Executive MBA Classroom Feature: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Insights & Actions

by SMU Cox|

The Brierley Institute curriculum facilitates many opportunities for students to participate in experiential learning projects while mastering customer engagement fundamentals. For those completing the Executive MBA program at Cox, the Customer Engagement Strategy course allows seasoned professionals to understand CE basics while applying them to real-time projects for their own employers.

Meradith Brammer is a 2020 Executive MBA graduate who balanced her coursework with a full-time job as Director of Field Marketing at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, a fast casual restaurant chain specializing in Baja-style Mexican cuisine.  Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Fuzzy’s operates almost 150 locations in 16 states.  Brammer, with a background in various marketing roles at companies including Popeye’s, Domino’s, and Schlotzsky’s, brought applicable professional knowledge to the Customer Engagement Strategy course.

As part of the first cohort of students to take the Customer Strategy course, Brammer worked on a “Customer Engagement + Customer Experience Audit” project for Fuzzy’s.  Working with two other students, not employees of Fuzzy’s but interested in their classmate’s company needs, Brammer focused on assessing Fuzzy’s customer experience, digital and social marketing, rewards/loyalty program, metrics/financial analysis, personalization and how Fuzzy’s listens to customers.

Through in-class senior corporate speakers, Brammer and her team were introduced to the latest strategic thinking and best practices in Customer Engagement. They applied what they learned to field research to understand Fuzzy’s customers’ preferences and behavior. The team uncovered insights to formulate multiple recommendations for creating relevant digital and in-restaurant experiences.

One such insight was that while individual customers visit many of the 58 DFW-area Fuzzy’s locations, their menu choices and orders are often the same. This sparked the team to explore menu item promotions to expand the Fuzzy’s relationship with each individual consumer.

The student team also found that with several franchisee locations, there is an opportunity to align the Fuzzy’s branding and customer engagement strategies for all locations, particularly those who are franchisee owned. Brammer has started planning for a digital media training roll-out and currently provides on-the-go training, encouraging franchisees to promote each other’s content as part of the overall Fuzzy’s brand.

The course culminated in all student teams making recommendations for improving how customers engage with their brands and companies, presenting insights and final recommendations.  The Fuzzy’s team was able to share their presentation with Brammer’s vice president and others in the marketing department. To Brammer, presenting applicable recommendations was a great opportunity to give back to her employer who was accommodating and encouraging as she pursued her MBA.

Brammer’s work in her Executive MBA course was also featured in the full-time MBA Customer Engagement & Loyalty Management course. Students evaluated the Fuzzy’s loyalty program and assessed the current website and mobile app experiences; on the final exam, a Fuzzy’s case study asked students for recommendations to enhance customer experiences. Brammer joined the class following the final exam to review their ideas, some of which are being implemented internally. As a bonus, Fuzzy’s tacos were catered during the discussion.

As she approached her graduation from the EMBA program, Brammer hoped to continue her relationship with the Brierley Institute. She and Marci Armstrong, Director of the Brierley Institute, have already begun brainstorming how Fuzzy’s could be a valuable company for future student projects and long-term partner of the Institute.