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Arby’s president speaks to Buckhead group
by Megan Thornton
July 18, 2013 06:12 PM | 2793 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha Shal / Hala Moddelmog, president of Sandy Springs-based Arby's, speaks to the Buckhead Business Association Thursday at 103 West.
Staff / Samantha Shal / Hala Moddelmog, president of Sandy Springs-based Arby's, speaks to the Buckhead Business Association Thursday at 103 West.
Revitalizing brands throughout the last 18 years of her career has earned Hala Moddelmog a reputation as a turnaround specialist, a skill she brought to Sandy Springs-based Arby’s when she became president in 2010.

During the Buckhead Business Association’s signature luncheon Thursday at 103 West, Moddelmog described her company’s trek to recovery and how the brand considers its customer to provide added value to each dining experience.

Under Moddelmog’s stewardship, Arby’s, which celebrates its 49th anniversary Tuesday, has gone from losing millions each year during the peak of the recession to reporting almost three years of sales increases in the highly competitive, quick-service restaurant industry.

“Arby’s I would say suffered disproportionately during the economic downturn,” Moddelmog said. “The brand had lost its way during that time. There were about four years of top sales loss of about 20 to 25 percent, and any of you in business know that is really an untenable situation.”

So when she came on in 2010, Moddelmog said the goal was to renovate Arby’s image as a fresh sandwich option. The company contracted with the Boston Consulting Group to find what it was Arby’s was not offering its consumer base.

“What we found out is that our consumers wanted to know two things: they wanted to know that things were freshly prepared and they wanted it to be crave-able,” Moddelmog said.

These findings led to the “Slicing Up the Truth About Freshness” advertising campaign, which features former New York Police Department investigator turned media personality Bo Deitl correcting the record — Arby’s slices meat fresh; main competitor Subway does not.

“We believe that the fresher the slice, the better the taste,” she said. “We’d like to position, frankly, Subway as the old way. And Arby’s, although we’re 49 years old, we’re trying to make sure that we are… [doing] a better job with the younger target, because a lot of the younger target shares these same values but they may not have Arby’s in their consideration set right now.”

With Moddelmog formerly serving as president and CEO for Susan G. Komen For the Cure, she said it was also important for the Arby’s Foundation to give back to the community in a way that matters to its loyal consumers.

The foundation is in its third year working with Washington-based nonprofit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which provides children throughout the country with access to healthy meals.

Moddelmog said this partnership was to support an identified Arby’s consumer value that many feel it is important to help American charitable causes rather than global nonprofits.

“This presents us with an opportunity to help a cause, but to connect very closely with our consumers in a way that means a lot to them,” she said.

In the first two years working with the charity, the foundation has raised more than $5 million and won Share Our Strength’s corporate award for donations this year.

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