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In 1982, On The Border restaurants opened to share border-style food with the world. Shortly after, dedicated On the Border catering departments began to bring fresh-pressed tortillas, small-batch sauces, and a plethora of fajita, taco, and enchilada fillings to homes, offices, and events with the same friendly service. Today, over 130 stores serve customers from the south of San Diego to the uppermost corner of Maine. And as Eater points out, Mexican food continues to trend.

Tara Barnett, the Senior Manager of Off Premise Conversion, has been working with On The Border since 1994. Her position requires she encourage movement in both technological innovation and human creativity. And with their build-your-own bars spicing up your weekly order and On The Border catering menus serving customers with food sensitivities, their conversion rate keeps growing and growing. Here, Barnett shares how her position contributes to the growth, and where the company feeds her back.

Can you explain what the role of Senior Manager of Off Premise Conversion requires?

The creation of my job was to maximize off-premise transactions, conversions, and sales across catering, to-go, and delivery third party customers. That means I oversee anything our guests interact with — our website, online ordering — and see how we can make that experience better. And then I work with my internal and external partners to see what information we find there can help us either change something on the website to drive conversion better or look for a way to convert more sales.

What workflow or catering experiences have either become perfected or more user-friendly because of having someone in your position?

Based on some Google data analytics, we’ve changed some things on our website (especially for the catering side) to make things easier for our guests to find. Our conversion jumped almost 20% when we did that.

Based on some Google data analytics, we’ve changed some things on our website (especially for the catering side) Click To Tweet

Do you have an example of what you changed?

Streamlining categories was one thing. Our old categories were general. Now they’re very distinct. We took our buffets and split them up. We made it easier for guests to find what they wanted. Business catering is highly desktop driven. It’s not as hard to find things on desktop. But people are moving more mobile. So you have to make things easier and quicker on mobile for people to order from you.

Do you see much variety in popular items across regions?

We have regional nuances. But we don’t do menus regionally. Up in the New Jersey and Chicago areas, we have a heavy Indian population, so we have a lot of vegetarian items sold there. We have flexibility within a lot of our menus to allow people to customize to their likes, dislikes, or wants and needs. The only thing that seems to be really regional is guacamole, queso, and sour cream. Southerners like guacamole. Up north they like queso. And then, the east coast loves their sour cream and thinks it should be on everything.

Speaking of particularities, is there a catering menu item or a style of presentation you feel is on trend right now?

Our fajita buffet has always been our most popular buffet, and continues to be. I think that build-your-own — whether it be a bowl, a burrito, or whatever — with the ability to make what guests want depending on what they need nutritionally, helps.

When do you feel you’ve delivered an incredible guest experience?

It’s about great food and the right people. All of our stores have catering heads, and catering has been a part of our brand for a long time. There’s a manager who’s been with the company for 25 years. She’s been in a call center for 11. We have a lot of people that have stayed here. I think it helps to have tenured people who know what they’re talking about.

We have many customers that have been our customers for a long time. I know we mess up sometimes. But I also believe it’s how you rectify and take ownership of the mistakes you make — and how you make it up to your guests — that decides if they’re going to coming back.

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Jacqueline Raposo

Written by:

Jacqueline Raposo

Jacqueline Raposo is an expert interviewer. Her over 400 articles, essays, and podcast episodes feature Missy Robbins, Daniel Boulud, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and other such award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, managers, and hospitality personnel. Find her at www.jacquelineraposo.com or as @wordsfoodart.

Posted in: Trends in FoodNeed to Know

Tagged with: Caterer Network, Catering, Dietary Restrictions, Mexican