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Industry Voices: Marketing in uncertain times with honeygrow

After graduating college, attending business school and beginning a career in commercial real estate, Justin Rosenberg, founder and CEO of honeygrow, looked to make a change and revamp the fast dining category.

He launched the restaurant chain in 2012 in Philadelphia, and has since expanded to other locations, including Boston and New York. Like many restaurants this year, honeygrow has had to navigate the waters because of COVID-19. We recently spoke with Rosenberg about the company’s new on-demand grocery and curbside pickup efforts, and how the company is working with local businesses.

At the start of the pandemic, many restaurants were forced to close their doors and get creative. honeygrow was no exception, and because of that, you launched honeygrow at Home. Tell us more about that program.

When we found out we weren’t [classified] as an essential business and weren’t allowed to have guests come inside the restaurant, we had to adapt pretty quickly. The first thing we did was offer curbside pick-up via our app. We adopted curbside pick-up the third week of March and have really made it a contactless experience.

In terms of drawing awareness, we did a lot of homemade beta content, pushed it on social media, and worked with a digital agency to target consumers that may not be following honeygrow or turn casual guests into super loyal guests.

Honeygrow has always bought its ingredients locally. How has the brand pledged to continue to help other local businesses and farms during this time of economic uncertainty?

I’m a board member of The Common Market Mid-Atlantic group, and it’s a farmer-aggregator group where nonprofits gather a bunch of stuff from local farms and distribute it to restaurants, hospitals, and schools. The key thing right now is just staying open and being able to continue to provide product.

What’s next for honeygrow?

Our first five years were amazing, and then we got a little arrogant thinking we could open everywhere. We took about two years off from growth, which was one of the best things we could have ever done as an organization. By the end of 2019, we were more profitable than we’ve ever been. And then of course the pandemic happened.

We opened a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic. It actually was our most successful restaurant opening we’ve ever had, and continues to be one of our most profitable restaurants in our portfolio. And we figured out what to do, what not to do, mistakes not to make again. And we’re all excited for continued smart growth in the upcoming years.

To read our collection of Industry Insights: Retailers Speak Out, download the PDF here.