Barbecue Chain Leverages Data to Brighten Customer Experiences

March 30, 2021
Barbara Castiglia

Food is serious business. Now, on The Main Course, host Barbara Castiglia will invite insiders on the front lines of food to share their expertise, strategies, and forecasts for navigating the ever-changing restaurant industry.


The Main Course is talking barbecue and big data today. Host Barbara Castiglia chatted with Joe Tenczar, Chief Strategy Officer at Sonny’s BBQ. Tenczar is a tech and visionary expert helping the brand to evolve with technology. Sonny’s BBQ, founded in 1968, is a slow-smoked barbecue fast-casual chain with over 100 stores, mainly in the southeast. Tenczar started with the company in 2014 as the Chief Information Officer, then led various other groups before moving into his current position.

Tenczar explained that pre-COVID, the business went through a rebrand and had some foundational technology in place that helped them pivot. “We shut our dining rooms down before the mandate, then focused on off-premises with online ordering enhancements and introducing curbside.”

Tenczar also realizes that customer behavior changed, but the company is following that trend. “We’re an information company. We want to understand how people enjoy our products and their preferences.”

They use transactional and objective data to build the outline and insert more subjective information from surveys and guest interactions.

“We shut our dining rooms down before the mandate, then focused on off-premises with online ordering enhancements and introducing curbside.” – Joe Tenczar

“Data analytics play a huge role in decision-making. They use Olo for online ordering, which allowed them to open up new channels and integrate with third-party delivery. The stores also adopted Wisely, a table management system, to safely manage dine-in activity. Both of these systems contribute to their big data picture.

They are using what they learn to set the course for Sonny’s in the next 50 years, with the customer voice influencing the road ahead.

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