Whataburger Account Planning Project

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Whataburger Account Planning Project

  1. 1. W h a t -A-ReportAlternative/ house agency Lilit Mouradian Kathryn drake Mac Mcwhorter & erin Scruggs
  2. 2. W h a t -A-Report Table of ContentsWhat-A-Mission Page 3What-An-Approach Pages 3-5What-A-Trends Pages 5-6What-An-Impression Pages 6-7What-An-Association Pages 7-8What-A-Menu Pages 8-9What-A-Suggestion Pages 9-11Appendix 2
  3. 3. W h a t -A-missionWhataburger wants to know what 16 - 25 year old Austinites’ health trends andeating habits are, their current associations with the Whataburger brand, whatthey think about Whataburger’s current menu offerings and what they have beenwaiting for Whataburger to introduce. W h a t -An-ApproachOur approach to completing the mission we were assigned began with ourteam identifying creative ways to understand our target’s mind set and habits.We began with making observations of our target, then we sent out a survey todiscover our target’s habits and current mind set of Whataburger in Austin, andfinally we held two focus groups to gather insights and test our ideas.OBSERVATIONS: Each of our team members conducted primary research throughsit-in observations at the food court at the Barton Creek Mall. Three members observedin the afternoon of Sunday, October 17th and one member observed in the evening ofMonday, October 18th. Each person recorded their observations separately and reportedback their findings in our group meeting on Tuesday, October 19th. This exercise aidedus in the process of considering how social implications affect dining, eating, and healthtrends. Our insights from these initial observations helped to expand our ideas of whattypes of questions to ask on our survey. Below are a few of the key observations andinsights gained. (Full observations results available in the Appendix.)*Almost everyone who appeared to be within our target age group who walked in frontof Sarku Japanese and Ruby’s Thai Kitchen would take a free sample, but not all of themwould order from these restaurantsINSIGHT: Sampling might be a great way to increase trial of new menu items.*When dining with others, younger aged girls would follow suit with what their friendsordered. If one ordered a salad, they would all have salads from the same place.INSIGHT: The company they dine with influences what they choose to order.*Most people would pass by the perceived healthy choice of Fruillati Cafe in preference ofSarku Japanese and Ruby’s Thai Kitchen.INSIGHT: People sometimes choose exploring new flavors over health value of food.SURVEYS: Our team created an online survey which we sent out via social media forresponses. We reached out to our own communities, friends, and family first. We alsoused real-time search on Facebook and Twitter to distribute the link. Below you can viewa screenshot where we reached out to a Whataburger brand fanatic., or should we referto him as a Whatazombie. (See Exhibit 1.)The survey was structured so that first basic demographic information was recorded.The survey had a fill-in-the-blank response for ‘the city in which you live’ so that we wereable to specifically pinpoint who fit our target to analyze results for the Austin area only.Our survey was taken by 280 respondents in total and 110 respondents from Austin whofit our target age range. Following this were some questions regarding basic dietaryinformation, which were largely based on the key insights from our observations. 3
  4. 4. Exhibit 1The first set of questions developed on our survey were designed to create a clear pictureof what influences a person’s consumption choices. These influences include behaviorand habits such as whether they eat alone or with friends or family, how often they eatgroceries compared to how often they dine out, how many times a day they eat, whetheror not they have any dietary restrictions, and their perceived healthiness. By asking thesepreliminary questions, we could better understand how Whataburger might fit into theiroverall diet.The next type of questions in the survey consisted of placing competitors againstWhataburger for different menu item choices. An example question is “Of these places, ifyou wanted a burger, where would you go?” The answer choices for this question included:McDonald’s, Jack-in-the-Box, P. Terry’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Whataburger, all of the above,and none of the above. The survey was set up so that each respondent could select morethan one option per question. The first choice answer for respondents was P. Terry’s with43.4%, closely followed by Whataburger with 40.6%. This confirmed our assumption thatP. Terry’s is considered to be a close competitor in the Austin area,which is a competitor unique to this market. When we analyzed thisquestions results further, broken out by ages 16 -19 and ages 21-25,we found that the younger age demographic showed drasticallydifferent results. The 16-19 year olds ranked Whataburger as theirfirst choice with 50% preferring a Whataburger than a burgerfrom one of the other competitors, and surprisingly P. Terry’s was lastwith 8.3%. (For further results, please see Appendix.)After the competitive set of questions described above, we had the respondents performa ranking exercise amongst Whataburger and six of the competitors that we identified inthe Austin market. They ranked the following from healthiest to least healthy: Chick-fil-a,Wendy’s, Sonic Drive In, Whataburger, Jack-in-the-Box, Burger King, and McDonald’s. Wethen followed up with a question asking which factors influenced their ranking decisionthe most and responses included: healthier side options like a fruit cup, low calorie menuoptions advertised, more salad choices, and the types of oils used in frying,/cooking(specifically Chick-fil-a’s peanut oil). 4
  5. 5. Finally, we wrapped up our survey with several questions specific to Whataburger’s menu.One of the questions had respondents rank their perception of Whataburger’s ‘healthiness’using a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being ‘very healthy’ and 5 being ‘very unhealthy’. Whataburgerranked 3.8 on this scale, according to all respondents. This shows that most 16-25 year oldAustinite’s do not view Whataburger as a healthy choice. However, we also asked howoften these same respondents dined at Whataburger, and over 40% eat there at least 1 to2 times a month. We found this surprising, because although they did not perceive it ashealthy, they still choose to eat at Whataburger. We wanted to explore this topic furtherin our focus groups.We also asked questions about what they were likely to order off Whataburger’s currentmenu during different dayparts. This led us to find that the most popular menu items ingeneral for lunch and dinner were the Whataburger, Chicken Strips, and the Whatachick’nSandwich. The interesting thing we noted was that for the late night daypart, breakfastoptions were popular.We concluded the survey by allowing respondents to “add one menu item toWhataburger’s menu”. This question was open ended and gave us a lot of ideas anddirection for our focus groups. (Answers to open-ended responses can be found in the Appendix.)Additionally, as a part of the survey, we asked that if any respondents were interested inbeing a part of our focus groups to supply us with their contact information.FOCUS GROUPS: Our team conducted two 45 minute focus groups on the night ofOctober 19th. The primary goal of these two focus groups was to solidify our learningsfrom the survey and expand on the associations that this age group has withWhataburger. We held these focus groups in a conference room in a Central Austinlocation and video recorded them. In our first focus group, we had five participants.,four of which were male and one was female. In the second focus group, we had sixparticipants, five of which were female and one was male. The majority of our findingscame from direct quotes and inferred insights from these two focus groups. W h a t -a-TrendsAfter careful analysis of our survey results and in-depth focus groups, we discovered thatthere were three segments in which people could be classified in terms of their lifestyleand eating habits. These three segments we have named as the Austin Active, the TypicalTexan, and the Easy-going Epicurean.The Austin Active segment includes people who typically watch what they eat and arevery concerned about the health content of their food. They are interested in nutrition information. They often prefer to cook at home because they can control what goes into their meal. They do not consider “healthier” options like Subway to be in the same category as Whataburger. They are the type of person who likes to stay active as part of a routine, including doing yoga and running around Town Lake. They do so with the intent of burning calories and keeping a certain level of fitness. Their typical daily diet would consist of having forbreakfast a healthy Kashi brand cereal, and a mid-morning snack of abanana. For lunch, they would have a spinach salad withvinaigrette dressing and grilled chicken on top. For dinner,the Austin Active might enjoy a lemon pepper chickenwith steamed veggies. 5
  6. 6. The next segment we defined was The Typical Texan. This is a person who tries to eatwhat is perceived as healthy, but is not overly concerned with nutrition facts and health education. This person works out when they can, but they wish they could do it more often. They often enjoy a mix of fast food, cooking at home, and dining out with friends. They see fast food as a reward or treat and often opt for it when it is convenient. The typical daily diet would consist of Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. For lunch, they might opt for a deluxe crispy chicken sandwich with a fruit cup and diet soda. For a mid-afternoon snack, they might indulge in microwave popcorn. For dinner, they dine “I prefer to eat healthy when I can out with friends at but the convenient factor changesa local Mexican restaurant and order that every once in a while.”fajitas with chips and salsa. Taste is of upmost importance to The Easygoing Epicurean. Their focus is not on nutrition and health. They eat fast food whenever they crave it and working out is not something that they often think about. This doesn’t mean they’re inactive, they just tend to be active in experiences they enjoy, such as hiking through the Greenbelt and dancing with friends. The Easygoing Epicurean sees dining out as a social experience and they often dine out because it’s more convenient, quicker, andoften tastes better than cooking at home. Their typical daily dietconsists of a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes from a localAustin diner. For lunch, they would have a double cheeseburger withlarge fries and a chocolate shake. For dinner, they would indulge inBBQ ribs with loaded baked potato and buttered rolls, to be finishedoff with a dessert of apple pie a la mode.All three of these segments eat at Whataburger, but at different frequencies. This isimportant to note, because from our primary research, we discovered that althoughWhataburger is not perceived as the healthiest option, a majority of our surveyrespondents still eat there. The reason segmentation is important is because we wantto make sure Whataburger offers items that appeal to each segment, regardless of howoften they visit Whataburger. W h a t -An-ImpressionFrom our surveys, we gathered that the reflective consideration of Whataburger classifiedit as generally an unhealthy option. However, we still found that people of all the three segmentations we just outlined eat there on occasion. The focus groups allowed up to dive deeper on what lures them in. We posed questions about factors that influence their initial impression of the Texas homegrown restaurant chain and the following is what we found. INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: In a transitional 6 phase of the focus group, we shifted the
  7. 7. conversation topic from general health trends and eating habits to initial impressions ofWhataburger by having the participants create a web drawingwith all of the associations that the brand brought to the top oftheir mind. The most prevalent response was the 24 hours, 7 daysa week operating hours.This enables the late-night dining opportunity that is seldomoffered by similar competitors. It was noted by one or twoparticipants that even though a few drive-thrus are open late,Whataburger’s dining room is one where people feel comfortable dining in for theexperience. Popular among this late-night crowd, often associated with the late-nighttime period, is the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit and breakfast taquitos. Whataburger was referred to lovingly as “the most social fast food experience” (From a hang-out in high school to the dine-in fast food experience.) One of the participants in our first focus group was not a native Texan. He informed us that he is originally from New Hampshire and lived in Los Angeles for a while. Upon his arrival to Texas, he heard many things about Whataburger, and after eating there concluded that it is “Texas’In-and-Out Burger.” This is in keeping with what many people put on their web, identifyingWhataburger it as uniquely Texan (despite its other Southern locations).Much of what resonates well with those in the focus group is the element ofcustomization and how closely it is weaved with the brand. The slogan “just like you likeit” embodies this core value. This is a key differentiation from the competition. In keepingwith this is the brand image,. Even on the packaging, it states, “ Waiting for your burger isbetter waiting for you.” This leads to our key brand insight that Whataburgeris “worth the wait.” The waiting is built in as part of the experience, whether goingthrough the drive-thru or dining in. People expect to wait for their food,and they don’t mind that it’s not rushed, because that is part of whatmakes Whataburger unique from other fast food restaurants. Thistranslates to customers that Whataburger has a higher quality product,since the restaurant makes their meal when they order it .The passing outof number tents for the table during dining in is one of the coveted and memorable partsof the Whataburger experience.While drawing the webs of their first impressions, almost everyone’s included not onlybrand aspects that we’ve discussed, but also iconic items on the menu that garnered highassociation with the Whataburger brand name. These most popular menu items includedin these webs were the LTO Honey BBQ Chicken-Strip Sandwich., the Honey Butter ChickenBiscuit, and the breakfast taquitos. Many mentioned the higher quality taste of the classicWhataburger. Also of valuable mention were the chicken strips, the different toppings likegrilled onions, the side of gravy and Texas toast. (Please see the webs from our focus groups inthe Appendix.) W H A T -an-AssociationHealth trends are not dependent upon age. We found all three health trendsegments present in both the 16-19 year old group and the 20-25 year old group. Thereason we divided the target into two distinct age groups in regards to associationsis because the target’s interactions with Whataburger differ based on age. Theirexperiences change over time. We anticipate that specific portions of 7
  8. 8. the implementation of our communication strategy will appeal to these two agegroups in different ways.The 16-19 year old age group consists mostly of high school studentswho often go to Whataburger after football games. For this agegroup, Whataburger ranks number one for hamburgers, accordingto our survey. They view Whataburger as a late night hang outbecause not only is Whataburger open 24 hours a day, but it alsoone of the few places that someone their age can go to hang out atthis hour. Also, according to our survey, most of their meals are eaten at home with theirfamily, but some meals are shared with friends through a dining out experience. Mostof these students have recently obtained their driver’s license and with this now haveincreased mobility allowing them the freedom to go where they like. This also gives themthe option to choose which drive-thrus or restaurants to visit. They are no longer solelyrestricted to their parents’ food choices for them. This age group is also very mobile savvyand uses text messaging heavily. The majority of them have web-enabled phones and usethese devices mostly for social purposes. The 20-25 year old age group is made up of mostly college students and young professionals. The people in this group have recently entered into a new lifestage, as they no longer live with their parents and are now on their own. They must take care of themselves, be it financially or otherwise. They usually eat by themselves or with friends, leaving family as less of an influence on daily dining habits. The majorityof these young adults have smart phones and use apps and the mobile webvery frequently. Often these devices are their only phone line, and serve asmultipurpose digital assistants. Unlike the 16-19 year old age group, theiruse of mobile devices is more for everyday life than for a social connection.With age, they now have a “more refined burger taste”. One of our focus group participantsspecifically referred to Whataburger as being a more adult choice than the Happy Meals ofhis youth, because it is a better quality meal in his mind and satisfies his desire to stay clearof jungle gyms and screaming toddlers. Others find that Whataburger fits into their newlifestyle better because it is a late night convenience after long nights of studying or beingout on the town. Even after everywhere else has closed, Whataburger is still open. Oftenwhile roadtripping, Whataburger is a favorite stop because everyone enjoys the dine-inexperience as a break to stretch their legs and get out of the vehicle.Understanding how a person’s age affects their Whataburger experience is importantwhile developing new menu options and offerings because it is likely that the same type ofpromotion that works on one group might not be as relevant for the other. It is somethingthat we found of interest that we were not expecting to find and considered it a valuableinsight worth sharing. W H A T -a-MENUBased on our surveys and focus groups, we broke down our menu suggestions into basicmenu, breakfast menu, and LTOs. As far as the basic menu is concerned, we found thatWhataburger’s hamburgers and chicken strips are loved just the way they are and do notneed to be tweaked in any way. The chicken sandwiches are fine too, but our respondentstold us that they would also prefer spicy versions of the chicken sandwiches, such asthose found at Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s. We are not suggesting that Whataburger try toemulate these places. Chick-fil-A is the strongest competitor when it comes to chicken, 8
  9. 9. so Whataburger needs to do what it can to stay competitive in thissector. Curly fries are a side item that consumers would really like. Weknow this because they were one of the most popular menu add-onsfrom the survey and every single focus group participant (but one)circled curly fries on their list of menu items they would add. Plus,one girl said that sometimes she goes to Jack in the Box specifically for their curly fries. Other side items “all the toppings come in little packages, that should be offered are fruit and salads. Currently salads and it’s just like can be substituted as side items, but this is not mentioned ‘here’s an airplane anywhere on the menu nor is it advertised in any other packet of peanuts’ on way. In order to stay competitive, the current Whataburger your salad. it’s very salads need to be spiced up just a little more, perhaps taking bizarre” the Wendy’s approach, and there need to be more dressingoptions. As one girl from our focus groups said, she doesn’t want “airplane peanut”-typesalads, referring to the individual packages for croutons, dressing, and every other toppingof the salad. Another complaint of fast food salads is the useof iceberg lettuce. Our respondents would prefer romainelettuce. We are not suggesting heavily pushing salads since welearned that this is not something people visit Whataburgerfor, however they need to be advertised as a side item. Anotheroffering that Whataburger currently has but does not advertiseis whole wheat buns. Since our respondents want to see wholewheat buns, Whataburger needs to advertise that they offerthem. BBQ sauce has been offered on certain LTOs but it is not aproduct offering otherwise, and it needs to be. The biggest insight we gained about the breakfast menu isthat it needs to be offered all day, everyday. This is huge andsomething that many focus group participants talked about and survey respondentswanted. The Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit especially is a breakfast favorite. We consideredoffering iced coffees and other fancy coffee drinks but decided this does not fit with thebrand. As far as LTOs are concerned, the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich should be offered as an everyday menu item. It is a very popular sandwich and you can almost see people’s mouths watering as they talk about this sandwich. Whataburger restaurants have all the ingredients currently in-house, making this an easy addition to the everyday menu. Since Austin is a haven for vegetarians and the main Austin competitor for Whataburger, P. Terry’s, offers it, we consideredoffering a veggie burger as an LTO but decided against it because we received mixed resultsbased on our survey and focus groups. We don’t think it should be offered because theresults are not strong enough to back it up. W H A T -a-suggestionWe will offer what we call “What-a-Time”. This will be a time of the day where certainfood items will be discounted. For instance, during this “What-a-Time”, Whataburger couldoffer half price burgers or half off side items, or a free taquito with drink purchase. This isan adaptable strategy that can be used at any time of the day, but in order to reach thistarget, we recommend that “What-a-Time” be run between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am 9
  10. 10. every night of the week. The reason we chose this time is because this is the time that thetarget would usually visit Whataburger and this might increase the likelihood of themgoing to Whataburger over another late-night option like Magnolia Cafe. This discounthour will be advertised through in store packaging and displays, traditional media andon Whataburger’s website, but there will also be an orange light that comes on at therestaurant at this time signifying that when the orange light comes on, it’s “What-a-Time.”Since our target is so mobile savvy, we will offer a loyalty programs through the mobilewebsite we are also recommendingbe built out. This would be “I always have the intention to use them. i mean i have stacks of coupons on myexclusively for the “WB Insiders”. refrigerator that are all expired”The advantage of a mobile loyaltyprogram over a loyalty card is that physical cards can be left at home or lost, but with avirtual card, this is not a problem. Our target never leaves their house without their mobilephone. If a consumer would like to participate in the loyalty program, they simply log on tothe mobile site, and get a virtual punch on their virtual card. The user can also sign up forcoupons through text alerts that are specific to the Zip codes for which they would like toreceive coupons.Through both the mobile site and a special micro-site specifically designated for thispurpose, we will have a consumer generated Limited Time Offer contest. Theway this will work is that users will log on to the site and choose from a list of a variety ofingredients, and build their own LTO burger or sandwich. After they build their product,they can share it with their friends through social media and encourage their friendsto vote for their LTO. On this same micro-site anyone can view all the LTO consumer-generated offers and vote for their favorites. The winning LTO will be featured as an actualWhataburger Limited Time Offer, and the winner will be the voice-over talking about theLTO on television commercials promoting this LTO. The top three consumer-generatedLTO’s will all received a prize. The grand prize winner will not only have their LTO becomea real menu offering, they will also receive free Whataburger for a year. The second andthird place winners will receive a $500 and $150 gift certificate, respectively. This ideawas inspired by the 4food establishment which opened earlier this year in New York City.Their normal menu offerings are voted upon in social media and the creator of the mostpopularly voted ones are rewarded with credit towards free food.From our research we found that Whataburger’s customization of its burgers was one ofthe main brand elements that resonated deeply with our target. We recommend extended this idea even further by offering side option customizations as well. For instance, the customer would begin by picking a main menu item such as a Whatachick’n sandwich or a Whataburger, then they would select the side item they prefer (regular fries, curly fries, fruit, or salad) and then they would select their drink. It would be a build your own What-a-meal type of experience. Often this customization occurs anyway through special requests, but we recommend making it an extension of the brand’s “Just like you like it” core message. This idea was founded upon the insights gained from our focus groups, where several people wrote down what they would order exactly on their initial impression thought web. They associate Whataburger with choices, so we would recommend strengthening this existing association. One of the ideas that first came to mind was the introduction of a Whataburger branded food trailer. Austin is known for its mobile food trailers. We discussed the possibility of having a 10
  11. 11. Whataburger trailer downtown during South by Southwest or having it at Austin CityLimits, but our focus group participants convinced us that this would not be a wiseplan because people go to food trailers for unique foodexperiences. These are often brought to them by unknownnames, not for food that they can find all over the state, suchas Whataburger. However, we do think if this idea were tobe reworked into a classic hamburger stand, from whichWhataburger got its roots, it could be a nice addition to apark-like atmosphere like Barton Springs.Whataburger’s current media mix includes outdoor, television, and radio. We wouldrecommend using these traditional media outlets to advertise the menu add-ons andchanges and also to spread the word about What-a-Time and new Whataburger menuofferings.(All images used taken from Google Images.) 11

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