Research & Content Strategy
We partnered with SuperFriendly in the creation of On the Line. They helped us kick off the design and development of the project, and helped us gain a deeper understanding of our audience with user research. From this research, we learned that managing staff is a universal problem for restaurant operators. We also learned that job roles in the restaurant industry are nuanced, industry information is scattered, and The Food Network has created unrealistic expectations of the industry.
Our aim for this product was to solve the most pressing challenges facing our audience, to tell it like it is, and to create loyal readers — which positions Toast as a leader in the space.
The On the Line Brand was Born
We decided that On the Line would be a sub-brand of Toast, and have its own design, voice and tone. We wanted to create an identity that reflects and communicates our mission and goal in every way possible. The new brand emotes energy with dark tones and the use of the Toast orange as a primary color for contrast. There is a strong focus on the people and the restaurants through the use of photography and an editorial look and feel with a powerful serif typeface that ties it all together.
The name “On the Line” was chosen to reflect the fast paced environment of the restaurant industry and acknowledge the difficulty and risk of owning a restaurant.
User Experience Backed by Research
The biggest issues in the industry revolve around hiring, training, and retaining staff, so we created topic pages with curated information focused on those specific issues.
The Food Network has glamorized the kitchen and set unrealistic expectations for workers entering the industry. All photography on the site was carefully chosen to show real restaurateurs at work in actual restaurant kitchens — as a refreshing change from the polished and posed images seen on TV.
We evaluated best practices across leading editorial websites who create continuous engagement and use a wide range of content recirculation tactics.
Promoting the Launch
We promoted the launch of On the Line on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram Stories, and on the Toast website. The design of the social assets we shared followed the bold and dark branding of the site, and included our own candid photography.
The Product Testing Roadmap
From the very beginning of the project, we aimed to follow the Lean Startup Methodology: Build, Measure, and Learn. We launched an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), a basic version of On the Line, bringing it to market in as short a time as possible. Then, we created a product testing plan, and by measuring and testing our MVP, we determined what features should be added to the next iteration.
We tested modules like a new article-specific navigation system featuring social sharing links, a returning user article gate experience, and color variation of resource CTAs.
On the Line Email Nurture & Newsletter
From our research, we learned that industry information is scattered and inaccessible, but restaurateurs who are passionate find time to squeeze in a lot of reading — especially in the form of email newsletters. We leveraged this important channel by creating a series of nurture emails for new subscribers, and a monthly email newsletter with recent articles, a community spotlight, new data and polls.
- Strategic Direction
- Website Design
- Information Architecture
- Visual Design
After launching On the Line, bounce rate decreased dramatically from 82% to 45% compared to the Toast blog. Almost 900 customers subscribed to On the Line in the first 30 days. We saw a 121% increase in capturing people into our database through our original touch CTA.
Our subscriber distribution emails and newsletter had average open rates of around 30%, close to 12% higher than the industry average.