Brisket Channel proves to be ultimate reality TV

August 27, 2014

Article by: David Phelps, Star Tribune

© 2014 Star Tribune

Remember the Brisket Channel on Duluth TV?

It was on for 13 hours and five minutes over the Memorial Day weekend.

It turned out to be quite a hit, once reruns made it to YouTube. Nearly 400,000 viewers tuned into the Internet version of the smoked brisket marathon developed for Arby’s by the Minneapolis ad agency Fallon.

So popular was the website that each unique visitor spent an average of 38 minutes on the site, watching a brisket slow cook in the same manner that Arby’s prepares brisket for its customers. It also helped that visitors had a chance to win one of $20,000 in prizes that included a 10-gallon hat, lasso and beef-scented candles.

“We were blown away by that,” said Matt Heath, Fallon creative director, of the viewership.

And the client was pleased. “Thirty-eight minutes is longer than a lot of TV shows,” said Jeff Baker, Arby’s senior brand experience director. “It was a great idea based on simplicity.”

Besides setting a Guinness record for the longest TV commercial, the brisket show and limited brisket sandwich offer set the stage for Arby’s new “we have the meats” advertising campaign that Fallon launched earlier this month.

Results for the fledging ad campaign so far are inconclusive. But Rocky Novak, Fallon’s managing director, said: “We’re seeing a lot of social media love.” Arby’s said it does not release sales figures. But when it first made the brisket sandwich limited-time-offer available in October of 2013, “we declared it the most successful [limited-time offer] in the brand’s 50-year history,’’ said a spokesman Wednesday.

Gone as Arby’s pitchman is Bo Dietl, the former New York City police detective who was the face and voice of Arby’s for nearly two years. To quote Dietl from a commercial for Arby’s fish sandwich, “Really?” Yeah, really.

In fact, the new Arby’s commercials are faceless. The only human element seen by viewers is of a person from the shoulders down wearing a chef’s jacket. A roast beef or turkey or corned beef sandwich is the star of the commercial.

“The LSR [limited service restaurant or fast food] industry is not hyper-focused on food. There are a lot of entertainment factors,” said Heath. “We wanted to see how close we could get to the food. We didn’t want to put a face in there. It’s about the finished product.”

Among the tag lines used for the new set of Arby’s commercials are “this is meatcraft,” “fear not the meats,” “meats crafted with a heavy hand” and “it will change you.”

“We feel like we have an incredible heritage of meats and that presenting them in a simple way was the best way,” Baker said in an interview earlier this week.

Brand overhaul

Arby’s new advertising campaign will be accompanied by a new branding campaign that the Atlanta-based company announced in June. The branding effort includes remodeled exteriors, revitalized interiors and staff training.

Based on some consumer testing, Arby’s message and image could use a little retooling.

According to the food industry consulting firm Technomic, sales and market share at Arby’s have declined in each of the last two years, placing the roast beef king a distant second behind Subway in the non-hamburger sandwich sector and ahead of a hard-charging Jimmy John’s.

“Arby’s is considered to be unique because its about roast beef, not hamburgers, not chicken. We’re talking about an older, nostalgic brand,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president for Chicago-based Technomic. “Clearly there are some advertising opportunities and some innovative opportunities.”

Novak said the new Arby’s advertising campaign is all about what goes between a bun or two pieces of bread in the Arby’s kitchen.

“The main takeaway first and foremost is that this is about the meat that is put in the sandwich,” Novak said.

Tristano said Arby’s scores well with consumers on a number of metrics, including service, decor and “craveability.” But it doesn’t score so well on prices, healthy options and “advertising that makes me hungry.”

“By focusing on what differentiates you, that creates memorable and creative advertising,” Tristano said. “Freshness gives you a stronger feel of healthiness.”

And credit for a new Arby’s feel may come down to a Texas-smoked brisket that took 13 hours to cook and five minutes to carve.


Fantasy Football Restaurants

December 12, 2012

© 2012 Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.

Area bars ramping up to tackle fantasy football league business

On fall Sundays, beer, Buffalo wings and draft boards are king — especially if you are a fantasy football fan.

To entice those fantasy players to leave the comfort of their couches and PCs, Southwest Florida restaurants and sports bars are ramping up freebies and other gimmicks, all in an effort to build customer loyalty and boost business before the winter tourist season kicks in fully.

Analysts say fantasy leagues can reap benefits that last long after the first pick of the NFL draft.

“These leagues continue on throughout the year, providing the perfect reason for repetitive business for restaurants with multiple televisions and an atmosphere for the games,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president with Technomic, a Chicago-based food consulting firm. “There is great opportunity for restaurants to benefit from this.”

Fantasy football is a mostly online game, with supporting mobile apps, in which players create virtual leagues and “draft” actual professional players from NFL teams to form their own franchise.

With a team in place, players go head-to-head with each other every week, collecting points based on how well their drafted players perform in the actual pro games that week. Just like in the NFL, the fantasy team with the most points wins.

In this region, restaurant and bar owners estimate there are thousands of fantasy football participants, who tend to be rabid fans with more discretionary income than typical sports fans. To win their loyalty, venues have begun leveraging the innate advantage they have by offering multiple televisions for viewing multiple games simultaneously — together with NFL-related food and drink specials. The trick is to show as many games as possible, all at once, so fantasy participants can keep track of as many of “their” players simultaneously.

These guys are serious

At Siesta Key Oyster Bar on Oyster Boulevard, customers sit at tables based on the game of their preference each Sunday, said owner Keith Cipielewski. It is so serious that seating charts are coordinated a week in advance, so staff can coordinate which games will play on which of the restaurant and bar’s 15 televisions.

“It keeps us in touch with the locals,” Cipielewski said. “Plus it starts at a time that is traditionally slow for us, around the end of the summer, and brings more people in.”

SKOB, which is known for being a Chicago Bears fan hangout, also invites fantasy football players to a draft party every year.

Cipielewski said participants have received free merchandise, too, such as a punch card that rewards frequent customers with free beer.

Fantasy football benefits restaurants through the loyalty a fan feels to a certain establishment,” said Tristano, the Chicago consultant.

“For fans, there’s a reason to go back there now on a more repetitive basis for games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday,” Tristano said, referring to expanded NFL playing days throughout the season.

Restaurants have a really great opportunity to build on that loyalty through relevant promotions to keep them coming back.”

Gecko’s Grill & Pub, a Sarasota restaurant in the Landings, has done just that to capture repeat business. Fantasy football fans can win prizes such as free grills, deluxe tailgating chairs and club- level Tampa Bay Bucs game tickets every week, general manager Mike Ferrara said.

The restaurant also hosts its own football pool, in which participants have the chance to win free beer for a year by picking the most winners during the course of an NFL season. For the fantasy football draft itself, Gecko’s offered bottomless chips and salsa to all league participants.

“We try to amp it up all the way to Super Bowl Sunday,” Ferrara said. “It seems like everyone is on a fantasy football league these days, so we want to entice them to keep coming back.”

Chains in on action

Local bars and restaurants are not the only ones trying to capitalize on fantasy football.

In 2010, pizza chain Papa John’s hosted a contest on its Facebook page, asking players worldwide why they thought their league was the best.

The contest winner received an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2011 NFL Draft in New York City. This year, adult arcade chain Dave & Buster’s hosted league parties that included a free pro football weekly fantasy football guide and a free CBS network draft kit. Buffalo Wild Wings, likewise, gave away draft kits that contained league championship pennants, draft boards, player stickers and koozies. Sandwich maker Quiznos offered free fantasy draft boards on its Facebook page that leagues could use during at-home draft parties. The chain also included coupons, like 20 percent off catering purchases of $50 or more, and $5 small sub combinations.

A declining fan base?

But it is sports bars that have really gone after fantasy football leagues as a way to boost business.

At FinnDaddy’s, a sports bar on Beneva Road, the fantasy football crowds have thinned this year, but the bar still draws a decent crowd, owner Mark Lapidus said.

“It could be my competition is cheaper or more people are just staying home,” he said. “We still have good locals, though, that come in every week to watch all of their players.”

Each year, Lapidus hosts draft parties for local leagues, where he offers less-expensive prices on beer and food and gives out complimentary draft boards. But with the success of fantasy football has come a flood of competition, making it more difficult for bars and restaurants to keep regulars coming back.

“There are so many kinds of players trying to get in on the big- screen business that it is causing the crowd that’s looking for the games on Sunday to be splintered up through all the alternatives,” said Michael Terry, a professor with the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality.

“It’s not just local sports bars anymore, but the buffalo wing chains and even the newer craft beer bars,” he added. “They are all taking a piece of this pie.”

At the Gecko’s on Clark Road in Sarasota, NFL viewing has fallen victim, somewhat, to demographics. General manager Mark Stewart says more people come in now to watch college football games on Saturdays. His theory is that fewer people in Southwest Florida have a pro team to cheer for.

“The problem is that no one in Sarasota roots for the home team,” he said. “No one is from Florida, so they’re fans of teams in other states. But for college football, people are ready to root for Florida or Florida State.”__


Boston Market Corp. Lines up Limited-Time Deals in Bid to Get More People in the Door

July 18, 2012

By CATHERINE TSAI, 20 June 2012, (c) 2012. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

DENVER (AP) – Boston Market Corp. plans a string of summer deals and giveaways to lure customers, especially younger ones, in a competitive market.

The campaign was built to show how the chain can fit into people’s lifestyles.

“It’s not just food that goes in your belly. It can be part of something you can experience,” said new chief brand officer Sara Bittorf.

Already the chain has introduced a summer menu with barbecue chicken, highlighting a sauce that launched last year. Now through July 29, kids under 12 who come in wearing a team uniform get free dessert when they buy a kids meal. During part of the Tour de France, people who ride their bicycles to Boston Market can be eligible for discounts.

It also is holding a sweepstakes with a trip to Maui as the grand prize. Finally, in August, an extreme sports athlete who is a fan of Boston Market will host a giveaway. Bittorf wouldn’t divulge details, but skateboarder Ryan Scheckler was recently quoted saying his ideal last meal would be from Boston Market.

The goal is to build on a reputation as a trusted partner for providing wholesome meals while also drawing younger customers, Bittorf said.

“I believe very strongly that the Boston Market brand has the ability to reclaim the position it owned 15 years ago, when it reinvented the home meal replacement category,” Bittorf said. “It wasn’t just the people who sold you food, it was a solution to your everyday dinner dilemma. It made your life a little easier. We’ve lost a little bit of that over the years.”

The company started as Boston Chicken in Newton, Mass., in 1985. Since then it has been through a name change, a trip through bankruptcy court and ownership for a time by McDonald’s Corp.

An affiliate of Sun Capital Partners acquired the company, now based in Golden, Colo., in 2007. It doesn’t release annual revenues.

The company faces competition on multiple fronts, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of the food industry research firm Technomic Inc.

“Competition from Mexican, Asian and burgers, in particular, have really impacted their ability to grow,” Tristano said. “Then you talk about competition in chicken, not just from KFC and Chick-fil-A but also Costco, Sam’s Club, Safeway, because everybody has rotisserie chicken. It’s made it harder to be innovative and competitive.”

Now it needs to find a way to hook more young, single people with grab-and-go food, not just harried parents, Tristano said.

While it has long offered more than chicken, Boston Market is looking to add more menu items, perhaps around the first of the year.

It has a catering business, but it also is testing delivery in New York City. “It’s on our radar. We’re trying to figure out how to make it work in less dense areas,” Bittorf said.

The chain is even looking at whether to offer food trucks. “Certainly the trend has not escaped us,” Bittorf said. “We would come at this from different approach. Imagine you are a commuter and you get off the train at the end of a long day, and there’s a Boston Market food truck with food you pre-ordered, and you can pick up a meal and go home.”


The Donut’s on Us Today, Say National Chains

July 13, 2012

Published: Friday, 1 Jun 2012, By: Katie Little, News Associate

There may be no such thing as a free lunch — but if you’re eyeing a free donut today, you’re in luck.

In honor of National Donut Day, Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts are running in-store promotions on Friday and taking part in the opening and closing ceremonies at their respective stock exchanges, the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange.

At participating Dunkin’ Donuts locations, customers can score a free donut of their choice with the purchase of any beverage. On Twitter, the company will also post donut trivia questions, and users who answer correctly will be entered for a chance to win one of six $50 gift cards.

Meanwhile, Krispy Kremes in the U.S. and Canada will give away a free donut of any variety with no purchase necessary.

The Nasdaq, whose opening bell Dunkin’ rang this morning, has unofficially changed its name to “NASDDAQ” and incorporated the company’s pink and orange ‘D’ letters along with a sprinkled donut into its logo. Krispy Kreme will stop by the NYSE to ring the closing bell.

In New York City, Entenmann’s Bakery will hand out free donuts at Madison Square Park and present a $25,000 check to The Salvation Army, which will be providing free coffee to celebrants.

National Donut Day was first established by the charity in 1938 in Chicago as a way of honoring the “Donut Lassies” who served soldiers the treats during World War I and helped raise money during the Great Depression.

The events’ organizers will also share a proclamation letter from Mayor Bloomberg in honor of the holiday. The event comes just one day after Bloomberg announced a proposed ban of the sale of sweetened drinks larger than 16 fluid ounces at restaurants, movie theaters and delis. If approved, the controversial plan could be implemented as soon as next March.

Despite their confectionery names, these companies rely on more than merely donuts to fuel their businesses.

“I think what we have seen is chains like Krispy Kreme, Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts that have shifted from being traditional donut chains to serve broader occasions and day parts,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic.

Despite the strength of the cupcake trend, Tristano said that sales in the donut industry have been relatively stable. He added that this continued donut popularity speaks to the rise of snacking and eating during off-peak occasions.

Dunkin’ has responded to this demand by expanding its line of bakery sandwiches. Michelle King, Dunkin’ Brands’ director of global public relations, said breakfast sandwiches are already popular with customers, who have been purchasing them throughout the day.

“All are familiar with a twist and cater to our busy guests who are snacking more frequently throughout a ‘clockless day,’ ” she said about the new sandwiches.

Although Dunkin and Krispy Kreme carry many similar products, Dunkin has enjoyed stronger sales and location growth compared to Krispy Kreme, according to Technomic estimates. At Dunkin’, U.S. sales grew 23 percent from 2007 to last year while Krispy Kreme sales fell 13 percent during the same period.

Part of Dunkin’s success is due to the popularity of its coffee product.

“In fact, we don’t even classify them as donuts anymore,” Tristano said about Dunkin’. “We have them in the coffee café category.”

Companies place added emphasis on coffee since it typically carries a higher margin than items, such as donuts. Customers who incorporate a restaurant serving coffee into their daily routine often go to that chosen store every day and may purchase additional items while there. “By providing coffee and other products in addition to donuts, industry operators hope to attract consumers to their stores more frequently,” said Agata Kaczanowska, lead industry analyst at the research firm IBISWorld.

In September, Krispy Kreme announced the launch of three signature coffee blends. The company has also stepped up its expansion efforts internationally; it recently announced new development agreements in India and Russia.

This international push follows declines in U.S. store locations in both 2008 and 2009, according to Technomic data. The company added one net domestic location last year.

“The issue with Krispy Kreme was that they broadened so much, you could get them at the grocery stores, the convenience store, so why would you get them at the restaurant?” Tristano said.

In addition to promoting coffee to drive sales, donut shops are reacting to another trend to boost revenue, Kaczanowska said.

“Another tactic that donut stores are using to boost consumer interest is offering smaller donuts, which have fewer calories and less fat,” she said. “These appeal to health-conscious consumers that may indulge more often when smaller portions are offered.”