The Importance of Brand Agility and Adaptability in Times of Change and Uncertainty

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By James Walker, Nathan's Famous

The impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on our economy appears unparalleled in the last twenty years or longer. Brands and industries, in many cases, were caught unprepared for the “stay at home” orders, supply chain and labor issues, and other impacts brought on rapidly by the pandemic. It is in times like these that a brand’s ability to quickly pivot its business models to not only accommodate the changes, but also capitalize on them, is paramount in its ability to stay competitive, and without overstating, simply stay in business.

My organization has enjoyed more than 100-years of success within the restaurant business, and we pride ourselves on the friendly, accurate, and fast service our team members provide within our locations across the U.S. and Internationally. With many states and foreign countries temporarily removing our ability to service guests within our restaurant dining rooms, we increased our focus on partnerships that we had begun prior to the pandemic, partnerships with organizations such as Franklin Junction ( and Kitopi ( Both organizations provide Cloud Kitchen solutions for branded restaurant concepts. While these relationships predate the “stay at home” orders, our team has pivoted to prioritize against the Cloud Kitchen model, which allows us to increase our geographic footprint, both domestically and internationally, quickly, and with a lower capital expenditure than more traditional restaurant growth models. This combing of service providers allows us to answer consumer demand for our signature menu items where and when the consumers want, around the world. And while globally, there has been a move to off-premises restaurant transactions, such as delivery, the pandemic has accelerated this substantially.

Our team sees the building of a global network of Cloud Kitchens as just one aspect of pivoting our business to be agile and adaptable to changes brought about both by macro events, such as the current pandemic, or simply changes in consumer needs and wants. In addition, we have aligned ourselves with vendor partners who can quickly react to changes, opportunities, and challenges, and pivot quickly with us.

Our internal team has also worked to become more agile and adaptable. Instead of adhering to job titles or position descriptions, we look at how each individual can find new ways to add value to the organization and the team. As an organization, we’ve had to be introspective and look at our processes and systems, as well as our technology. We’ve been diligent in ensuring each aspect is aligned with our desire to be able to pivot quickly. Things as simple as having the right laptop in order to host video conference calls has been a consideration, as we must ensure that approvals for business initiatives can be done quickly, and virtually if needed.

The current pandemic has a number of lessons we need to learn, not the least of which is agility, and adaptability is the only “future-proofing.”


James Walker is the Senior Vice President of Restaurants for Nathan's Famous.