I am Andrew Feigenson. I love a challenge. Hard problems, transformations — the more insurmountable it seems, the more excited I am.
So of course in April I became CEO of Fishbowl, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the company serves restaurants, and we were in the heart of a global pandemic that has had devastating effects on this industry.
Seems like a crazy thing to do, right? But both Fishbowl and the restaurant industry presented huge potential and big challenges, and our business was ripe for transformation.
The thing is, every business transformation follows a pattern — embedded mindsets that have evolved from a special thing that made the business great, later can prevent adaptation to changing realities.
This was the case at Fishbowl, a brand that essentially invented the eClub as a way for restaurants to connect with their guests. Fishbowl, founded by restaurant entrepreneurs and beloved in the industry for many years, later struggled to overcome the email marketing box into which it had painted itself.
Two things were clear. First, we had to become rapid innovators. Second, we needed to have full-fledged CRM and loyalty capabilities. So in April, we set off on an ambitious mission to evolve into the industry-leading marketing technology platform we felt the industry needed.
Within the first three months we launched Engage – our next generation platform. On the heels of that launch we upped the ante, committing to “high velocity product innovation” – the practice of releasing at least one new meaningful feature, function or product each month – and launched expanded customer journeys and our CRM capability. And today, we are happy to officially have a loyalty program offering that includes points-based gamification and an associated app.
While we were happy with our progress, it also struck us that the concept of point-based loyalty programs wasn’t exactly novel. After all, how exciting could a “punch card” be if we were able to launch it in less than three months?
When thinking about what we wanted from our future loyalty program, we took a big step back and looked at the industry as it is now, amid the radical changes the world has gone through since February. Loyalty programs have served two purposes in the restaurant industry. One has been gamification – helping drive loyalty through things like point schemes. The other was data mining – the ability to tie a guest to a set of transactions.
We realized that the world has gone dramatically digital in a very short period of time, as restaurants adopted online ordering, delivery, and touchless experiences. In fact, some of our customers were seeing as much as 60% of their business coming in through digital channels. And when you look at any other industry, a move to digital is immediately followed by a rise in personalized experiences at scale.
As examples, think about Netflix, which serves different program artwork to different people based on their behaviors. Amazon, which makes fantastic recommendations (and makes me buy more than I probably should). Nest, which uses your behavior to recommend how to manage temperature in your home.
The funny thing is, we inherently recognize the power of personalization in the restaurant industry. We build locations and experiences to make people feel at home. We train servers to welcome guests by name, and to recommend meals and packages based on what they’ve learned about their loyal guests over time. However, we have yet to adopt technology which does this at scale.
Just go to your favorite restaurant’s website and see if their menu items and pictures look different to you than your friend who has different dietary preferences. Order curbside pickup or delivery from a place you frequent and see whether they know who you are. See if your email promotions or menu pricing changes on hot days vs. rainy days. In all cases, you’ll notice the answer is probably no. So how do we help restaurants make their guests feel as valued and known in their digital interactions as they do in person?
Our team recognized this as a huge opportunity, and a guide for our next chapter and next mission. We know we can learn things from other industries and apply that knowledge to restaurants. We also know this will require the industry to address its own embedded mindsets around what experiences really mean and how personalized experiences apply to a business that often thinks about “bringing food in the back door, assembling it and sending it out the front door.”
With this in mind, we are thrilled to announce that the Fishbowl brand will be called Personica going forward. Instead of harkening back to a nostalgic time when customer relationship management began with a physical business card, we are excited to move forward, into a future where every customer gets the personal experiences they desire and every restaurant gets the ROI they deserve.
Our ownership structure remains the same. Our talented team will continue their high product innovation cadence. We will continue focusing on stellar client service. And we are going to invest aggressively in bringing personalization to you.
In closing, I’d like to thank the valuable advisors who have influenced our thinking greatly. Thanks also to our investors at Symphony Technology Group, for supporting some of the forward-looking decisions we’ve made. We owe a huge thanks to our many clients as well, who have weighed in through formal and informal input. Most important, I’m unbelievably proud of our talented team, who has moved heaven and earth since April to make this transformation a reality.
Andrew Feigenson has been the CEO of Personica since April 2020, and has a passion for leading companies through transformative growth. Before leading the company formerly known as Fishbowl through a year of transformation, he executed a turnaround and subsequent merger as CEO of Simmons Insights, and led multiple business transformations as a top executive at global data giant Nielsen (NLSN).