Episode 5: Overcoming Challenges in Technology Adoption for Restaurants with Mike Norton

Episode 5: Overcoming Challenges in Technology Adoption for Restaurants with Mike Norton

May 31, 2024


Mike Norton, an expert in restaurant marketing, shares insights on the importance of data collection and utilization in the restaurant industry. He emphasizes the need for restaurants to have a cohesive system to collect customer data and highlights the value of tools like reviews and feedback solutions. Norton discusses the challenges faced by the industry in adopting technology and offers strategies for turning customer data into marketing opportunities. He emphasizes the importance of having a good product and customer experience as the foundation for successful marketing. Norton also discusses the impact of surprise and delight strategies in building customer loyalty.


  • Restaurants need a cohesive system to collect and utilize customer data for effective marketing.

  • Having a good product and customer experience is crucial for successful marketing.

  • Surprise and delight strategies, such as giving away free products, can significantly impact customer loyalty.

  • Technology adoption in the restaurant industry can be challenging but is necessary for growth and success.


Shane Murphy (00:00.75)

Hey everybody, welcome back. We are so lucky to have Mike Norton with us today. Mike has a ton of experience in helping restaurants to market themselves on both sides of the fence. He's been someone who's provided software to the restaurant industry for years, but he's also served on the restaurant side in helping to operate franchises. Mike formally co -founded two restaurant tech startups, Crisp, which provides point of sale,

data analytics and marketing solutions for restaurants, as well as Ovation, which provides guest feedback and engagement software to the restaurant industry. And he's also served as the CTO for one of the fastest growing gourmet cookie brands in the country. So needless to say, Mike, we are so pumped to have you on the show today. Thanks for being here.

Mike Norton (00:51.598)

I'm super excited and it's an honor to be able to have a conversation. Shane, you're a dear friend and it's been amazing to see your growth and what you've done over at Boosley and not just a friend, but also like a mentor and leader in the space and really just admire you. And I'm excited to have this conversation, to be able to share what I can with the audience, to be able to help them out. And I think more of these types of conversations is what's needed in the industry.

I think there's a lot of tools and insights that can be relevant and I'm super excited to be able to share some of the things I learned and picked up along the way to give a little bit different perspective about what's possible.

Shane Murphy (01:29.71)

Awesome, yeah, and I think that's so needed in this industry. Sometimes we feel like there's only one or two things that we've tried and maybe they worked, maybe they didn't. And then we're like, okay, I'm gonna make good food. But there are tools and strategies that can really move the needle for these restaurant operators. Maybe, can you start by telling us a little more about your background and how you got into the restaurant industry in the first place?

Mike Norton (01:39.885)


Mike Norton (01:58.862)

Yeah, that has been a very interesting unique path. 2016, 2017, I partnered with Zakkos to start Ovation, a restaurant feedback solution. It's gained a lot of traction in the industry. Some amazing brands are behind it. And we had been placing, it was, we had an MVP tech product. For those that don't know what MVP is, it's Minimum Viable Product, but

We had a survey tool that we were putting in all sorts of different businesses, legal, dental, restaurants. Lucy's Brazilian Kitchen Center Street in Provo, Utah was our first customer that we put in the restaurant space. And what was interesting was we started getting more and more data coming through the restaurant, brick and mortar stores, than any other location. We kind of took a look at that and said, okay, if reviews for restaurants were so important and, you know, it's...

A dental office could only get three to four a day based on their customer base, but restaurants were getting sometimes 10 to 15 reviews a day. What's like, why doesn't this solution exists in restaurants and how can we potentially play part of that solution? And so we ended up going all in on the restaurant space as kind of pointing to there's a large amount of data coming through restaurants, but not a good way to capture it and take action on it.

And that was kind of the impetus of going all in for reviews and feedback. But I think what's important to point out here as I got into that, I also realized that the restaurant industry really lacked a cohesive system to collect customer data, which is the prime and most important part of any business in today's ecosystem. I mean,

We are in a technological revolution with AI and a lot of the other things, and everything needs to be built on data and the infrastructure of how it's being collected. And so in 2018, we started a company called Crisp, which was an all -in -one ecosystem for restaurants with the premise of what can you do with the data once you have it all in one silo. So we had online ordering mobile app.

Mike Norton (04:16.622)

point of sale system, some of the biggest customers on that, Swig, Everbowl, still using that platform today. As far as a way to really connect all the data silos, to be able to have a cohesive customer experience, and then be able to turn around and actually communicate with your customers to drive revenue, but in a way that's actually effective in knowing, okay, if Shane comes in to my restaurant location,

What is he doing? How is he interacting? What is his benefit? What does he want to get out of this? And really understanding those pieces. And there's a lot of different things that we can get into. But the most important thing is like, are you collecting the right data at each step of the customer journey, whether you're using it at this point today or into the future? And we can get into that a little bit more later. But that sets up a world of possibilities for you to dive into your brand. But without it, you're flying blind.

Shane Murphy (05:17.358)

Yeah, I think that is, that's a super important premise and something that like at Boosely, that's almost like the baseline hypothesis that our company was built on is that restaurants have these big data silos. They have data sitting in their point of sale in three different online ordering vendors and the third parties, you know, 66 % of customers are in store and like all there's phone vendors. It's all over the place. and.

we really looked at it from the side of customer data is what makes marketing work. Like you can't really do solid marketing if you don't have those insights. And maybe, can you touch on like why that is? That might be a common question from a restaurant operator that's new in the industry and they're trying to market for the first time in their careers. And why is it that...

It's challenging to market without customer data.

Shane Murphy (06:26.382)

It may have cut out there. I'll repeat that question. So why is it such a challenge to market when you don't have access to that customer data?

Mike Norton (06:26.925)

There we go.

Mike Norton (06:30.862)


Mike Norton (06:39.694)

Yeah, I think this is twofold and one I think the industry is aware of. But I think it's worth highlighting the restaurant industry is five to 10 years behind most other industries. It creates a lot of opportunity, but it also creates a lot of friction points. You have big brands that are spending millions and millions of dollars on their own custom stuff. You have Starbucks, Chick -fil -A, I think really have pioneered it. COVID accelerated a lot of digital dining and transformation.

There's also a lot of buzzwords that are being thrown around right now, AI and different things, but a lot of very few actually are being implemented and actually being utilized. But I think also to the point where the brand operators can think tech forward and be able to empower their team to be able to make that guest experience more digital.

I do have empathy. It is an overwhelming amount of work to get a lot of things implemented. And that's just a lot of compassion, but there's no better place to start than today to actually start onboarding tools that allow you to collect the data. I think there's kind of two parts to this problem is one, how do you collect the data and then how do you use the data? And I think this is like a good kind of...

way to start talking about what we were doing at Dirty Dough, where we were using Boostly to collect phone numbers in a very simple, easy way that allowed customers to onboard, see our weekly menu rotation, be able to reach out with deals and discounts for engagement. And I think that's the other component is, and where there is empathy is brands have a lot to do operationally. I realized that more and more on when I was operating behind the scenes at Dirty Dough and

Really just understanding that there is bandwidth limitations, there are things that have to be done, rolling out and communicating to your entire franchise system on how it all works, how it all is communicated. Like those operational things are very challenging. However, with the right strategy and the right purpose, it will actually pay off a hundredfold. I'm very confident in that. If you have the right strategy and the right tech partners that you're working with to be able to bring that into fruition.

Shane Murphy (08:56.654)

Yeah, and so there's kind of the two sides that you mentioned. One is capturing the customer data in the first place and obviously setting up your infrastructure so that you are capturing it, whether that's through your point of sale, through your different technology vendors, even having options where your offline customers can engage with you, where you're able to collect that customer data. But then...

Mike Norton (09:05.325)


Shane Murphy (09:25.102)

It's not enough to just have it. You have to do something with that to actually turn that into a marketing channel. What have been some of maybe your favorite strategies to help turn that data once it's collected into actual like additional revenue or repeat business?

Mike Norton (09:45.23)

Yeah, that's a good question. And I think a lot of this, I think it's really important for the brand to look at what type of strategy they have on the marketing side. At Dirty Dough, it was basically a drop culture. I think Crumble and some other brands really pioneered that as well. And by drop culture, meaning we had a weekly rotating menu where we had a marketing push campaign to drive people with new flavors, new engagements. There's also some legacy brands, fast casual brands, Cafe Rio,

Sweet Greens that are doing an amazing job with a core product and feature set. And I think what is important is to really understand what type of business you are running and how you then want to engage with it, because that can drive the different tools that you want to work with and then the type of campaigns or engagement after. Some of the things that I think would be valuable for is like, customers time and attention is their most valuable thing. And you need to earn that the whole way. And so,

by having the right tools to one, collect it, and there's things that we can talk about, but then how are you following up to make it a cohesive experience? What I have seen in data is the more you bombard a customer, the less likely they are to come back, but you wanna make that meaningful in the sense of how are you actually getting them and communicating with them? So for us at Dirty Dough, we were able to send messages weekly because we had a...

a campaign strategy to update them on the new cookie flavors, but then also get them to gauge in our mobile app and other venues and avenues that we had in place. For other brands, I would not recommend that type of cadence only because it's just a different experience and you want that earned loyalty. I think always a product of the restaurant needs to be first and foremost. And if you have a really good product and then you can start scaling.

kind of that customer outreach and that will just be icing on the cake. Because if you serve and deliver a fantastic product with a customer experience, that lift or the engagement threshold of I reached out to someone, what's the likelihood of them responding back or engaging with the brand? Is it way smaller than if you serve a mediocre product that's not differentiated? You're really having to push really hard to communicate and engage with that customer.

Mike Norton (12:04.91)

And I think those are some key strategies from the top to really be able to have an honest conversation with yourself and saying, like someone just going and saying marketing or text message marketing is going to solve all my problems. It actually might hurt the brand. And so having the right strategies in place to really engage and understand what that is, is super, super important.

Shane Murphy (12:28.878)

Yeah, I think I love I love what you say there that like you have to earn the customer's loyalty like and To really understand what your strategy is. It's okay if you if you know that hey I am not this highly differentiated product. I'm not like using the top -of -the -line ingredients like you just need to acknowledge that and know What your why is your audience coming to you? Like if you know that?

you can earn their loyalty in different ways. And what works for one brand is going to be a very different strategy from another. The dirty dough drop culture of, hey, these new flavors are exciting and that's part of why people come to dirty dough. And that's what they want to see in their engagement. It's very different from a place that is more generic and they know discounts are my bread and butter. If I throw out a discount,

people come and engage because of the discount. And that's what gets me to this pizza place versus Domino's versus Papa John's, et cetera. That strategy is crucial and it should drive your outreach. It should drive your cadence. And above all, having a good product and a good customer experience enables you to have more of that outreach and communication with your customer base.

Mike Norton (13:35.053)


Mike Norton (13:56.366)

Yep. And I also say that coming to mind because having been on both sides of the spectrum, I think operators, we tend to say if we had the solution, it will fix things. And there is some truth to a lot of this, but at the same time, like you have to have, it's an order of operations and you have to have your product, your service, your ops, everything dialed in, in order to really leverage the tools that you guys are talking about. I mean, Boosley did a phenomenal job for us at Dirty Dough.

Shane Murphy (13:56.526)

Mike Norton (14:26.158)

And what we ended up finding in the data is if we had poor service times, we were not able to capitalize on a good customer experience or if we did not have the right signage or capture information, we saw lower performing stores on how they were engaging in a trickled into sales and revenue. But what we really worked with you guys and Mikey on the team, who is your co -founder.

we really looked at the data and how people were engaging to be able to make an assessment and say, this is a strategy that's working. And then we augmented how we were interacting with customers, even collect information and then post follow up to really be able to drive different strategies within it. But it all came back to that core pillar of everything was ready to be able to enable the power of something like Boosley and.

Brands should be working as fast as possible to get those things dialed in to really leverage a technology like Boosley immediately.

Shane Murphy (15:24.566)

Yeah, so I'm hearing infrastructure is super important. There's this order of operations. You have to have a good business before you can scale the good business. And, you know, I think one of the one of the insights here as well is that something that you were doing at Dirty Dough is you were using the data to drive the marketing and the strategy as well where

Mike Norton (15:37.485)


Shane Murphy (15:54.446)

it wasn't just a one size fits all marketing approach. It was based on how are consumers actually engaging with our brand and let that drive some of the marketing, which is really hard to do at any scale, but especially like there are teams where, hey, we have 20 plus units.

We have a marketing infrastructure, we have some in -house team, we have data analysts that can crunch data and help to drive that. But many of these independent SMB restaurant owners, they just don't have the time or the know -how or the ability to really crunch that data. And that's where I think when you go into some of choosing technology partners, you have to see, hey, how much can...

I offload onto these services so that they can help me accomplish that. Because otherwise you live below your potential if you don't have access to the data or don't have the ability to really use that data to drive your strategy. Can you speak to how you've seen that play out in some of the different brands that you've even worked with? Because this is one of the core problems you were trying to solve at Crisp was there's,

there are all these data silos and it's hard to actually market when you don't have access to all of this data. So you were trying to bring that into one place. How did that impact the brands that you worked with and how did their marketing transform as time went on?

Mike Norton (17:33.582)

Yeah, I think that's, those are really good questions. And I think, you know, what I was able to see is brands that really invested in really good content brand strategy were able to really work alongside with technology. I think brands that have one to five locations have a different problem set than you have brands that have between five and 20. And then it goes from 20 to about 150 and then 150.

plus is a different set of problems. And so I think if we broke it down like a one of five type of operation, opening locations between one and two is the hardest for any brand. Go really simple, be able to really focus on the in -store operations, automation, have a really good system like Boostly to be able to plug in and then as you scale up.

It's where are you getting your excess data from? So are you getting it from credit cards? Are you getting it from third party? Are you getting, and do you have a strategy to convert third party users into in -store guests? How are you gauging in -store? And each segment has their own limitations and problemsets that they have to work with because once you start layering on the entire tech stack, everything from online ordering, mobile app, text messaging, third party marketing, it really,

can become a little bit burdensome to watch everything and automate it. And I think like one of the key strategies that whether you're at one or you're at 30 locations, really having that in -store experience dialed in so you're making it really seamless and frictionless to be able to catch customer info. I mean, a lot of it comes down to what is your employee at the point of sale saying to be able to say, hey, I hope you had a great experience with love.

to have you either leave a review or how can we stay in touch? Here's our loyalty system, which then gives the right data to be able to hand off to some of these other infrastructure points. Even if you're not utilizing it at the moment because this bandwidth might be limited, it really sets you up to be able to say, okay, how are my customers? Who's coming back? What's the type of demographic that we're seeing? And then once you have that, then you have a world of opportunities to be able to say like,

Mike Norton (19:54.734)

I want to run this campaign or this customer hasn't been in in 30 days or I see customers that buy these three items spend more on average compared to these guys. It just opens up a whole bunch of different possibilities to be able to go play in that will really set up a better experience because I think one of the things that you'll have to test in your data, but that I've always seen and I still stand by as a surprise and delight. So.

How are you giving away product to be able to engage, just earn that loyalty with your customer base. That will just augment everything that you're doing on the techs or outreach side to just be able to make that guest experience and loyalty just bring it closer to the brand, just drives infinite amount of rewards for the brand.

Shane Murphy (20:44.162)

Why do you think that like surprise portion of the surprise and delight is so impactful? Because I feel that as a consumer, but I'm curious from your perspective.

Mike Norton (20:58.094)

Yeah, so we did a bunch of tests. I'll share the data and I'll share what I think. We have a lot of brands that do very fast -paced purchases, beverage brands, and we did a bunch of testing. We ended up giving away cookies first thing in the morning to the first randomly 100 guests. We tracked them over the next three to six months. They came in three times more often and spent almost 70 % more than guests that were not in that.

experience and I think part of it is if you were to go up to anyone, you remember those moments where Chick -fil -A randomly hands out an ice cream cone and you're like, whoa, I didn't even know that I deserve this because it's such a simple moment. But there's something like food is a very emotional thing and typically you're engaging with it because you really want that flavor and maybe it's just something that you weren't thinking of and yeah, there is...

some costs that the brand has to uphold. But if you think about how to earn that customer or brand new customer, earning a new customer could take anywhere between $50 to $100, depending on what type of strategies you're doing, or if you're just giving out free meals. But if you're talking about an ice cream cone, maybe on the menu, it costs $2 .50, but it really only costs you $0 .37. That is a really good way to just have an engagement of like,

wow, I just feel seen, I feel emotionally understood, and I did not expect this. And I think that is like the easiest thing for a brand to be able to really engage with their customer base.

Shane Murphy (22:36.142)

Yeah, I mean, it's funny that you mentioned Chick -fil -A, because when you said surprise, that was the first thing that came to my mind, is ways that Chick -fil -A has surprised me. And like that has, that keeps me coming back there, even though like there are so many other options. I like almost abuse the Chick -fil -A near my office. And I can't tell you right now why that is.

Mike Norton (22:58.349)


Shane Murphy (23:02.862)

But whenever people ask about like, what's a delightful experience that you've had? Like Chick -fil -A comes to the top of my mind. They've done that ice cream cone. That is a repeatable thing where they came and like gave my kid a free ice cream cone one day. I was like, I'm dazzled. Like that's awesome. Or even they just like, I get a message in the app from the operator of the store and it's like, hey, there's no reason for this, but this is on us.

And that 37 cent experience for their food cost, like does cause us to spend a incredible amount more. It's fun that you were able to see that with that 100 guest test and they're coming in three times more. It really helps to make sense of investing in that. Because if I'm giving away like 100 cookies, like that's a real cost.

Mike Norton (23:46.702)


Shane Murphy (24:00.43)

but the revenue that it pays you down the road is just exponential.

Mike Norton (24:06.189)

Yeah, and I think like there's ways to layer on on top of that, that if you want to look at strategies, if you have top of funnel spend.

Shane Murphy (24:07.534)

I'm, I'm thinking of, of kind of other, other ways.

Shane Murphy (24:18.606)

Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.

Mike Norton (24:19.086)

There we go. No, I was just gonna say on top of funnel, like for brands that are spending and spending their dollars, you have top of funnel and that's outreach of whether it's promotions, collaborations, but then all the way down to the bottom. And I think the easiest way is to really focus on your existing customer base, but also what we started doing at Dirty Doe is ramping up third party delivery ad spend.

and then having really amazing strategies to be able to engage with them, surprise and delight with them in their to -go bags so they want to come back in store or be able to have a way that drops them into a campaign funnel, which wasn't really possible until platforms like Boosly existed to be able to then engage with them off -premise. But these are just super low -hanging fruits, whether it's a one -location operator to a 50 -location operator like...

get inside their head and make them feel valued because human connection is a lost art right now and that is something that everybody should be fighting for.

Shane Murphy (25:26.382)

I absolutely love that. We've talked about some massive golden nuggets here. We've talked about surprise and delight. We've talked about the importance of infrastructure and making sure that the customer is taken care of, the product is good, that you're earning that loyalty first and then like that you're capturing their data so you can have that opportunity to market down the road. Mike, thank you for sharing some of these secrets from your experience over the last.

decade in working with restaurants. Really appreciate your time and all of these strategies that you were sharing today. This was gold.

Mike Norton (26:03.086)

Absolutely, I'm here to help and if anybody has questions, they're more than happy to reach out. I'm on LinkedIn and then Instagram is probably the best way to connect with me and I'm happy to share some insights on the data and how we kind of strategize it around it because I think, you know, people are collecting a lot of things about how to utilize it as kind of this next big wave of how to actually make it active and it's what you're doing at Boosley is amazing because it really simplifies that process.

Shane Murphy (26:31.918)

Thanks, we sure appreciate that, Mike. So yeah, follow Mike Norton on social. You can reach out to him on LinkedIn or Instagram. And thanks again, Mike, for coming on.

Mike Norton (26:43.533)

Absolutely, always a pleasure Shane. Thank you so much.

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