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Matt Snell, chief executive at Gusto Italian, reveals how breaking away from the pack and banning discounts has positively impacted customer sentiment and the guest experience.
Stopping discounts improved our NPS
Using data to help form a plan, Matt Snell reviewed guest feedback data from Feed It Back and could see that Gusto was tracking lower than the Premium Casual sector on key guest metrics.
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Matt Snell joined Gusto Italian as CEO 5 years ago. The previous strategy was largely property based, and this had resulted in lots of underperforming restaurants in Suburban towns. Discounting was the main method in driving covers and sales and had become a way to keep the bank happy. Matt identified that the business was in this spiral “of every single year having to go deeper with discounting” and was keen to change the conversation.
Matt questioned if the price was driving advocacy and loyalty? He couldn’t fathom why Gusto couldn’t drive covers without discounting. When looking deeper at the data, it was clear that guests weren’t returning because they loved Gusto, returning guests were actually identified as “a promiscuous guest, just looking for the best deal on the day”.
Stats Pre-Covid vs Top Performer in Sector
“3 years ago, we had an unexpected guest, Covid”. The break from trading during Covid allowed Gusto the time to look at their data more deeply. “We were able to deeply understand what mattered to our guests…and guess what? It wasn’t price!” The recommended action from Feed It Back in one of their insight presentations; “Get the food right, and the guest will see the value” really struck a chord with Matt and he then knew he had to focus on food quality.
Matt embarked on a painful 6 months through their CVA. Whilst Gusto had to sadly close some restaurants, the result was a debt-free business with “no responsibility to continue to drive sales and covers in the way we’d been doing”.
The plan was to now focus on the food, stop all discounting and really drive up the guest experience even with the foresight that covers would decline in the short term, but spending would hopefully increase.
Watch Matt Snell’s presentation at Restaurant Marketer & Innovator 2023 explaining how they’ve achieved such excellent results here:
What did they do differently? – The New Gusto Italian
- Executed a plan to stop all discounting.
- Launched ‘Gusto Gold Rewards’, a return-driven loyalty scheme to reward Gusto-loving guests and drive repeat business.
- Operational focus on food quality.
- Value engineered the menu by increasing the price of dishes.
- Focussed on being a destination for special occasions.
- Introduced ‘Pizza Experiences’, which “subliminally teaches adult guests in a fun and engaging way, just how good the food is”.
- Redefined what an Open Kitchen means by taking inspiration from fine dining, making the dining occasion a completely different experience.
- Premiumised the offering with Instagrammable share-worthy décor (beautiful Olive trees) and experiential dishes.
In addition, Gusto now has a more engaged customer database which is evident from more opens on emails, more engagement on social and a higher visit frequency. Spending per head is higher, as well as the profit per visit. Guests receive better service, and all guest metrics are up from pre-Covid. Matt and the team are focused on continuing to develop experiential concepts and guest loyalty through the experience.