By Allison Lamberth at Foodable Network – The Fast Casual Nation Podcast offers exclusive interviews with experts ranging from top chefs and brand makers to executives and restaurateurs who work in one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry. In this episode, host Paul Barron sits down with David Malinowski, the chief operating operator of Vitality Bowls. Barron and Malinowski explore building a customer database and cultivating consumer loyalty during COVID-19.

Established in 2011, Vitality Bowls specializes in fresh, nutrient-rich bowls that combine a thick açaí berry blend with organic granola and superfood toppings. Superfruits can also be used as a base for your bowl, and include pitaya, graviola, and acerola. No ice, frozen yogurt, artificial preservatives, trans fat, or other fillers are used in the chain’s bowls or smoothies. The chain started franchising in 2014, and currently maintains 78 open stores.

“We’re really capitalizing and taking it to the next level, seeing how we can maximize the space,” says Malinowski, noting some changes Vitality Bowls has made to its locations and overall strategy since COVID-19. “We did have a decent amount of dining, but a lot of our customers come in early in the morning grabbing a bite… we realized we had to shrink down that percentage of the dine-in seats and the occupancy.”

Vitality Bowls leaned heavily on its loyalty app whilst recovering from the initial restaurant shutdowns. “The loyalty app has just been our biggest way to get the outreach and get everyone coming back into the stores,” adds Malinowski.

There has been a growing movement toward wellness and healthy eating, though the jury is still out on whether it will be a lasting trend. Comfort food and efficient, economical food have remained popular options during the Coronavirus crisis, but an increasing number of people have started to see food as medicine—and immunity-building foods are an appealing option amidst a pandemic.

“There’s definitely a lift in sales,” notes Malinowski. “I think there’s going to be a huge shift, and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg here.”

This episode is sponsored by Danone North America. As the world’s largest B Corp™, Danone North America is committed to doing good for the world and for your business with the brands customers love, like International Delight®, Oikos®, Silk®, Horizon® Organic, and many others.