Treating people like gold, wanting to build real relationships, feeling the love, and seeking to change the fast-food industry forever are some of the overarching goals enveloped in a benevolent mission for everyone associated with b. good restaurants.

All of these aspirational themes are combined with the company’s fresh food, fresh ingredients approach to its restaurants that has spawned a considerable amount of customer loyalty and brand advocacy during the past 16 years.

Currently, Boston-based b. good has 54 restaurants (including Canada and Switzerland) in MA, CT, R.I., N.Y., Maine, N.H., VT, N.J., N.C. VA., and PA. What’s more, there are plans to open 10-15 new restaurants this year.

Loyalty360 talked to b. good co-founder Jon Olinto about his company’s unique approach and its ongoing involvement with the communities in which it serves.

What was the origin of the company’s business model and how would you say that mission statement/belief has impacted customer engagement/customer loyalty? 
Olinto: When we first started 13 years ago, we defined our mission as making fast food “real.” At that time, the food landscape was much different than it is now. We were looking to change an industry ridden with chains serving industrialized food, and bring natural fast food to consumers.

As we grew, we challenged our own definition of “real” by re-evaluating the supply chains we had in place. This resulted in us creating connections and partnerships with the farmers who raised and grew our food, and the communities at large in which we were based. These beliefs impact our customers because they span the traditional boundaries that dictate who has access to healthy, fresh food. At this next stage of our brand’s evolution, we striving to communicate that our purpose isn’t simply to serve healthy food, but to make it accessible to everyone. Our customers connect to that message. 

What sort of feedback have you gotten over the years from it?
Olinto: Our most valuable feedback from running our business as a mission-focused organization has been the real expressions of human connection we see on a daily basis. It’s the hundreds of people who have run the Boston Marathon in b.good hamburger suits to raise money, the fans who make videos and songs about b.good. It’s the people who entrusted us to give away the 19,000 meals they donated through the app to help their communities. This is what we think is a much more valuable marker of how our customers feel about the brand.
 
Though our mobile app, our guests can donate healthy food to local organizations, and we’re so pleased that we were able to distribute 4,300 healthy meals from all b.good locations throughout the country into the community at once just this month. These donated meals were paid forward by actual b.good customers–all guests who are part of our free loyalty program receive free food gifts (such as salads, smoothies and burgers) on the mobile app from the company or from friends, and the recipient has the option to share it with another friend, redeem the item OR donate it to a local Community Partner.

How do you define customer loyalty and has that definition evolved in recent years?
Olinto: To us, there are two ways to measure loyalty. There are the traditional metrics: Sales, restaurant visits, company fiscal health, open rates, social engagement, and the like. And then there are the uncommon metrics like the examples of human connection and emotional attachments already mentioned. Customer loyalty is deeper than the data and analytics our team can pull from the loyalty program. It’s way more than the meals purchased or average weekly visits. We identify another dimension of loyalty in the emotion that drives our customer’s decision to visit a store and the corresponding social influence they have after that visit. A loyal customer to us is one who participates with us in the creation of our brand and is passionate about spreading the b.good message to people in the community. It’s about how customers relate to the emotional pleas we make to them.
 
In recent years, customers have expressed those emotional connections by supporting our festivals for the foundation, volunteering on our farm, or supporting our marathon team. That participation and investment are just as important as the business transactions in our stores.

How does your mission make your company unique?
 Olinto: Our mission makes b.good unique because we embrace the evolution of our mission over the past 13 years of our business history. We have always been a company that strives to do good, but that definition of being good has shifted over the years to reflect the ever-changing world and the social impact we want to make. We started out serving healthy food to a world that didn’t have it, but as healthy food became more ubiquitous in recent years, we knew the mission had to adjust.
 
Doing good and being socially responsible in the food industry is no longer just about making healthy food. Thus, our mission has grown to encompass the notion of food justice–that real, good food should be available to everyone. Our goal is to grow that notion past the communities in which we are based, truly bringing that food to communities at large. We want to aim higher than improving the lives of our existing customers and focus on improving the lives of all with easily accessible healthy food.

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