Huddle House highlights local restaurants online with the Yext Knowledge Engine
Huddle House was founded in 1964, Decatur, Georgia, as a place for folks to gather — or “huddle up” — for great food and good times after Friday night American football games. The founder, John Sparks, established the restaurant’s core values of serving quality food in a warm, friendly environment. Those values remain intact, though the company continues to evolve with the times. The menu includes a variety of not only great breakfast items, but lunch and dinner courses as well, all of which take their place beside favourite “House” classics. Rooted in the South, the company is now franchised in 21 states with over 400 locations either open or in development, many of which are open 24-hours.
“Our mission is bringing friends and family together over delicious food, served from the heart,” states Alison Glenn Delaney, Chief Marketing Officer. “Huddle House has a neighbourhood feel; our owners and their team members develop close relationships with their guests. In many towns, Huddle House is really the meeting place, the gathering place where friends and families catch up and socialise.”
The restaurant’s service philosophy fosters the personal touch that keeps customers coming back year after year. “Whenever we talk with our customers about their Huddle House experience, the first impressions they mention always have to do with the servers,” explains Glenn Delaney. “Many of our restaurants are the cornerstone of the community, and sometimes two generations of servers from the same family work there. They know their regular customers. We have a lot of people that come in three to four times a week or even every day! So the servers get to know them. It doesn’t take too many visits before they are asking them about their children or grandchildren. There is a unique relationship built between the guest and the server here.”
Word of mouth and tradition keep the Huddle House brand strong, but the company is also exploring new opportunities to grow. “Continuing to expand our reach and engaging people who might not have found us in the past is core to our strategy,” Glenn Delaney says. “It’s a mobile-first world, and though we know not all of our guests are using smartphone, the vast majority are using applications like Facebook, Google search or Apple Maps. They will use their phones as a GPS device to help them get around.’ And that’s why we are working fast to incorporate a mobile-first strategy into our marketing.”
Glenn Delaney understands how influential digital presence management can be for a company. “There has been a longstanding belief that mobile presence doesn’t matter as much for companies like Huddle House because many of our customers live in smaller rural towns and just know that our restaurants are there. But even if five percent of our customers or potential customers are searching online, that could be a five percent increase in sales. We’d never know if we didn’t do it — it’s untapped potential, plain and simple.”
Huddle House Launches the Yext Knowledge Engine to Expand Its Reach
When Glenn Delaney joined the company, it was clear that local listings needed to be cleaned up and made consistent. “You don’t fly from city to city when you’re visiting restaurants in the Huddle House System — you get in the car and drive because we’re not near major metros with airports; we’re in smaller towns and cities,” she explains. “We serve people on long road trips too, so it’s extremely important that people passing through are able to locate us easily. When I first joined Huddle House and I was learning the Huddle House System, when travelling, I would search on my phone in Google Maps; often I would get wrong information. It would take me to a closed unit, or the location wasn’t exact, or there’d be multiple addresses listed. We tried fixing it manually at first. One of my field marketing directors used to go into Google My Business and handle updates and corrections for franchisees when we became aware of incorrect information. But it was clear to me that we didn’t have the bandwidth to manage multiple locations; we needed to work with the experts.”
Huddle House uses Yext Listings and Pages to manage the public facts about its brand. The Yext Knowledge Engine enables brands like Huddle House to manage the digital knowledge about their people, places and products across their websites, mobile apps, internal systems, and the entire Knowledge Network — over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems, and social networks including Google, Apple, Facebook, Bing, and Yahoo.
Glenn Delaney first became aware of Yext when the company’s CEO went to a leadership conference and put her in touch with someone he met from Yext. “Once Yext came in and showed us the platform,” she recalls, “I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is great!’ because I knew it would help drive people to us.”
One challenge Glenn Delaney faced in evaluating solutions was getting lost in all the soft metrics. “It has been difficult for us to get digital partners to stop using soft metrics and start using hard metrics,” she says. “I want them to tell me how I can use these tools to get people in the door, because that’s something I can measure. With Yext, I could see how it could directly impact sales.”
Glenn Delaney is happy she chose Yext. “We wouldn’t have been able to clean up our listings on our own — we have too many restaurant locations for that. Through Yext we can manage them all efficiently and effectively through the platform, and we can also manage local Facebook pages for all our franchisees. Moreover, Yext set up our local Pages which have been great.” Huddle House’s Yext Pages impressions grew 53% in their first 4 months.
Huddle House examined customer actions before and after launching Yext, and attributed 300% growth in Get Directions clicks to Yext over two years. Using internal metrics for store visit rate and average order value, Huddle House calculated a 7.89x return-on-investment in their second year with Yext, after accounting for operating expenses.
Looking ahead, Delaney envisions other ways Huddle House can use digital presence to help its physical locations. “The world is already ‘mobile-first.’ The smartphone is an appendage now, and people can’t survive without it. We will use Yext to help us connect Huddle House to whatever it is people are searching for — in the future that might be online ordering, gift cards, pay ahead, or loyalty, as we bring those tools online. Today, it is simply using their phone to find the greatest breakfast, at the best gathering place around.”