This week on Marketing Mojo, we sat down with Bettina Stern, founder of Chaia Tacos, to discuss how she has adapted her small business to drive growth despite the pandemic. We talked with her about bartering with influencers, generating aesthetic social media content, standing up for social justice, and testing new menu items.
As a fast-casual restaurant, Bettina recounted how last March, Chaia was in a great place to adapt to the pandemic. Chaia was able to maintain outdoor ordering from the get-go, a critical aspect to their hasty adaptation to new regulations and social distancing guidelines. Like every other business, Chaia’s sales took a hit. As a result, they had to try out several groundbreaking strategies to cater to the new way of life in lockdown.
Bettina discussed how Chaia took steps to expand the menu by utilizing the same ingredients they already had on hand to create new menu items, such as enchiladas and quesadillas. As a result, when many restaurants faced supply chain shortages or changes, Chaia did not face these same problems. In addition to adding reconfigured dinner menu items, they tried adding breakfast items such as a breakfast burrito and savory oatmeal, but these ultimately were not as successful. Chaia was also the first eatery in the DC area to offer a dinner club, in which families and couples could pick up dinner entrées in bulk portions; and they also opened a marketplace, where customers could order tortillas, beans, and rice in mass quantities. All of these allowed Chaia to thrive despite the pandemic.
During our conversation with Bettina, one thing she continually emphasized was the importance of a good landlord. She emphasized that vetting a landlord is essential when renting a business space and she found that Covid-19 only magnified the importance of this. Because Bettina had a great working relationship with her landlord, they were able to compromise vis-à-vis rental terms and conditions in light of Chaia’s altered revenues due to the pandemic.
In addition, Bettina employed a unique, creative strategy to generate content in an affordable way. She reached out to local artists and influencers and offered them free food in exchange for photos and content generation. From her outreach, 8 artists accepted her offer, and she got a significant library of content created from them at no monetary cost to her business. It was mutually beneficial– the artists got to enjoy Chaia’s delicious food offerings, and Chaia obtained quality content in doing so. This kind of strategy is a great example of the innovation that Chaia has employed over the course of the pandemic.
When asked for her final word, Bettina offered advice for future small business owners: build a great company culture. She discussed how when you have a great product, and care about the happiness of the staff, an optimal culture will naturally emerge. For the public, she urged them to take action to help small businesses, not only through ordering from them but also by checking them out online or through social media.
To keep up to date with Chaia, follow them on all social media @chaiatacos. To keep up to date with Market and Grow, follow us on all socials @mktandgrow.
In two weeks, tune in to the next episode of Marketing Mojo.