Zack Oates of Ovation on Building Business Connections through Digital Storytelling Interview with Ovation's Zack Oates about real-time guest feedback, creating loyalty through relationships, and digital storytelling that connects.

By Shawn P. Walchef

Key Takeaways

  • Real Feedback in Real Time - In most cases, guests aren't prone to giving feedback when visiting restaurants. That's not the case for Zack Oates and Ovation customers. Oates and company have devised a strategy, which includes incentive and one-on-one text conversations, that have produced a higher rate of feedback, right away.
  • “Nobody Cancels Ovation” - Zack Oates is confident in his product. That confidence, however, stems from deep relationships Ovation has built and the human connections they continue to nurture. Driving loyalty also drives revenue.
  • Storytelling that Connects - Zack Oates uses digital storytelling to make genuine connections, which has worked very well for Ovation. For Oates, he's not about having the most supporters and investors, but the right ones on board.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Soliciting feedback from customers often seems like a daunting task. However, Zack Oates and his team at Ovation have cracked the code with a proven strategy that not only encourages guest feedback, but also establishes a personal connection for exceptional results.

Zack Oates and the guest feedback platform Ovation have taken a radically different approach to hearing from customers, which stems from their recognition of a critical flaw in the conventional methods: It's too hard to share feedback.

As the CEO/founder puts it to host Shawn P. Walchef of Cali BBQ Media when meeting up at the National Restaurant Association Show: "Because the solutions are so bad, guests don't give feedback. You miss out on over 99% of your guests' feedback because you make it too hard to give that feedback."

The Ovation solution? A two-question survey, delivered via text message, that practically engages customers immediately. Think of it like a digital "table touch"

Ovation not only makes it much easier for restaurant guests to give helpful feedback and reviews, but also establishes a personal connection that yields exceptional results.

The simplicity, along with incentives like a chance to win a $100 gift card, encourages participation.

This accessible and innovative approach, coupled with Ovation's integration with various platforms like the Toast POS, has opened up valuable channels for direct engagement. Oates emphasizes that their strategy not only garners feedback but also nurtures customer relationships, which is vital to Ovation's success.

A human touch working in harmony with technology remains the key to unlocking true customer loyalty, Oates says. Though he recognizes the convenience of technology, he stands firm in the idea that consistency lays the foundation, and that the pinnacle of loyalty is achieved through genuine connection.

"At the end of the day, regardless of how much technology is in between you and I, it's about that human connection." says Zack Oates.

This approach creates a deep connection and enhances personalized engagement, which not only drives loyalty, but also drives revenue by drastically reducing Ovation cancellation.

"Nobody cancels Ovation." the CEO proudly proclaims.

Oates acknowledges that his strengths lie in building genuine relationships through real digital storytelling rather than orchestrating investor hype. Instead of pursuing a multitude of investors, Ovation seeks the best investors for them. Those are people who share a vision and values and echo the same principle that underlines the Ovation approach to customer relationships.

"I'm not great at pitting one investor against the other and getting the valuation up," admits Oates. "The way that I look at it is when you're able to tell your story, then you're able to connect to that person."

In a landscape often dominated by complex strategies and high-pressure plays, Ovation stands as a testament to the strength of simple connection and authenticity.

By creating an environment where customers are empowered to share their thoughts and are met with genuine interest, Ovation has not only found the elixir for consistent feedback, but has also unlocked the key to customer loyalty.

Through their approach, Ovation has shown that technology is necessary, but it's the human connections that truly make a lasting impact.



Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about Toast.

Shawn P. Walchef

Founder of Cali BBQ Media

“Be the show, not the commercial.”

Cali BBQ Media Founder Shawn Walchef helps brands and leaders leverage the new Business Creator Economy with strategic Smartphone Storytelling and Digital Hospitality.

His Cali BBQ restaurant company has generated more than $35 million since opening in 2008. They operate numerous locations in San Diego and beyond.

Shawn’s weekly video series Restaurant Influencers (published by Entrepreneur Media and produced by Cali BBQ Media) has been seen by over 25 million people.

More from Restaurant Influencers

How Restaurant365 CEO Tony Smith Uses Data to Make Better Decisions

Sara Finnegan of Edley's Restaurant Group Shares the Key Ingredient for Restaurant Success

Zack Oates of Ovation on Building Business Connections through Digital Storytelling

Elizabeth Chambers of BIRD Bakery on How to Expand in Business with Authenticity

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