To Genevieve Babineau, the mission was clear. A man operating anonymously was going to visit the California Pizza Kitchen where she worked, eat in the restaurant, and report back about the experience.
The secret shopper was not exactly unidentifiable; he—G. J. Hart—was the then CEO of the company. That night Genevieve scoured the Web for his photo and spied on him the next day during her shift.
She made it a point to shake his hand. Then she drew his attention to the vibrant local community and asked him questions. What was California Pizza Kitchen going to do about food waste? Why wasn’t the company testing programs that benefited local communities? How could California Pizza Kitchen be a brand that cares?
This was in 2011 when Genevieve Babineau worked as a server at a California Pizza Kitchen in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
What Genevieve was trying to express was that forming meaningful partnerships with the community could have an outsize effect on sales. Most importantly, it was the right thing to do.
“What does your future look like here?” Hart asked her. He slid his business card across the table.
Soon after, Genevieve was asked to pilot a program to build California Pizza Kitchen’s local marketing efforts. Hoping to crack open new business, Genevieve and her general manager hatched a plan to build a word-of-mouth phenomenon to drive traffic to the restaurant.
For two years, she strolled around the neighborhood and chatted up business owners. She talked about the restaurant’s fresh pizza and invited people to try out the menu. She sent over complementary catering trays to office buildings, organized donations for local nonprofits, and participated in the town council. She also networked at business lunches and with diners, and built up personal contacts. This was how she splashed the name of California Pizza Kitchen all over the community. Her local marketing efforts worked. Business got better. Meanwhile the national pizza chain began looking at communities a little differently.
Genevieve’s work was so impressive that she was invited to join the company’s national team. Once there she kept getting bumped up the ranks. In 2014 she became a regional marketing manager, overseeing the local marketing efforts of 60 restaurant locations on the East Coast. With her support, restaurant operators learned to use locally focused marketing strategies to bring in revenue from local customers and gain community support.
During those years, Genevieve got to learn about operations from some of the most successful industry players. Watching great business leaders plot sophisticated strategies for the restaurant chain was both wonderful and inspiring for her. This was the exact moment Genevieve fell in love with the mechanics of running a restaurant and that love set the stage for her newest venture.
After nearly a decade of marketing to communities for California Pizza Kitchen, Genevieve Babineau joined ezCater. As the Catering Practice Manager, Genevieve understands that competition is stiff and that providing a great product or service is not enough. Operators need to stretch beyond familiar limits and accelerate their restaurant’s growth potential in other ways.
That’s why Genevieve has made it her goal to counsel operators on ways to make inroads into a notoriously difficult market. She does this through the events she organizes for the restaurant community, such as the ezChats educational panels and the upcoming CaterUp! conference. She also helps to produce a video series, and writes blog articles, focused on educating restaurant operators about ways to grow their business with sales and marketing tactics, as well as with off-premises opportunities like catering. She’s become vital to this circle, teaching operators ways to usher in new business.
Want Genevieve’s advice on restaurant marketing?