The Positioning Statement: The blog of Ellish Marketing Group

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

Soccer Shots, the #1Children’s Fitness Franchise Program, Undergoes Brand Positioning Work with Ellish Marketing Group

Soccer Shots BrandingSoccer Shots, The Children’s Soccer Experience and the #1 Children’s Fitness Franchise Program, selected Ellish Marketing Group (the leading franchise and restaurant branding consultants) to work with their management leadership team, Franchise Presidents Council and Franchise Brand Strategy team to develop a strategically focused brand positioning for the brand.  The end result of the work undertaken will be laser focused brand positioning and complete alignment behind the branding by management and the franchise system.

 

Soccer Shots Brand PositioningThe new brand positioning was unveiled during the 2014 national franchise convention in Chicago.

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.

Warren Ellish to Address IFA 2014 Emerging Franchisor Conference

Warren Ellish Franchise and Restaurant SpeakerWarren Ellish, President & CEO of Ellish Marketing Group and Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management will be the opening speaker at the International Franchise Association 2014 Emerging Franchisor Conference. The convention will be held on November 18, 2014  in Dallas, Texas at the Sheraton Hotel.  Warren will address “The Three Critical Steps to Positioning Your Emerging Franchise Into a World-Class Brand.”

The IFA Emerging Franchisor Conference is designed for franchise operations executives, CEOs, COOs, Presidents, franchise development executives, franchise marketing experts, franchise relations specialists and anyone responsible for the growth and efficient operation of their franchise system. The conference is specifically designed to address challenges and opportunities unique to franchise systems who are looking to grow. This is a prime networking and educational conference for franchisors that are ready to take their systemInternational Franchise Association to the next level. This program will feature franchise leaders sharing what they learned when they were trying to build their brand. Attendees will hear motivational stories, expert tips and proven strategies that helped them attract new franchisees, build brand recognition and a loyal customer base, increase productivity while streamlining operations. Simply put, this is a must-attend event!

Don’t Let A Point Of Similarity Become Your Point Of Difference

Successfully identifying and securing a powerful brand positioning is of critical importance to every brand. It is helpful to anyone who wants to influence other people. Whether you are promoting a product, a service, a cause, a candidate, an organization, an institution or even yourself and your own career. Positioning will aid in getting your desired message across to the people you want to reach and make an impression that lasts. One of the critical steps in developing a powerful brand positioning is to identify your brands point of difference – – the specific consumer benefit which you want consumers to associate most readily with your product or service. What does your brand do that no one else’s brand does as well and that your target cares about? When defining your brands point of difference, don’t let a point of similarity become your point of difference. So often I see this.  When speaking recently to industry audiences on branding and brand positioning (National Restaurant Association ShowInternational Franchise Association National Convention and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Leadership Conference) or to the executive teams of clients, I ask three short questions: How many of your grew up wanting to be average? Or just like everyone else? Or of good quality? Rarely do I see any hands or much of a positive response. However, many brand leaders are perfectly OK about making their brands just like this – – average, just like everyone else and good. Many of the items that are an integral part of your product/service but are not preemptive, ownable and defendable become points of entry into your competitive set and are nothing more than points of similarity. Yes, they are all important to your product or service and in many cases you must deliver on these flawlessly just to be in business. But this is not what sets you apart, not a reason a customer should or will choose to use your brand over competitor brands, and most definitely this is not a reason for them to ever become a brand advocate. For more information on how to quickly and affordably position and brand your business to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, visit www.ellishmarketing.com, or reach Warren directly at 303-762-0360 or .

Pleased To Be a Part of The Restaurant Industry As It Continues to Benefit From An Improving Economy

Restaurant Job Growth Remains Broad-Based and Robust in 2014

Restaurant Job Growth Remains Broad-Based and Robust in 2014 Restaurant Job Growth Remains Broad-Based and Robust in 2014Washington DC  (RestaurantNews.com)  The National Restaurant Association‘s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy breaks down the latest employment trends:  “The national labor market continued to heat up in June, with restaurants remaining among the strongest growth sectors.  According to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national economy added a net 288,000 jobs in June on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the fifth consecutive month with gains of at least 200,000 jobs. “In total, the national economy added nearly 1.4 million jobs during the first half of 2014, the strongest six-month performance in more than eight years. “Restaurants continued to be among the leaders in job growth, with the industry adding a net 32,800 jobs in June and more than 173,000 jobs during the first six months of the year.  Overall, restaurant employment was up 3.1 percent on a year-to-date basis through June 2014, nearly double the 1.7 percent gain in total U.S. employment. “Job growth within the restaurant industry has been broad-based in 2014, just as it has been throughout the post-recession period.  On a year-to-date basis through May 2014 (segment-level figures are lagged by one month), quickservice restaurants added jobs at a strong 4.0 percent rate.  This puts the quickservice segment on pace to post job growth of at least 4 percent for the third consecutive year. “The fullservice segment added jobs at a 2.9 percent rate through the first five months of 2014.  While this is down somewhat from the consecutive 3.4 percent gains registered in 2012 and 2013, fullservice employment gains remain well above job growth in the overall economy. “Meanwhile, the snack and nonalcoholic beverage bar segment – which includes concepts such as coffee, donut and ice cream shops – added jobs at a robust 6.1 percent rate on a year-to-date basis through May 2014.  If this trend continues, it would represent this segment’s strongest growth since 2007, as well as the third consecutive year with employment gains above 5 percent. “Look for these positive growth trends to continue through the remainder of the year, as the restaurant industry continues to benefit from an improving economy and stronger consumer sentiment.” Read more from the Economist’s Notebook. For additional analysis of restaurant industry trends, log on to Restaurant TrendMapper at Restaurant.org/Trendmapper (subscription required). Restaurant Job Growth Remains Broad-Based and Robust in 2014 Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 990,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13.5 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We operate the industry’s largest trade show (NRA Show May 16-19, 2015, in Chicago); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart); as well as the Kids LiveWell program promoting healthful kids’ menu options. For more information, visit www.restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurantsFacebook andYouTube.

Building Your Brand – Is Your Restaurant or Franchise Brand Strategically Positioned?

 

Is your restaurant or franchise brand strategically positioned with its message clearly communicated? Are you sure?

You don’t have to embark on a lengthy and expensive consumer research study to find out if your restaurant or franchise brand is strategically positioned with its message clearly communicated. Just try this quick and easy exercise. You may be surprised by what you learn.

Ask each member of your management team, each member of your marketing organization, and key external strategic and creative resources to answer the following three questions:

  1. 1.    What business is your brand in? Your “frame of reference”.
  2. 2.    What is the “target market” for your brand?
  3. 3.    What are the “points of difference” for your brand? Note: List no more than three.

Analyze your results. If you observe either or both of the following, your brand positioning can most definitely be strengthened:

  • Significant inconsistency in the answers to most if not all of the above three questions.
  • “Points of difference” that are really “points of similarity” to your competition or simply “points of entry” in your business – and not pre-emptive, ownable and defendable attributes that are important to your target market.

Successfully identifying and securing a powerful brand positioning is of critical importance to every brand. It is crucial to anyone who wants to influence other people, whether you are promoting a product, a service, a cause, a candidate, an organization, an institution or even yourself and your own career. Positioning will aid in getting your desired message across to the people you want to reach and making an impression that lasts. Positioning is the way in which you want the consumer to think about your business (products and services) relative to competing brands. It is the most basic of all strategic statements, provides the blueprint for the marketing and development of the brand, and focuses the efforts of all those involved in brand activities.

Without a concise brand positioning statement with a competitive “point of difference” and complete management alignment behind this positioning, it will be difficult to communicate a clear and meaningful message about your brand. A brand must make a strong impression that lasts and translates into profitable sales and long-term growth.

What are the three critical elements of a brand positioning statement?

1 – Target Market: Composed of consumers considered to be good potential users for your product/service. Don’t think demographically. Think about what the similar set of needs and/or concerns are which motivate this group of consumers’ purchase behavior.

2 – Frame of Reference: Describes the consumer grouping of like products or services (or competing brands) with which your product or service competes.  It is easy to think about this as “what business are you in”. Make sure you consider all of the options that a consumer has available to satisfy a specific need.

3 – Point of Difference: The specific consumer benefit that you want consumers to associate most readily with your product or service. What does your brand do that no other brand does as well and that your target cares about?  Why should your target value your brand?

Don’t let a point of similarity become your point of difference. One of the critical steps in developing a powerful brand positioning is to identify your brands point of difference – – the specific consumer benefit which you want consumers to associate most readily with your product or service. So when defining your brands point of difference, don’t let a point of similarity become your point of difference. So often I see this. 

When speaking recently to industry audiences on branding and brand positioning (National Restaurant Association, International Franchise Association National Convention, Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Leadership Conference) or to the executive teams of clients, I ask three short questions: How many of your grew up wanting to be average? Or just like everyone else? Or of good quality? Rarely do I see any hands or much of a positive response. However, many brand leaders are perfectly OK about making their brands just like this – – average and just like everyone else.

Many of the items that are an integral part of your product/service but are not preemptive, ownable and defendable become points of entry into your competitive set and are nothing more than points of similarity. Yes, they are all important to your product or service and in many cases you must deliver on these flawlessly just to be in business. But this is not what sets you apart, not a reason a customer should or will choose to use your brand over competitor brands, and most definitely this is not a reason for them to ever become a brand advocate.

A brand is not a mark. A brand leaves a mark. Believe it or not, your customers do not really care about your brands’ name, your logo, or your tag line. What they do care about is who your brand is, what it stands for, what your brand offers and why your brand is different. People want to love brands. They want to feel amazing about using your brand. So stop worrying about the name of your brand, your logo or your tag line.  Focus you attention on clearly positioning your brand and gaining complete management alignment behind that positioning. The end result will be the development of a concise positioning statement, agreed upon by your core management team.

Properly position your brand and you will be in good company. I’ve worked with hundreds of global, national, regional and local brands including many restaurants and franchises – – all using a disciplined approach to developing a clearly defined brand positioning statement. Each of these clients that focused their attention on brand positioning have reaped the benefits of their efforts.

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Warren Ellish is a senior marketing executive with over 30 years of client and consulting experience in consumer products marketing, restaurant marketing, franchise marketing, dental marketing and retail marketing. He is a renowned marketing and branding consultant, lecturer and speaker on branding and brand positioning, is President and CEO of Ellish Marketing Group and is a member of the marketing faculty at Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. Ellish was named to the Advertising Age “Marketing 100–the superstars of US marketing”.

Mr. Ellish has a successful track record of assisting the senior leadership of highly competitive multi-unit trade area driven businesses (with a focus on restaurant and franchise brands) generate high returns on investment based on a strategic focus to drive profitable traffic and product mix.  A significant amount of his work has been with start-up, emerging and turnaround businesses.  He has launched many new brands and concepts that became successful growth businesses while also revitalizing many once formidable brands that lost their way to become strong competitors once again.  He has been responsible for developing brand positioning for hundreds of well-known international, domestic, regional and local brands.  His core practice areas include: brand positioning, restaurant marketing and franchise marketing for domestic and international clients.

Soccer Shots Selects Warren Ellish to Keynote 10th Annual Franchise Convention

_DSC4454Warren Ellish, President & CEO of Ellish Marketing Group and Senior Lecturer at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management will be the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Soccer Shots National Fracnhise Convention. The convention will be held on Saturday July 19, 2014  in Chicago at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.  Warren’s keynote will address “The Three Critical Steps to Positioning Your Franchise Into a World-Class Brand.”

Soccer Shots is the leader in youth soccer development for children ages 2-8. Their nationally recognized program offers a high energy, fun, age-appropriate introduction to the wonderful game of soccer. Their innovative curriculum emphasizes both soccer skills and character development. Their goal is simple: “to leave a lasting, positive impact on every child we serve”.

Customers care what your brand stands for, offers, and why it is different

Position your brand to gain a competitive advantage

By Krista McNamara

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 12.08.39 PM

PUERTO RICO — Set your brand apart in the eyes of your customer in order to gain a competitive edge.

“Customers care what your brand stands for, what it offers and why it is different.” Don’t worry about your name, logo or tagline. A well-positioned brand can change perceptions, drive loyalty and get a premium price, in turn driving sales and profits, said Warren Ellish, president and CEO of Ellish Marketing Group, during a presentation at the 2014 CARSTAR National Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Warren Ellish addresses CARSTAR 25th Convention in Puerto Rico

Warren Ellish addresses CARSTAR 25th Convention in Puerto Rico

Branding expert and franchise marketing speaker Warren Ellish

Branding expert and franchise marketing speaker Warren Ellish

“To gain a competitive edge, you need to have as large a core of brand advocates as possible,” he said. How do you build brand advocates? As an MSO, “you need a brand that is properly and consistently positioned.” Positioning will aid in getting your desired message across to the people you want to reach and making an impression that will last. Positioning is the way you want the customer to think about your product or service relative to competing brands,” says Ellish, who is also a senior lecturer at Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management.

There are three areas to be tackled in brand positioning:

• Point of difference: The specific consumer benefit you want consumers to associate most readily with your product. What is different about your brand? What does it offer that other brands can’t?

• Frame of reference: What business are you in? The consumer group of like products and services

• Market target: Consumers that you consider to be good potential users for your product or service.

“When customers come in, they have chosen your brand over others. To gain a competitive edge, you have to wow every customer. They must feel like we truly appreciate their business, and leave with a great feeling about doing business with you and your brand,” Ellish says. “When you deliver on these critical things, you will profitably build your business and that of everyone

else in your brand, and together we will build a large base of brand advocates.”  “There is power in numbers, so use your scale to your advantage. Each and every good and bad review reflects on the entire brand. You are one brand. Keep the message consistent and leverage your scale. Stand as a unified brand, and you will gain a competitive edge,” he says.

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