The Fresh Side of Hospitality
Meet Rachel Layton, Managing Partner of I Love Juice Bar. After an impressive pivot in the midst of the pandemic that recovered sales across 100 units of Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, Fresh Hospitality named Taziki’s Vice President of Marketing + Growth Rachel Layton as Managing Partner of the company’s I Love Juice Bar brand. Rachel has initiated a brand refresh, by developing a more modern prototype to reflect the brand’s millennial customer base.
She is also working on significant menu innovations. Under Rachel’s leadership, the company is launching third-party relationships with DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates.
What should we know about Rachel?
Rachel’s restaurant experience is deep. Before joining Taziki’s, Layton served as the Director of Marketing for A. Marshall Hospitality, which included various brands like Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurants, and Deacon’s New South. There, she was responsible for identifying and creating revenue opportunities through advertising, sponsorships, partnerships, campaign creation, and digital strategy. Rachel created the company’s most memorable philanthropic campaigns and won two Stars of the Industry awards in the region from the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association, and one at the state level given by Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association. In 2017, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce named Rachel a Nashville Emerging Leader in the Hospitality and Tourism Category.
COVID-19 hit so many restaurants hard. What are some key learnings she’s had from her Taziki’s and I Love Juice Bar experience during this time?
COVID-19 taught them how to run the business in a completely new way. They discovered how much folks who swore they would never use delivery, would actually value the convenience. They also discovered how fragile the supply chain that supplies restaurants can really be with so many outages and issues. She believes the industry will be forever changed and convenience will officially be king going forward – with an asterisk by quality because it’s evident that guests are craving artisanship more than ever.
What were some of the initiatives that kept Taziki’s sales positive during this time? And why are they different than other restaurants?
The Taziki’s team made a strategic decision to pivot the entire marketing calendar around off-premise dining. Luckily, it was content they had planned for later in the year, so they bumped it up and back-filled the space that it left void. The Taziki’s ops team also did an amazing job diving head first into implementing every off premise option available – curbside, delivery, third party delivery, takeout stations, and catering for pick-up. They turned their business upside down and were fortunate to have their guests’ trust, so they went from serving them around the restaurants’ tables, to serving guests at their home tables.
What new trends does Rachel see on the horizon for restaurants coming out of COVID?
Rachel thinks the shock waves from COVID will be felt for several years to come. Drive-thru will be prioritized in all restaurant build outs. That will change the way shopping centers can or can’t be built. There will be ‘distance’ between restaurants and guests for a while as everyone emotionally recovers from the isolation we’ve all felt this year.
What should we know about I Love Juice Bar?
Juice Bar was started by a husband-and-wife team named John and Vui Hunt (yes, from another Fresh Hospitality concept you know and love — Vui’s Kitchen!). They were weathering the recession and John had recently adopted the juicing lifestyle. They decided to open a concept where they could share the amazing benefits with others who were not-so-seasoned in juicing, or just didn’t have the time. So Juice Bar was born! Almost 8 years later, there are more than 30 locations nationally.
How would one classify the concept?
I Love Juice Bar is a dairy-free smoothie and juice concept. Of course, they’re a favorite for vegans and vegetarians — but mostly just people who enjoy clean, approachable eating in a convenient way or on the go!
We assume that women are the main target audience for I Love Juice Bar, but who is their ideal guest?
It might surprise you to learn that they get quite a few mature, male business executives during the lunch rush because they don’t have a lot of time but they really value healthy, clean food. Moms are another common demographic for I Love Juice Bar as well, because they love getting something that’s like a treat but healthy for their family.
What will the rebranding include?
The website and the app have both already been updated. And they have launched a new menu in the Nashville market to begin testing. They’re hoping to get all the stores refreshed in 2021, and by 2022, they hope to resume franchising.
How important is delivery and curbside in today’s world and will that continue to be expected in most restaurants in the future?
Rachel notes that both are critical to surviving in general, but especially during the colder months, which is historically a slow time for restaurants. They expect this slow season to be amplified by the pandemic, so they’re preparing–more than ever–to take food to guests, wherever and however they want it.
Resources and Links
Rachel Layton on Linked In
I Love Juice Bar’s website