Restaurants

Ellish Marketing Group client Pollo Campero debuts new prototype

Pollo Campero LogopollocamperoexteriorpromoChicken concept, Pollo Campero, aims to keep Latin consumers and appeal to a broader customer base.  Ellish Marketing Group is pleased to have worked with Tim Pulido, Roberto Denegri and the rest of the Pollo Campero management leadership team on concept brand positioning, menu engineering, new menu item development, strategic marketing plans, food photography, menu board creative development, point of purchase material creative as well as direct mail creative and program implementation.
See Nations Restaurant News article for more information on the new Dallas Prototype.

Restaurant & Franchise Branding Consultant, Ellish Marketing Group, Completes Brand Positioning Work for Umami Burger®

Umami Burger logo

Umami Restaruant Group, operator of Umami Burger selected Ellish Marketing Group, international restaurant and franchise consultants, to work with the management leadership team to define the Umami brand positioning and brand architecture.

Using the Ellish Marketing Group methodology, the management leadership team participated in a multi-day brand discovery to see best competitive brands and other hot on trend restaurant concepts followed by a one-day proprietary Brand Positioning Session led by Warren Ellish, Ellish Marketing Groups CEO and President.

Ellish Marketing Group is also conducting menu engineering work and consumer research for Umami Burger.

The development of a pre-emptive, ownable and defendable brand positioning for Umami Burger was a priority project for new CEO Paul Clayton.  The end result of the brand positioning work from Ellish Marketing Group is a more focused and more competitive burger brand.

Warren Ellish Delivers Keynote Address To International Franchise Association Emerging Franchise Conference

Warren Ellish Franchise and Brand Positioning SpeakerGreat day in Dallas presenting the Keynote Address to the Internatinal Franchise Association Emerging Franchisor Conference. I enjoyed sharing insights on world-class branding and brand positioning with the future great franchise leaders. Great turnout and enthusiastic group. Met so many new wonderful people and some old friends at the conference.  It is always a pleasure to add thought leadership to a great association.

Facebook Bans “Like-Gated” Promotions, and Restaurant and Franchise Marketers May Not “Like It”

In a significant change from its existing policy, effective November 5, 2014, Facebook will no longer permit the common social media advertising tool of “like-gated” promotions. “Like-gating” requires that consumers “like” a brand’s Facebook page to enter a contest or sweepstakes, to gain access to a deal or a coupon code, to obtain early access to merchandise, to download or view app content, or to get other savings.

In Summary: “Like-gated” Facebook promotions had their run, but their time has passed for a few compelling reasons. The Facebook policy change is another reminder that restaurant and franchise companies should know a social media platform’s terms and conditions – and should be aware of changes to those rules – before running a social media promotion.

What Will Change
Facebook’s announcement, in its Platform Policies, was quite straightforward. It stated, “Effective November 5th, 2014, you may no longer incentivize people to like your app’s Page [(the brand’s Facebook page)].” In a blog post, Facebook explained the development in somewhat more detail:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

Facebook’s Rationale
Facebook’s personnel have indicated in interviews that incentivized likes are poor indicators of consumer engagement and bad for user experience on the platform. Given that the Facebook display algorithm has already deprioritized likes in favor of engagement, this change should not surprise marketers, and may actually lead to better return on investment (ROI) on Facebook advertising, and increases in engagement among “likers” of brands’ Facebook pages.

What the Change Means
As a practical matter, like-gated promotions that commence or extend beyond November 4th must comply with the new Facebook policy.

There is much, however, that the new policy does not change. Thus, marketers still can use:

  • Apps;
  • App logins (note that any information retrieved via an app should be relevant to the reason for using the app, and that Facebook is implementing a “login review” that verifies whether any information beyond the basic categories of public profile, friends list and email address is appropriate);
  • Check-ins (in which an advertiser informs a Facebook user that the user “checked in” at a particular place and is entitled to a particular benefit); and
  • Page contests, and can publicize promotions on a Facebook page.

Moreover, marketers can continue to request that people “like” a page – only like-gating has been barred.

The policy change is likely to accelerate the change from like-gating to “action-gating” (where users must take some specific action before entering a Facebook contest), though marketers should still be careful to comply with Facebook’s existing usage guidelines.  Nonetheless, action-gating should lead to increased consumer engagement, and marketers using the proper login techniques can gather email addresses of consumers and additional feedback via engagement. Campaigns may become more unified, with social media, email, and other efforts bringing consumers to one page where they can enter the contest or promotion.  The number of entrants may be lower than with like-gating, but the quality of the entrants may be higher.  Of course, to the extent that companies simply want more “likes,” marketers will have to rely on methods other than “like-gating” to obtain them.

The early bird special – not just for frugal retirees

Restaruants should take another look at the early bird special.  It just might be another tactical move to please customers and increase traffic and sales.

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Daily Record, Nina Rizzo, 9/24/14

The early bird special isn’t just for frugal retirees who don’t like to drive in the dark. Count the millennials among those looking for dining deals at off-peak hours.

Add families who want to feed their children a sensible meal before a weeknight sports practice. And young professionals who come straight from the office.

There is a broad range of consumers looking to stretch their dining dollars when restaurants are less busy.

“There is a great deal of pent-up demand from consumers looking to dine out,” Christin Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, wrote in an email. “Our research shows that more than seven out of 10 adults say they would consider dining out more often if menu prices were lower during off-peak times. Restaurateurs can capitalize on this demand by lowering menu prices using special promotions during slower times to drive foot traffic.”

Many restaurants have embraced the early dining discount. The association found, in a 2013 restaurant trends survey, that a quarter of family- and casual-dining operators and 36 percent of fine-dining establishments offered off-peak dining at reduced prices. A majority of restaurant owners believe this trend will become more popular in the future.

The early bird revival was perhaps most noticeable a few years ago in states like Florida, where the real estate crash reverberated throughout the economy and forced people of all ages to rethink the notion of eating a steak at 4:30 in the afternoon.

The seniors-only stigma apparently has faded. According to the nationwide survey, 72 percent of adults said they would consider dining out more often if menu prices were lower during off-peak times. Some 80 percent of those who frequently eat at fast food and fast casual places, like Smash Burger or Chipotle, said they would take advantage of early-bird deals, too.

Eliminating a signature brand experience can present a branding problem

Behind the Wheel: Fast-casual sandwich chain Which Wich adapts to drive-thru operation.

Once a hallmark of classic fast-food joints, the drive-thru operation is getting a fast casual–style facelift thanks to chains like Dallas-based Which Wich. The customizable sandwich concept opened its second drive-thru unit this summer in Crystal Lake, Illinois, to offer more convenience, says Jeremy Cook, senior vice president of real estate and construction.

For a franchise that creates menu items to order, fulfilling drive-thru orders quickly is a big challenge, Cook says. While guests mark their choices on the brand’s signature brown paper bags inside the store, a cashier verbally guides customers through step-by-step ordering at the drive-thru window. Based on the performance of the brand’s first drive-thru location in Marble Falls, Texas, wait times average 5–7 minutes, and the system is working well, Cook says.

The brand’s initiative is the latest step of a growing trend in the industry, says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of consulting firm Technomic Inc. It follows drive-thru retrofits at a small number of locations by Panera Bread, Firehouse Subs, and Einstein Bros. Bagels, he says.

“Brands are looking at how to steal share from competitors,” Tristano says, and drive thrus offer a sales boost by appealing to customers like parents with small children.

However, eliminating a signature brand experience like Which Wich’s paper bag ordering process can present a branding problem, says Warren Ellish, restaurant consultant and president of Ellish Marketing Group. “Their drive thru may boost sales in the short-term, but in the end, they could lose sales by diluting the brand,” Ellish says. “People who don’t know the brand will lose the unique ordering experience.”

Although Which Wich’s high-quality ingredients are an important draw, it’s the ordering system that makes the brand unique, he adds. It may be better for the chain to try to replicate their ordering protocol by providing paper bags and markers for drive-thru customers, or offering a smartphone app, Ellish says.

The Which Wich team expects to make refinements to its drive-thru operation as it offers the platform to more franchisees, but early indicators are positive, Cook says. “It’s like anything else,” he says. “You want to continue to get better and try to perfect the process.”

What Impact Will Uber Have On The Restaurant Industry

Uber Trials Fast Food Delivery Service ‘UberFRESH’

Reading Jay McGregor’s article this morning in Forbes (pasted below) made me think about the impact Uber could have on the restaurant industry with UbereFRESH.  They certainly brought disruption to the taxi industry.  Delivering food from your favorite restaurants in under 10 minutes with no delivery fee certainly has the potential to shake things up – especially to the lunch catering segment of the business.  It would open up huge opportunities for restaurants to develop and grow lunch catering.

Jay McGregorContributor Forbes

Taxi service Uber has moved into the fast-food delivery industry with its new service “UberFRESH”, which it claims will deliver meals from local restaurants in under 10 minutes.

The news comes from Uber’s official blog, which states that the new service will only be available in Santa Monica between Tuesday 26th August and Friday 5th September.

Anyone in that area will be able to order lunch between 11:30am and 2:30pm from a selection of popular local eateries. Customers will be able to chose from one item per day – two salads, a sub and a chicken soup – which cost $12 each and come with a free cookie.

Uber isn’t taking on a fleet of new moped-driving staff for the service. Instead it’s going to use its taxi drivers  to relay the food between restaurant and customer. There will also be no extra delivery cost but drivers won’t leave their car to hand over the food, customers will have to collect it from the street.

If the service is popular, Uber will expand it to other areas. As the blog explains: “While uberFRESH is a limited duration and location experiment this week, depending on the results we look forward to expanding uberFRESH throughout the southland.”

Uber expansion

Uber is looking to rapidly expand both its taxi service to new territories but also its alternative revenue streams, such as UberFRESH. Other services like Uber Movers (for moving home) and UberRUSH (an NYC-based bike courier) have been launched by the taxi-app company in recent years.

Uber also recently trialled its Corner Store service in Washington D.C, which allowed customers to order household items and have them delivered on the same day.

Corner Store is largely similar to UberFRESH in that customers select a driver that’s available in their location and select from a list of 100 items. This puts Uber it in direct competition with similar same-day delivery services from Amazon and Google GOOGL -0.22%, the latter being one of its key investors.

 

Less Is More: Restaurants Are Finally Catching On

Restaurants shrink menus, focus efforts

Reading Bruce Horovitz’s article this morning in USA Today (pasted below) was music to my ears. At Ellish Marketing Group we have been working with restaurant clients both internationally and domestically on profitably enhancing their brands. We guide our clients through a brand positioning process to define what their brand is, what their brand stands for, what their brand offers and, importantly, what is different about their brand. 

Building on a restaurant’s brand positioning, we conduct comprehensive competitive analysis to understand the target audience’s needs and wants, strategic menu engineering, and consumer research including TURF (Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency) analysis. We then create menu concepts and specific menu items that will be true to the brand, have a competitive edge be profitable.

It can be challenging when creating a new menu or looking to optimize an existing menu when many internal or external team members are afraid to drop any existing menu items. Utilizing the above mentioned Ellish Marketing Group approach we have allowed our clients to identify a discrete number of menu items that deliver variety and value to their current and prospective customers while at the same time optimizing reach and frequency. The net result is a menu with the fewest number of menu items that reach the broadest possible customer base. This optimized menu is true to the brand (vs. trying to be everything to everyone), provides real operational focus (doing fewer things really well), allows for easier training of employees (less things to learn), enhances efficiencies in supply chain (fewer SKU’s) and bottom line – it increases sales and profits.

Many restaurant consulting clients of ours (including startups, brand refreshes and turnarounds) that have embraced this approach of “Less Is More” include: Toppers Pizza, Bennigan’s, Mayo Clinic, National Coney Island, Denny’s, American Blue Ribbon Holdings, Great Wolf Resorts, Pollo Campero, Tai Pak Asian Wok Kitchen (in Mexico) and La Crepe Kitchen (coming soon in Guatemala). Their positive results speak to the success that this process has brought to their brands.

The restaurant industry’s Next Big Thing is shrinking the menus.

For years, most major restaurant chains have been expanding their menus at a breathless pace in response to intense competition and consumer demand for more choices. But now, some chains are doing the unthinkable: cutting the number of menu items.

The theory is simple: less is more. More quality. Faster service. Hotter food. Not to mention lower prices, lower costs and higher profits. For the nation’s $683 billion restaurant industry, hit by an uncertain economy and changing consumer habits, this may be an unlikely, back-to-the-future path to progress.

Fewer menu options not only cuts costs, but — in theory — can make customers happier because chains can do a better job with their most popular menu items. That’s one reason why, over the past few years, IHOP has whittled down its menu from 200 items to about 170, says Julia Stewart, CEO of parent company DineEquity. BJ’s Restaurant has cut entrees from 181 to 150 and aims to get closer to 100, says CEO Greg Trojan. In three years, Tony Roma’s has slashed its menu items from 92 to about 60, says Chief Operating Officer Brad Smith.

This pruning is mostly about appealing to Millennials. They value basics such as food quality, flavor, local sourcing and the ability to customize their meals over massive menus.

“We can no longer be everything to everybody all the time,” says Smith, of Tony Roma’s. “I don’t think customers are out there counting the number of items. It’s about producing better quality products.” In an even clearer signal of less-is-more, the chain just opened its first TR Fire Grill prototype in Orlando with just 32 menu items.

This less-is-more philosophy has spread industry-wide. For the first time since restaurant researcher Technomic began tracking chain restaurant menu items a decade ago, the average number began to fall this year, says Darren Tristano, executive vice president.

The total number of menu items at the nation’s top 500 restaurant chains is down 7.1% this year — from 40,658 in 2013 to 37,770 this year, reports Technomic. The biggest drop is in entrées, down nearly 9%, the company reports. Appetizers are down 8%, dessert items down 7.5%.

“Too many choices make it hard for consumers to make a choice,” says Tristano. . It also can make it difficult for consumers “to remember why they go to a particular restaurant.” As a result, he says, the entire industry is “moving from ubiquity to specialization.” Many chains aim now to differentiate based on quality — not breadth, he says.

It may seem contradictory, but the menu shrinking comes at the same time chains also are trying to offer more customized options for the remaining items. The industry leader in this is Chipotle, which has just four main items on its menu — burritos, tacos, burrito bowls and salads — made with 18 optional ingredients. Those ingredients can be put together in more than 60,000 ways, notes spokesman Chris Arnold.

“It’s just never been important to us to constantly package our ingredients in different ways, call it a new menu item and promote it with heavy advertising,” says Arnold. “Customers come to our restaurants primarily because they love our food, not because of new menu items or other gimmicks.”

Beyond Chipotle, several chains, particularly burger specialists Five Guys and In-N-Out Burger, have made a killing on “less is more.” Five Guys has just five core entrees: burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, a veggie sandwich and a BLT. But fifteen free toppings make them customizable in more than 250,000 possible combinations. Five Guys is testing milkshakes, which, if added to the menu, would be the chain’s first truly new product line in about 20 years, says spokeswoman Molly Catalano.

Don’t think giants McDonald’s and Burger King haven’t been watching.

Burger King recently decided to cut way back on the number of new products and focus on fewer — but better — roll-outs. Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, says, “You can launch less and deploy better marketing support behind fewer products, to make sure people are paying attention.”

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson recently told analysts that he wants to simplify the menu because it has grown confusing for some consumers. At the same time, he said, McDonald’s wants to offer more customization of core products such as burgers.

At most restaurants, entrees are disappearing fastest, with the average at full service restaurants down from 60 in 2013 to 55 this year, reports Technomic.

At IHOP, most of the items eliminated over the past few years were entrees, says Stewart. Among them: Biscuits & Gravy, Pot Roast and three different Talapia dishes. Dropping complicated, slower-selling items gives chefs more time to focus on the remaining items, she says. “All the effort that went into Pot Roast can now be focused on making perfect waffles.”

The same reasoning has caused Tony Roma’s to cut several steak options, reduce the number of burgers, halve its chicken options and eliminate all pasta entrees, says Smith. “When we focus on fewer things, we can produce a more constant, quality product.”

The need for fewer products done better hit BJ’s Trojan like a brick shortly after he was hired about a year-and-a-half ago when he spent a busy Friday night helping in the kitchen at one of BJ’s busiest locations, in Cerritos, Calif. With so many menu items, he said, “I left thinking that we we’re asking our team members to perform miracles.”

Nightly miracles are no longer are expected. The focus has evolved from menu size to the food quality. Says Trojan, “If you don’t have great food in the restaurant business, what do you have?”

But it’s not always as simple as removing slow-moving items, warns Tristano. It’s sometimes the best customers who prefer those items — and no one wants to upset them.

Shortly after BJ’s took the Crisp Potato Skins platter off of its appetizer menu, says Trojan, “we had near-riots in the streets.”

Customers even showed up wearing “Bring Back Potato Skins” T-shirts.

And they easily won this skins game. The platter is back.

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Shrinking menus

The total number of menu items offered at the top 500 restaurant chains is down in 2014 after several years of steady increases.

Category: 2013, 2014, change

Appetizers: 5,039, 4,634, -8.0%

Entrées: 19,875, 18,121, -8.8%

Sides: 4,457, 4,222, -5.3%

Desserts: 3,543, 3,276, -7.5%

Non-alcohol beverages: 4,549, 4,399, -3.3%

Kid’s menu: 3,195, 3,118, -2.4%

Overall total: 40,658, 37,770, -7.1%

NOTE: Data based on 2nd-quarter menu listed items

SOURCE TECHNOMIC MENUMONITOR

Restaurant & Franchise Branding Expert Weighs in on Wendy’s: Embrace Change – But Don’t Try To Be Everything To Everyone In Hopes Of Broadening Your Customer Reach

Restaurant & Franchise Branding Consultant, Ellish Marketing Group, Completes Brand Positioning Work for Regional Pizza Chain Blackjack Pizza®

Askar Brands operator of multiple quick service and casual dining restaurants across the nation including Papa Romano’s, Papa’s Pizza To-Go, Breadeaux Pizza, Blackjack Pizza, Mr. Pita, Stucchi’s Ice Cream, CJ’s Brewing Company and Big Al’s Sports Grill, selected Ellish Marketing Group, international restaurant and franchise consultants, to work with the management team and franchise leadership team of Blackjack Pizza to define the brands brand positioning.

Askar Brands provides word class support to all of their brands by providing management, marketing, training and operations materials to allow their franchisees to focus on their execution and customer retention.  The development of a pre-emptive, ownable and defendable brand positioning for Blackjack is consistent with their philosophy.  The end result of the brand positioning work from Ellish Marketing Group will be a more focused and more competitive pizza brand.

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