At Thanx, our employees are our greatest asset. In the last year alone, we have hired more than 20 new Thanxers and each one brings something unique to our growing team. We are thrilled to share a recent discussion with our newest employee, Jericho Lopez, about her decision to join Thanx and to share a little bit about her perspective on the hiring process, the industry and the company as a whole.
Q. Why did you join Thanx?
A. There were three main reasons.
First, I knew I wanted the next step in my career to be a catalyst for combining my 20 years of experience in marketing and communications with my expertise in strategy and leadership to help organizations reach their business goals. During the pandemic, I saw brands I love, peers, and friends struggling to sustain their businesses – especially in the restaurant industry. Having been “raised” in this industry, I knew I would be able to make an immediate impact. And, lucky for me, Thanx was looking to elevate the Customer Success function by hiring their first Enterprise Manager, hoping for someone with frontline knowledge and heavy experience in marketing strategy. I was confident working at Thanx would be a great way to bring our shared goals to life.
Secondly, I chose Thanx because I believe in the leadership, the organizational culture, and most importantly, the product. In fact, I evaluated Thanx as a solution when I was the Director of Digital Marketing at Johnny Rockets. While it was early days for Thanx, even then I saw a product unlike anything on the market and saw the value given to creating business solutions, especially in a franchise system. In addition to being a leading CRM, guest engagement, and loyalty platform, Thanx is POS agnostic, with no hardware to install, and the operational burden for the teams on the ground is minimal during implementation. All of those critical success factors really resonated with us back then and they still resonate with me today.
Lastly, when I met with CEO, Zach Goldstein, and others at Thanx, I felt the team was genuinely committed to solving business problems for restaurants. They were committed as a brand to the constant and proactive evolution of their technology. As a marketer, I appreciated that Thanx was focused on a couple of key areas; integrating easy-to-use and automated marketing solutions that any level of marketer could deploy and that Thanx was keen on helping brands build authentic relationships with consumers – not just leveraging basic loyalty, giving away free food, and couponing. The idea that Thanx was designed from the beginning to build relationships; I really loved and connected with that.
Q. Tell me a little about your professional experience.
A long, long, long time ago [chuckles], during my senior year of high school, I participated in a restaurant work program. I spent half of the day learning relevant life skills, and the other half of the day I spent working in a restaurant. That was the beginning of a long and beloved career in the restaurant industry! Then, throughout college, like many young adults, I worked in restaurants. I loved the flexibility, the money (the tips!!), and the people. Over time, I navigated many roles from dishwasher to hostess, server to bartender, and then into operations and training. I really love operations and problem-solving – and how, in a restaurant, all of those functions are connected and depend on each other to be successful.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in Communications (and eventually a Master’s in Organizational Leadership) and was lucky enough to snag a post-grad internship at Jenny Craig, Inc. There, I learned all about the retail, legal and corporate side of the food and beverage industry, while working on a restaurant floor at night. I was hired onto the marketing and communications team full-time after just six months. I had the opportunity to support internal communications during the sale of the company and then served in various lead and support roles across public relations, communications, media relations, crisis communications, marketing, and multimedia production. In my next step, I was recruited by a previous manager to lead franchise public relations and social media for Johnny Rockets. Specifically, I worked with domestic franchisees to build out their local public relations and social media plans. From there I continued to grow in my career, taking on more and more responsibility for corporate and franchise locations and eventually landing the lead in global public relations and digital marketing. In this role, I also served as one of two key communications constituents for a CEO transition and the Nestle acquisition.
At the time, Johnny Rockets didn’t have a focus on digital. I saw a massive opportunity so I walked into the CMO’s office (I want to say it was within his first week on the job) with a business case, and within 24 hours, I was in charge of building out a sustainable digital function for the organization. I had full ownership of social media, digital marketing, communications, and public relations. With the support of my boss, the CMO, and a great mentor at the private equity group, I helped Johnny Rockets turn digital marketing into a core competency establishing the strategy, plan, and KPIs. The ownership group rolled my work out across their portfolio of companies as a best practice. Soon after, I was asked by the c-suite to serve as the only Director (and female) to help successfully rebrand the 30-year old institution. I absolutely loved this work because it was focused on problem-solving to create relevancy, expanding our audience (and era), and customer retention and loyalty for a beloved brand. When I moved on, I assumed responsibility for the development, planning, and implementation of all aspects of Global Marketing and Public Relations for Johnny Rockets, for both corporate and franchise restaurants, system-wide (spanning nearly 400 restaurants, 32 countries, 36 states, and 30 different venue types).
Q. What did you think about the Thanx hiring process?
[Laughs]. It was very intense. Your team asked a lot of really good, hard, insightful questions. The process wasn’t just about whether or not I was a good fit today… but the interview team focused a lot on my long-term commitment. It’s really a mental shift in hiring that so many companies miss. One thing I really loved was my conversation with Sam Parker, the Chief Operating Officer. We talked a lot about values and one thing in particular that he said really resonated with me. “Who are we to tell you what your values are. We can’t do that. At Thanx, we focus on behaviors.” I really loved that because I think it promotes diversity. It’s not about what you believe, it’s about what you bring to the table in terms of your actions and behaviors. I think that’s really cool because it opens your mind to hiring people from diverse social, ethnic, gender, and professional backgrounds. And this is important to me.
During the hiring process, I truly felt that Thanx was focused on hiring the right people for the company, versus just filling roles. So much about the hiring process – and my work today – feels like a great fit culturally because my personal values are aligned with Thanx’s business goals and the passion of the people we employ. We work hard, we innovate, we create and we come to the table with solutions. At Thanx, our values translate to action through our focus on our core behaviors (Focus on What Matters, Say Thanx Genuinely, Welcome Diverse Perspectives, Empathy over Ego, and Find a Way).
Q. What is the biggest opportunity right now for restaurant marketing departments?
Good question! It’s a fascinating time for restaurants – especially for CMOs… If the “CMO” title even sticks around (I have read some interesting ideas around this). Nonetheless, marketers must learn to lead with authenticity, remain agile, and become knowledgeable in cross-functional operations and the impacts of the decisions they make across the organization. As marketing leaders progress into the future, I’d recommend putting an emphasis on shared values with consumers and partners, creating relevant and meaningful consumer experiences, community connections, and, most importantly, becoming digitally mature.
Of course, with the pandemic, we saw a digital shift that is here to stay. Digital maturity has always been important but, today, if it’s not prioritized as a key pillar, then as a marketing leader, you need to be pressing the broader leadership team before it’s too late. You have to be a digital restaurant even if you have walls.
What’s really great to think about is that the social media and digital marketing managers – and consumers – of today are going to be tomorrow’s CMOs. For that reason, it’s really important, as an executive in marketing, to think about how you are building teams. You need to understand future trends and where audiences are going so that you can hire the right people, with the right skill sets, now for what is going to be needed in the future.
Q. What is the biggest opportunity for Thanx?
Thanx has a great opportunity to unlock potential for brands. The product – and the team behind it – has the know-how and ability to be a change agent for brands, moving them to the next level in their digital maturity. And frankly, it’s easier than many brands think! Thanx has created a product that is consistently delivering on “what’s next” for brands and has done so through the enablement of self-service, automation, A/B testing, etc. – all tied to consumer data. Additionally, Thanx has evolved the typical frontline Customer Success role to service our partners not just with tactical execution, but with insightful and meaningful recommendations and strategies that align with the highest level of business and marketing objectives for the brands we support.
I am very excited about bringing my in-house knowledge to the team and to the brands I service while working with other great marketers to deliver on goals. My background in marketing, communications, operations, product development, and leadership all benefit my ability to be successful in this role – helping Thanx grow and our partners experience success.
Q. What surprised you the most about Thanx?
In a great way, I have been surprised by the diversity of professional backgrounds and skillsets — the vast amount of intellect that exists across Thanx. Everyone is so smart. And everyone is genuinely focused on our customers’ success. It is very obvious in the way that Thanx aligns our development priorities with deeply understanding the business goals of each brand we support.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how clear the mission is here at Thanx. It’s the same across all functions. In my experience, at many companies, each internal department ends up with different goals. At Thanx, everyone is really aligned on what is going to elevate our partners and be relevant to consumers, and we’re clear on the path we all need to take to get there. As an individual, you can still bring a unique creativity to work but everyone is going in the same direction.
Q. What excites you about working with customers?
Marketing doesn’t beget strategy. Marketing supports the strategy of a business. So it’s important that marketers, and their technology partners, align with the larger business goals and objectives of restaurants. At the end of the day, marketing is one big test. It’s contextual and behavioral, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all. It is unique to each brand and each consumer – that’s why testing is so important! With technology and data, we are given the greatest gift as marketers – the ability to experiment. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a campaign if you don’t have to. You have to be testing and you have to quickly apply the learnings and insights from acquired data to future outreach. It’s a constant state of determining what’s working vs. what’s not. Then, you double down on what’s working and you iterate on or stop doing what’s not. That’s how you stay relevant and meet goals.