default to that and then let the customer take it off so they don’t have to click four extra boxes?”

Who’s someone who deserves an Ovation in the restaurant industry? (16:16)

I follow Jonathan Maze. I think he does a nice job. He’s with Restaurant Business Magazine and he just gives good practical insights, especially for big brands.

I follow The Wolf of Franchising too. I think he gives a lot of good insights into franchising.”

For more, follow Craig on X and head to your nearest Penn Station!

Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out the whole episode, as well as other interviews with restaurant gurus by checking out “Give an Ovation: A Podcast For Restaurants” on ovationup.com/podcast or your favorite place to listen to podcasts.

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