Posts tagged Brand Refresh

Buffets, Inc. Names Philip Friedman And Warren Ellish To Board Of Directors With Focus On Brand Turnaround

EAGAN, Minn., Dec. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – Buffets, Inc. has appointed seasoned restaurant executive Philip Friedman and highly accomplished marketing executive F. Warren Ellish to its Board of Directors, thereby completing the new seven-member board of directors formed after the company emerged from bankruptcy.  Both executives possess over 30 years of restaurant industry experience and each has held leadership positions at growth and turnaround brands in the restaurant and hospitality industries.  The appointments are effective immediately.

“These are true leaders with proven track records of success,” said Rob Webster, Chairman of the Board of Buffets, Inc.  “Both Warren and Phil have the practical knowledge of what it takes to turn around and grow a brand, and they understand the need for strong corporate governance.  We are pleased to add them to our board of directors, and are excited for the future of our organization with their support and expertise.”

Philip Friedman
Philip Friedman currently serves as Chairman and CEO of Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, an 85-location casual Mexican restaurant chain he acquired in 2011, and as President of P. Friedman & Associates, Inc., a strategic planning and management consulting company he founded in 1986.  Friedman previously served as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of McAlister’s Corporation, a quick casual concept he acquired along with a group of investors in 1999.  During his tenure, McAlister’s grew from 27 to 300 restaurants in 22 states. In 2005, Friedman led the successful sale of McAlister’s Corporation to Roark Capital Group.

Friedman was awarded Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2009 Golden Chain Award honoree for his success with McAlister’s and The International Foodservice Manufacturers’ Association’s Silver Plate award for his enduring and outstanding achievements in the Chain Restaurant Full Service category.  He was also honored by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) as a Cornerstone Humanitarianfor leading McAlister’s in outstanding community involvement.  He received an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, as well as a MA in Political Science and a BA in History from the University of Connecticut. Friedman serves on the Board of Directors for Diversified Restaurants, Boudin Bakeries & Restaurants and Silver Diner Corporation as well as on the boards of the National and Mississippi Restaurant Associations.

“Phil will help us deliver on our brand vision of offering real food and real choices, while creating real connections with our guests,” said Anthony Wedo, Buffets, Inc. Chief Executive Officer.

F. Warren Ellish
F. Warren Ellish is a senior marketing executive with extensive experience in consumer products, restaurants and retailing. Ellish has been responsible for successfully positioning hundreds of well-known brands and has a track record of delivering outsized returns in competitive industries.  In 1995, Ellish founded his own marketing consulting company, Ellish Marketing Group LLC, and for the past 17 years has been advising the senior leadership of numerous leading brands and companies from a strategic marketing perspective.  Prior to forming Ellish Marketing Group, he served as a founding partner and Vice President of Marketing for Boston Chicken, Inc. (Boston Market), where he helped create a new brand in the “home meal replacement” retail category.  Ellish also served as Vice President of Marketing and an executive committee member for Red Lobster Restaurants (Darden), Vice President of Marketing for Luzianne Blue Plate Foods, and other senior marketing positions with Burger King Corporation, Johnson & Johnson and PepsiCo.  Ellish was also named to Advertising Age’s “Marketing 100 – The Superstars of US Marketing.”

Ellish received both his BS and MBA from Cornell University, where he currently serves as a member of the marketing faculty at the SC Johnson Graduate School of Management.

“I have known Warren for 20 years and have seen his track record of repeated successes first hand,” Wedo said.  “He has helped launch start ups and driven brand turnarounds.  I know that his breadth of experience will be extremely helpful as we move this brand forward.”

Friedman and Ellish will serve alongside current 2012 Buffets, Inc. Board Members: Chairman Rob Webster, CEO Anthony Wedo, David Merritt, Todd Brown and Santino Blumetti.

About Buffets, Inc.
Buffets, Inc., the nation’s largest steak-buffet restaurant company, currently operates 347 restaurants in 35 states, comprised of 337 steak-buffet restaurants and 10 Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse restaurants.  The restaurants are principally operated under the Old Country Buffet®, HomeTown® Buffet, Ryan’s® and Fire® Mountain brands.  Buffets employs approximately 18,000 team members and serves approximately 100 million customers annually.  For more information about Buffets, Inc., visit online at

Ellish Marketing Group completes brand positioning work for regional pizza chain Seasons Pizza®

Ellish Marketing Group completes brand positioning work for hospitality resort Great Wolf Lodge®

Building Your Brand: Warren Ellish contributes feature story to the Publican Magazine Winter 2012 issue


Is your beverage licensee 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 beverage licensee 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, bars, wine and spirits retailers, brewers, wineries and distillers – – 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.

Ellish Marketing Group introduces new marketing campaign with a focus on guest acquisition for Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants

number of new guests for the brand.  FSI’s will also be a part of the marketing effort.

Ellish Marketing Group completes brand positioning work for international restaurant chain Tai Pak®

Ellish Marketing Group completes brand positioning work for Mayo Clinic®

Ellish Marketing Group completes brand positioning work for regional restaurant chain National Coney Island®

Your Restaruant As a Brand: Interview on Branding and Brand Positioning with Warren Ellish on Foodservice Radio, the new streaming 24-hour internet radio station programmed for restaurant and food service operators launched at the National Restaurant Show.

Creating a brand around your restaurant has many benefits. A clear, concise brand statement can drive marketing, development and even operational activities. In a Foodservice Radio interview, Warren Ellish, Senior Lecturer at Cornell University and CEO of Ellish Marketing Group talks about how you can turn your restaurant – large or small – into a world class brand.

To listen to the complete interview visit Food Service Radio or at iTunes.

Excerpts from the interview:

There are many misconceptions about branding among food service operators. “Most people think of a brand as mark,” says Ellish. “It is not a mark, a brand leaves a mark. What is really interesting is that restaurant customers don’t really care about a brand name, logo or tag line. What they really care about is who your brand is, what it stands for, what your brand offers, and very importantly, why your brand is different.”

“Brand positioning is the way anyone wants the consumer to think about their product or service relative to competing brands,” Ellish adds. “It is the most basic of all strategic statements. It provide the blueprint for all the marketing and development of any brand and it focuses the efforts of all those involved in brand activities. It states the reason for a brand’s existence.”

There are “three questions that will help people easily determine if their brand is strategically positioned and if their message is being clearly communicated,” says Ellish. “They are ‘What business is your brand in; what is the target market for your brand; and what is the point of difference for your brand?’”

Ellish suggests putting the answers to those questions together into a simple brand positioning statement, “To (your market target), (your brand) is the brand of (your competitive set) that offers (your point of difference).”

This exercise often points out the weaknesses in the current brand positioning. “What’s really interesting is when I do this exercise, whether it is with a small entrepreneurial group or a very large corporate environment, you find significant inconsistencies in the answers. Most members of the team list points of similarity and not points of difference,” says Ellish. “Make sure your reason for being is exclusive and unique, and make sure using your brand becomes a true experience for your guests.”

Defining your brand positioning also helps with social media. It helps your customers remember exactly what you want them to know about your brand. Those customers will in turn communicate that message to others.

When it comes to branding, “The little guy has as much opportunity as the big guy,” Ellish concludes. “All they have to do is make sure they go through and position their brand and make sure that have a preemptive, ownable and defendable point of difference. If they don’t, then there is no reason for anyone to become a loyal follower and an advocate of their brand.”

For more information or to contact Mr. Ellish, visit or call 303-762-0360.

Cornell Johnson Senior Lecturer Provides Branding Expertise to Attendees of Annual National Restaurant Association Show

Warren Ellish explores “the three critical steps” of brand positioning with restaurant industry conference attendees today, at the 2012 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show. Cornell University’s Johnson Senior Lecturer of Marketing, Warren Ellish, President and CEO of the Ellish Marketing Group, presented a 90-minute session on brand positioning to restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, franchisees, and culinary professionals, among other restaurant industry conference attendees.

An expert on brand positioning, Ellish, ‘77, MBA ‘78, has more than 30 years of client and consulting experience. His his talk, “Three Steps to Positioning Your Restaurant into a World-Class Brand,” detailed the importance of positioning a brand through “points of difference” and aligning all other brand aspects behind its positioning.

As the National Restaurant Association forecasts a record-high $600 billion in sales for 2012, restaurants are increasingly seeking to leverage increased growth and augment their brands.

During his sold-out presentation, Ellish explained the elements of a positioning statement—a brief description of what a business does and how it does it differently and better than its competitors. He encouraged audience members to apply this to their own restaurants or businesses and to reflect on what their unique differentiators may be.

Part of Ellish’s educational session also included a simple test to help participants determine if their brands are strategically positioned and how they can analyze the results to strengthen their brands.

“Without a concise brand positioning statement with a competitive ‘point of difference’ and complete management alignment behind that positioning, it will be difficult to communicate a clear and meaningful message about your brand,” Ellish noted in a branding document provided to session attendees.

Illuminating key brand positioning opportunities for attendees, Ellish drew on his own restaurant and packaged goods marketing experience. Ellish was a founding partner and VP of Marketing for Boston Chicken, where he was a member of the core start-up executive team and led the brand through its conversion to Boston Market.

Ellish brings his experience to the MBA classroom at S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, teaching in the Strategic Marketing Immersion program and product management class. He founded and hosts the Marketing Executive One-On-One Coaching Program, now in its fifth year. At this annual event, top-level marketing executives spend two days at Johnson, meeting with and coaching MBA students preparing for careers in marketing.

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