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Arby's president at inaugural Women in Business luncheon in Alpharetta



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Arby's President Hala Moddelmog, center, was the first speaker at the inaugural Women in Business Luncheon April 24. With her is Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Director of Member Services Deborah Lanham and President Brandon Beach. MATTHEW LOVELL/storyoftwo.net. (click for larger version)
April 30, 2013
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – At the inaugural Women in Business luncheon, April 24, Hala Moddelmog, the president of national fast food restaurant Arby's, spoke to the crowd of women about her company's dramatic turnaround under her command.

As president of Church's Chicken, Moddelmog became the first woman to head an international restaurant chain. She went from that to head up Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer awareness nonprofit.

Juggling a professional career with a family can be tough, but not impossible for women, she said.

"I'm one of those who believe that women can have it all," she told the audience at the Metropolitan Club.

Even she admitted she was lucky – her family was close, her kids want to be in business and her husband has been supportive.

"I had a lot of help and I really worked hard to have it all," she said, "but companies need to adjust to help everybody – both men and women."

In 2010, she came to Arby's. The roast beef chain was hit hard during the Great Recession, she said. It had four straight years of losses. Since she has come on board, the company has seen nine consecutive quarters of increased sales.

"If you're not taking share from your competitors, you're not growing," she said.

Key to the turnaround, she said, was focusing the company on its loyal customer base, and expanding the offerings it gives for "add-ons," that is, the upsale after ordering a meal – extra snacks.

Key to fixing this problem was having the workers at the point of sale – the register – engaging the customer in a more friendly manner, giving the soft sell.

The company also had a perception problem. Despite slicing its meat to order, people did not associate the brand with "freshness." Instead, that motto went to sandwich giant Subway, with their "Eat fresh," campaign. As Moddelmog pointed out, because of the branding, people think Subway sandwiches are sliced in-store, which is not the case. Arby's had to figure out how to combat this issue.

So they commissioned a study to delve deeper into their core customer base – what made them tick and what did they want?

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Hala Moddelmog (click for larger version)
It turns out 18 percent of their customers make up 63 percent of their sales. These "modern day traditionalists" are family oriented, patriotic and busy. Very busy. They eat out an average of 40 or 50 times a month, largely because both parents might work and have to keep up with kids' schedules.

"They just don't have time," Moddelmog said.

By focusing marketing on these devoted people, Moddelmog said they are more likely to choose Arby's.

This article was published in the Revue & News May 2, 2013 edition

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