B.GOOD was advocating the importance of farm-to-table eating before it was cool. Founded in 2003 with the tagline “Food with Roots,” B.GOOD is a fast-growing, fast-casual restaurant chain serving up sustainably sourced, localized meals globally. At the marketing helm is Brent Feldman, who possesses an impressive agency background, working with the biggest names in food and beverage like Denny's, Taco Bell and Dunkin. Brent took on the role of CMO last year, joining the movement behind B.GOOD's purpose and helping the brand meet the needs of today's consumer.
Tell us about your background and why you chose to join B. GOOD.
I’m an agency person – my entire career has been at agencies, never on the brand side. I’ve always loved my consultant role, being surrounded by tremendously creative people day in and out, and the daily variety of working on different problems for different clients. I’ve also always seemed to be a food person – working with accounts spanning restaurants, CPG, and retailers. When I started feeling an itch to dive in deep on one thing and work for one brand as a client myself, I knew it would be in food somehow. When a former client contacted me about an opportunity at B.GOOD, I immediately believed in the mission and vision of the company – this was something I could get behind and feel good about. It was something my moral compass, my daughter, could be proud of – helping people change their lives and communities by providing a better way to eat.
What major challenges did you have to overcome as a new marketer?
Working at big agencies on global, household brands, I’m not sure I realized how privileged I was. Sure, there were significant challenges, but I also had ample resources to tackle them – deciding WHAT to do when you don’t really have to worry about HOW you’re going to do it makes any challenge a bit less daunting. I don’t have that luxury now. The what and the how question are simultaneous. Similarly, I’ve never considered myself much of a teacher; I never really had to. However, now that I have smaller teams and am working closely with other departments that don’t live and breathe marketing, I’m needing to not only explain myself more, but also instruct and guide. It’s much more hands-on. Fortunately, I’m really enjoying it!
What defining characteristics make your brand a challenger?
"...we’re out-resourced, we’re a bit unorthodox, and, maybe, we’re not for everyone. But, we’re okay with all of that..."
We’re not number one in our category yet, we’re not the flashy industry darling, we’re out-resourced, we’re a bit unorthodox, and, maybe, we’re not for everyone. But, we’re okay with all of that and have big ambitions to be a leader in the fast casual space. We were a pioneer in casual, locally sourced, clean, farm-to-table food, and we think that we’re the future of restaurants. We’re a rare brand in that we have all of the aforementioned qualities, but we also have a truly diverse offering that even includes burgers, fries and sandwiches. The growth we’re seeing in the Southern U.S., Midwest, Canada, Switzerland and Germany is a validation of what we’ve always done – punched above our weight by commanding a fervent, loyal following among people who want to eat a wide range of food they can feel better about eating.
What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and why?
I’m most excited and encouraged by the recent and steady trend towards more transparency between brands and consumers. It’s amazing the number of new tools, measurements, tech, strategic approaches, software platforms, and the list goes on, that exist to help us do our jobs. However, the idea of just being honest, clear, and simple about what my brand is offering so that you can align and connect with it as a person if you want is so refreshing to me. I cheer on the success of any brand behaving that way. And I honestly hope it brings back trust, love, and good storytelling between people and the brands they encounter.
What are the biggest changes in your industry and how are you staying ahead of them?
The trends are clear that people are increasingly eating at home or their workplace, which helps explain why the biggest disruption restaurants are dealing with today is off-premise business. Off-premise is everything from mobile-ordering ahead, pick-up, delivery, partnering with third-party delivery companies, catering, and even facilitating one-on-one relationships with companies and making custom, daily deliveries to corporate “outposts.” It’s so much more complicated than simply trying to grow your foot traffic in the restaurant. At B.GOOD, we’re aggressive about saying yes to any kind of testing where we can learn about any and all of this. We’re working hard to not only understand but also stay ahead of, where people want to eat, so that we can remove any barriers, get to them and make the experience one that fits into and complements their lives – rather than complicates it.
What are you currently working on that’s unique or innovative?
Something in the off-premise world we’re particularly excited about testing is the concept of “ghost kitchens,” where we would be one of several brands preparing food in a common facility that would then be available to consumers through third-party delivery. It has the potential to be a great way to introduce our brand and menu to people in new markets without building more stores and obviously taking advantage of off-premise trends.
Tell us about the big learning moments you’ve had along your career path or in your company’s course?
So much of what I try to continually remind myself of, and use to inspire and improve myself, I actually learned in my first job as a dishwasher and cook at a senior living facility – care hard about the job you do because no matter what it is, it’s meaningful to someone else on the other end.
"Care hard about the job you do because no matter what it is, it’s meaningful to someone else..."
What one leadership trait do you think is most critical to making a Challenger Brand successful?
Moving from an outside agency to a brand, and from larger organizations to a smaller one has really forced me to be much more open (to things like fear, failure, criticism) and more collaborative with folks across disciplines and at all levels throughout the organization. Also, having the willingness to go deep into something, hands-on, even when you’re a generalist.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
That no matter who you are, or what your role or level is at an organization, you should have a point of view. On everything. It forces you to always know what you believe and want, and take action on it. Be clear.