Transcript of Food & Restaurant Podcast – A Funeral For Retail

Transcript of episode A Funeral For Retail or read the companion article by Adam Pierno.

[00:00:03] Adam Pierno: All right. Welcome back to another episode of Food and Restaurant Marketing. I am Adam Pierno. With me again is the effervescent and extremely happy, Daniel Thaddeus Santy.
[00:00:19] Daniel Santy: Hello, everybody. Good to be here again today.
[00:00:22] Adam: Dan is in a great mood because we have been attending a funeral for the past year, that just seems to never end. Last time, we talked about the funeral that has been going on for 10 years for television.
Today, we’re talking about the funeral. We’re both wearing black for retail and specifically shopping centers, malls if you remember those. It’s just that it’s sad there’s a dirge playing, there’s a black limousine out front, a hearse. What do you think sir?
[00:00:53] Daniel: We just put a outlet mall in the hearse, there’s a processional that will happen. [laughs]
[00:01:00] Adam: You know what? I wonder– I’ll bet you outlet malls are okay.
[00:01:04] Daniel: Yes, you’re probably right. Well, I have a theory if you want to kick this off really-
[00:01:08] Adam: Let’s go, yes.
[00:01:11] Daniel: -with speed, is I have a theory about malls in terms of their revolution because I think you’re right about they’re not dying, they’re evolving. We talked about that. There are going to be two successful mall types going forward and I think outlets will be one.
[00:01:29] Adam: Extreme discount, extreme value.
[00:01:30] Daniel: Exactly, because everybody likes cheap blank.
[00:01:36] Adam: Right, you could say the word. [Editor’s note: we swear a lot]
[00:01:38] Daniel: Almost as much as they like free shit.
[00:01:41] Adam: I think they like cheap better than free.
[00:01:43] Daniel: Sometimes, I think you might be right. Then on the other end of the spectrum is luxury goods. I think the worlds of Louis Vuitton and I’m talking really pretty much the high-end stuff, because I think people really want– if I’m going to go in and buy a $1,600 bag, either as a gift for my wife or my girlfriend, which I don’t have currently or if a woman is going to splurge, she’s a professional and she just got a bonus and she wants to go gift herself a beautiful new purse or some luxury item, I think they want to see, feel, and touch it. Ordering it online is not the same.
[00:02:30] Adam: No, and you don’t know what the real heft of it is or what the real shape of it is until you’re holding it in your hands. If it’s a bag, leather. I think for tech goods, even for assembling this. Last time, we talked about the all-new Food and Restaurant Marketing studios, I bought almost everything on Amazon and read reviews and clicked links and then when it all got here, this very microphone that I’m speaking into now didn’t come with a cord.
[00:02:57] Daniel: Fascinating.
[00:02:58] Adam: So, then I started thinking, I went online, and I thought, “Oh, I could just order this cord.” and I was like, “You know what? I just want it today and I don’t want to mess around.” I had already had to return some things, I just wanted to go get it. So, I went and found there’s a– I was like, “I don’t even know where to go to buy this.”
[00:03:13] Daniel: Right.
[00:03:14] Adam: There’s a guitar center over there and I went in and I found a person and talked to them and asked them questions.
[00:03:19] Daniel: There you go.
[00:03:20] Adam: And got all the answers and bought the thing and it was like 13 bucks.
[00:03:23] Daniel: Yes, amazing.
[00:03:25] Adam: So, I think that part is not going away. That was a major, major, major digression.
[00:03:30] Daniel: Yes, interesting. Interesting. Again, I think all these stories are validating your theory about evolution.
[00:03:39] Adam: Yes, I don’t think what looks like today is right and I don’t think that the CNN slideshow of 12 photos of dead malls is where it’s going. The real estate’s too valuable. Somebody, either an entrepreneur or somebody that’s already existing in the retail space, will figure out how to reuse those spaces, either knocking them down or just filling those big box spaces.
[00:04:03] Daniel: More than likely [sic]– more than likely. [sic] More than likely, a few of them, and I mean this seriously, will become evangelical churches. You see that a lot where they reuse of a old movie theater.
[00:04:20] Adam: Right, and it’s a good, big, empty box.
[00:04:23] Daniel: Good, empty box that’s inexpensive to–
[00:04:25] Adam: I’ve actually thought of maybe putting a school in.
[00:04:28] Daniel: Yes, there’s another fundamental use. There’s so much going on in the charter school space.
[00:04:33] Adam: Right, they’re expanding and they’re looking for real estate in markets like ours, too. It’s hard to find.
[00:04:39] Daniel: If you think about it, retail malls typically are placed based on the residential density. That makes it viable. So, that’s actually interesting.
[00:04:50] Adam: Yes, that applies to both malls and churches.
[00:04:52] Daniel: Yes, Simon and company, if you’re listening, there’s a couple ideas for you.
[00:04:57] Adam: Yes, send the royalty checks our way. This is important because for you guys that are listening, because shopping, malls, and retail is really the major source of a lot of spontaneous restaurant traffic that pops up every day. So, as we’re watching, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve been seeing these headwinds in the restaurant space while we’re watching these big box major brands close and go bankrupt. They’re facing challenges and people are shopping less and then therefore, there’s pressure on any other cottage industry around that activity.
[00:05:33] Daniel: Okay, imagine if you did the math, just take the last 90 days. Every week, sometimes two or three times a week, you read the article about restaurant chain X is closing 30 stores.
[00:05:51] Adam: Wow.
[00:05:52] Daniel: Think of the implication if those 30 stores tend to be pads at these malls that we’re talking about.
[00:05:59] Adam: Right, it’s a death spiral; one feeds the other.
[00:06:01] Daniel: Exactly.
[00:06:02] Adam: Because you know what it is with retail in general is always clustered. So, when we say mall, that might be a strip mall, it might be a huge shopping center, a traditional indoor shopping mall. But the restaurant that I might stop at next to the store I might go to buy shoes and next to the bookstore that I used to go to get books or whatever else, those are all related activities and so when Fridays closes or Ruby Tuesdays closes at the mall, like at PV Mall.
[00:06:31] Daniel: Right.
[00:06:32] Adam: Well, there’s one less corner of the place I’m going to walk into and each time that mall gets less useful, and until now, if you walk into that mall, it’s deserted.
[00:06:42] Daniel: Yes, it’s kind of like what the West Valley Mall was like but now it’s complete reuse.
[00:06:51] Adam: Scary stuff. So, why is this happening? What is happening and what are the experts saying? Why is retail dying?
[00:07:00] Daniel: I will tell you right now.
[00:07:01] Adam: You have some answers for me?
[00:07:02] Daniel: Well, and you know what? Anecdotal as this may be and literally happened this morning, my lovely bride reminded me that I’ve been wanting to get a new pair of running shoes. So, I said, “All right.” I’m going online right now and we’re having a cup of coffee, I go to the place where I have a loyalty program.
[00:07:25] Adam: Right.
[00:07:26] Daniel: It’s a retail store so I could literally go in, I hate going in and here’s why because they’re vultures. I want a pair of shoes I do not want insoles. I do not want socks. I do not want a cap.
[00:07:40] Adam: Where do you go?
[00:07:42] Daniel: What’s it called, Runners? Not runners.
[00:07:44] Adam: Road Runner?
[00:07:45] Daniel: Road Runner, yes. They’re ridiculous.
[00:07:48] Adam: Sorry, Road Runner,
[00:07:49] Daniel: Yes, sorry Road Runner
[00:07:49] Adam: Maybe we’ll bleep this.
[00:07:50] Daniel: So, I’m all the way– I’ve got the cart. I’m going to checkout. Liza goes, “Why don’t I check my Amazon Prime account and see if I can get that same pair of shoes?” Because I buy the same pair of Asics every time. I love them.
[00:08:07] Adam: I’m the same way, same pair of Adidas.
[00:08:09] Daniel: She goes and they were $35 less.
[00:08:14] Adam: Holy moly.
[00:08:15] Daniel: Thirty-five dollars, same exact shoe. Now, I would venture to guess that the guy or the gal at– what’s it called, Road Runner?
[00:08:23] Adam: Yes.
[00:08:23] Daniel: Road Runner would tell me that the ones on Amazon are the 2016 model or something like that.
[00:08:27] Adam: Who gives a rats?
[00:08:28] Daniel: Right, because what did-
[00:08:29] Adam: I don’t care.
[00:08:29] Daniel: -they do between 16 and 17 to make that thing different?
[00:08:32] Adam: No, the body of the shoe, it’s with the fashion. The colors change. Who cares?
[00:08:36] Daniel: Right. Right, and so boom, abandon cart and head straight boom, and used–
[00:08:42] Adam: Wow, that’s it. Free shipping.
[00:08:45] Daniel: Free shipping and they were offering me shipping because I’m a VIP member
[00:08:48] Adam: Okay.
[00:08:49] Daniel: But still, I mean that wasn’t even enough.
[00:08:52] Adam: So, you’re saying you weren’t going to go into Road Runner, anyway?
[00:08:57] Daniel: No.
[00:08:58] Daniel: But you’re saying there was a reason now that something that made it very convenient for you and very affordable for you to buy those shoes. What was that thing? What was the name of that store?
[00:09:07] Daniel: Interweb? Amazon.
[00:09:10] Adam: Yes, exactly.
[00:09:11] Daniel: Amazon, absolutely.
[00:09:12] Adam: So, Amazon is eating everything and if it’s not Amazon, it’s a store that’s exactly like Amazon that’s in a very tight vertical that is stealing your reason to go to the store. That’s number one and we saw this going back to when we think of it, it was Christmas of ’15. I wrote an article about this. Showrooming had been a big thing, but at that time, what we found was, people would go to a store like Best Buy or they would go to a place like Road Runner, they pull out their mobile phone, they would take a picture of the thing that they wanted, they would Google the thing that they wanted, they would not buy it on their mobile device, they would go home and they would convert on their laptop.
[00:09:54] Daniel: Interesting.
[00:09:55] Adam: So, what they saw was a spike in mobile traffic going to these retail stores, but not a spike in sales and a spike from desktop-
[00:10:04] Daniel: Interesting.
[00:10:05] Adam: -in that same seasonal period. Retail was down that year. Now, we’re seeing that people have finally figured out, “Oh, I can just buy it.” I’ve been trained to either buy it on my phone, which is getting easier and easier and easier, and Amazon has [crosstalk]
[00:10:19] Daniel: Amazon has made it very easy.
[00:10:21] Adam: Yes, and Zappos and a bunch of people have figured out how to make it one click, basically. They don’t– going to the store, just like you said with Road Runner, I don’t really want to deal with– I don’t want to get sold. The experience is very rarely fun or helpful, but there’s some key times when you need to and most of the time you just say, “I just need this thing in my mail box. I think I’ll be fine. If it’s free returns, I could send it back. I don’t need to lose a half a day to go to the mall.”
[00:10:51] Daniel: Yes. I really think that these– many of these retailers like Road Runner need to do a true audit on the customer experience in store. I get that sales is the holy grail, but there’s this fine line between what feels like fake and forced and I think they’re being incented to sell socks this week to–
[00:11:20] Adam: [laughs] That’s the worst.
[00:11:22] Daniel: Right. To genuinely helping me make a good purchase decision based on my needs. It doesn’t feel like that way. It feels like the corporation’s shaping how to sell versus how to understand my needs and then find the right product for me.
[00:11:40] Adam: Right, and you don’t leave there feeling a value.
[00:11:43] Daniel: No.
[00:11:43] Adam: You leave there feeling either A; “I just got sold socks and I don’t need socks,” or B; “Why did that guy keep bringing up insoles? I told them no. All I wanted to do was try on shoes.”
[00:11:54] Daniel: Especially when I have orthotics [laughs].
[00:11:56] Adam: Right, exactly. That’s a totally different thing. They don’t know who they’re messing with. I do think that applies to the restaurant industry, doesn’t it? When I go to a restaurant, I have a lot of choice, a lot of options.
[00:12:10] Daniel: Absolutely.
[00:12:11] Adam: Tolerating service that’s– look, bad service happens. People have bad days. That’s one thing and I think people are willing to deal with that or forgive that.
[00:12:22] Daniel: Right.
[00:12:22] Adam: But mean service, or service with someone who just does not want to be there, or someone who really doesn’t care or a restaurant where you just get the idea like, “They don’t care if I’m here or not.” That’s what is putting the headwinds on the restaurant industry.
[00:12:37] Daniel: Absolutely. Maria told a great story. One of our co-workers told a great story to me this morning about– she was at this local burger brand that had opened a new location up here by our office. Their original location, which is extremely popular, is pretty far away, it’s not some place you’re going to drive to on a workday for lunch.
[00:13:03] Adam: Right, too far.
[00:13:05] Daniel: So, she gets there. You could shoot a cannon through the place; number one. Number two; the server, she said she felt that maybe he was high. She said that it was just– the service was ridiculous. Listen to this story, the ending of the story, she writes– she goes online to their customer service function on their website, she tells them what happens, and she actually says, “Listen, you can use–” I think it was Facebook. I forgot what she recommended, “To recruit more qualified staff.”
[00:13:37] Adam: Yes, hire better people.
[00:13:38] Daniel: Yes, and she goes–
[00:13:39] Adam: I’m not complaining. I’m trying to help you.
[00:13:41] Daniel: Yes, yes exactly. The manager wrote back [laughs] and said, “Thank you for your information. I saw what you experienced. I was in the restaurant when that happened.” Now, can you imagine?
[00:13:53] Adam: Now, is that better or worse?
[00:13:55] Daniel: That made it like a debacle, in my opinion because like– so you– it’s like you just watched me get choked out on the street and you didn’t do anything.
[00:14:03] Adam: Isn’t that– yes, that’s how I hear it.
[00:14:04] Daniel: Yes.
[00:14:05] Adam: It’s like, “Thank you for your sympathy now.” Where was your sympathy then?
[00:14:09] Daniel: Yes. Can you imagine it getting me back in the store while I’m still in the store is much easier than saying, “Here’s a $25 gift card. I hope you come back.” Well, I don’t know, maybe. I’ll probably give it– She said, “I probably won’t go back. I’ll probably give it to one of the young’uns who 25 bucks to them is meaningful. Not that it isn’t to her but–
[00:14:30] Adam: Right. No, no, I get it. I get it.
[00:14:32] Daniel: Again, customer experience, I think it really comes down to that. I was talking about the high-end environment. I want that experience. The outlet mall is the experiences is I’m getting the deal. You feel lie ‘I’m an insider getting the deal.’
[00:14:49] Adam: You know when you walk into that outlet mall that the experience what you’re giving up in exchange for that 35% off, and that’s a trade-off you’re willing to make. I know when I go to QSR that there’s no white tablecloth. I’m good with that because I only want to spend $18 for me and my son to have a meal. He will always choose Burger King because he just loves Burger King.
But I think it’s funny you brought up the high-end brands because, in retail, we saw Radio Shack, we talked about this on our last episode, too, about cord cutting and cable. But the Radio Shack brand, for example, has gone bankrupt probably 10 times since the downturn started and they’re done for good now.
That was a dead brand for a long time, but high-end brands like Michael Kors, is a pretty high-end brand, a consumer brand. They are having problems.
[00:15:39] Daniel: They’re closing a hundred plus stores, I just read.
[00:15:41] Adam: Yes. Yes, Ralph Lauren is a brand we talked about before. Same deal. So, something is changing out there in the world that people are actually starting to think differently about shopping and what used to be the event of going to that store. Even just walking around and then, “Well, now we’re here, let’s buy something.” Nobody’s going around– going there to hang out, so then there’s less of those casual purchases that are off the cuff.
[00:16:10] Daniel: Right, yes. So much of retail for so long was that impromptu purchase. You just happened to go to the mall as a way to hang out and socialize and the buying. Now, shopping really is destination-driven. You went to the store to get that cord.
[00:16:32] Adam: It’s task-oriented much more. Yes, I think you’re right.
[00:16:37] Daniel: Yes. Got to get a birthday present for my wife. That’s very task-oriented.
[00:16:41] Adam: Yes, and you can’t leave without getting something because you probably waited until the last minute.
[00:16:47] Daniel: Pretty close.
[00:16:49] Adam: Exactly, but I’m sure it was a lovely gift.
[00:16:53] Daniel: I like going back to this what you– again, I credit you with this because genuinely, your strategic thought and that retail is not dying. Again, there’s so many funerals being– or so many deaths being predicted out in the media today including retail, but it is truly in its evolution and you talked about delivery. Now, tell me a little bit more about your theory, about how delivery is changing the retail environment as well.
[00:17:24] Adam: Yes. No, I’m glad and there’s an article that is going live. By the time this is up, it should be live, that talks about there’s a little bit more, but we think a lot about delivery here. We just see the size of the trend and we see all the players, the entrepreneurs that are trying to get into the delivery business.
What we’ve noticed anecdotally and also through some research is that if you’re let’s say– I can’t say Pizza Hut, but let’s say you’re like a Wingstop or something, that’s standalone, you don’t have delivery or Buffalo Wild Wings is a better example and you use UberEATS or you use any delivery service. Well, when that thing gets to you, yes, it might be in your box but the experience at the door is UberEATS branded, it is not Buffalo Wild Wings branded.
[00:18:15] Daniel: Yes, that’s a great point.
[00:18:17] Adam: That person is dressed in that brand, that person, that experience is their brand. So, if it’s a good experience, you really don’t get any credit. You know when you get the blame is when I open it and the order’s wrong which– that could happen anyway.
[00:18:29] Daniel: Absolutely.
[00:18:30] Adam: So, what we talk about is, “Hey, if delivery’s a trend and you want to make money in delivery and you want to continue thriving as a brand and growing, what can you put in that box or that order? How can you treat that thing differently to make it feel like I’m having a special experience, even if I’m just ordering because I’m working late and I’m ordering wings for my office and there’s six of us that are pissed off, we’re here late? Make something special happen for us that we say, “Oh, this is interesting.” Sometimes small things like Taco Bell and their sauce labels, the little stupid quips they put on their sauce packets. Dumb but–
[00:19:13] Daniel: On brand.
[00:19:14] Adam: On brand and every now and then I get a little snicker when I see one and I haven’t seen that one before and it says, “Oh, I’m going to make you sweat,” or something. All right, that’s pretty– that’s just the right-
[00:19:24] Daniel: To smile.
[00:19:24] Adam: -amount of chuckle that I expect from Taco Bell. It didn’t have to be this big surprise in the light like they gave me a free chalupa, just a little joke. I think about kid’s meals, you think about Happy Meals that come in that special designed box that’s designed to delight those kids, to make those kids have a good memory.
[00:19:42] Daniel: The food is just the function.
[00:19:45] Adam: Right, at that point, yes, it’s a side item. I think they should– for delivery, if I was a brand like that, that had that business, I would probably be thinking about how could I make this the real star of the show? How could I make the delivery package interesting, engaging, and fun? I mean pizza boxes are a pretty big opportunity.
[00:20:04] Daniel: Well, it’s interesting you brought that up. I think you know this. One of the clients we’re consulting with right now which is entertainment. I challenged the teams to think about how to bring the entertainment component into the carryout.
[00:20:21] Adam: Yes, how do we get it home?
[00:20:22] Daniel: How do you do that? It doesn’t have to– to your point, don’t overthink that, don’t make it, “Oh, we’ve got to deliver some crazy expensive game that they will play.” Make it very, very simple but it’s a reminder, that thank you for getting our product via carryout, but remember the next time you want to dine in, we’re the place that has great food with fun entertainment.
[00:20:49] Adam: Yes. So much of the retail brands that we’re talking about; Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, believe that– I’m theorizing right now, so this is all happening in real time, tell me if you disagree. They think that the brand– in a conference room, somewhere they know it’s not true, but when it gets down to the tactical level, the brand is the product on the shelves and hanging on the clothes, on the racks, and everything else is like, “Eh, it’s okay.”
I think a lot of restaurant brands think the brand can be dumbed down to just “Well, it’s the menu. It’s the food and the server better not be a jerk.” But that’s not true.
[00:21:29] Daniel: I agree with you 100%. My wife’s a big fan of Louis Vuitton and staying on the Kors example. When I’ve gone into a Louis Vuitton store with her and I see the way they deliver the sales process in that environment. I mean they put gloves on and open these drawers to get the item that she’s “Oh, I’d like to see that purse” and they go, they pull it out of this felt bag and–
[00:22:03] Adam: Right, it feels special.
[00:22:05] Daniel: It feels very special and it sure is heck better because the price tag reflects that, but you’re right. You go to a Michael Kors and it’s not anywhere near that level of experience and I do think, to a certain degree, resting on their laurels that the Michael Kors logo will carry the day.
[00:22:27] Adam: Walk out through that office. I mean everybody out there has some Michael Kors product. My son has Michael Kors sunglasses or something. I mean– [Editors note: My son just broke his glasses and replaced with Ray Bans]
[00:22:35] Daniel: Oh my gosh.
[00:22:35] Adam: Yes, it’s ridiculous. It’s everywhere. So, it’s funny if [crosstalk]
[00:22:38] Daniel: Styling.
[00:22:39] Adam: He’s a very stylish boy, but I think about the restaurant brands, it’s almost the bigger you get in scale, the further you get away from the center of your guest experience, and Jesus, we hate jargon and we’re not talking about making it just– what’s it? A customer journey map, I mean those things–
[00:22:57] Daniel: You don’t want to talk omnichannel right now?
[00:23:00] Adam: Omnichannel marketing, for sure all day. We don’t like the jargon. I think there’s value to the journey map, but honestly, we don’t have to overthink the customer journey when it comes to a restaurant.
In 70% of cases, they’re driving by, they’re hungry, and they pull in. I mean there’s not much more than that. They see an ad. They don’t even remember it and subconsciously, they see the sign and they go, “Oh, right. I’m hungry.” For whatever reason, that neuron fires and they go in. That’s the journey. If you let them down after that, they’re not coming back.
[00:23:28] Daniel: Well, and I think that– I’m very cynical about the whole customer journey because first of all, there’s millions of customers. How can you ever– if you’re going to dumb down the customer journey to, “Oh, it should be this,” that means you are missing so many opportunities because if I come in and I’m not following the journey the way you’ve been trained to deliver it.
[00:23:56] Adam: Then what?
[00:23:57] Daniel: What do you do? Especially in a environment where the sales individual or the server isn’t paid that much. They’re not going to know how to evolve and move with what I’m doing. So, I think the customer journey, quite frankly, is fraught with risk to commoditizing it all mostly like, “Okay. Well, 60% of our customers do this so therefore this will be the journey,” leaving 40% which is a boat load of people
[00:24:30] Adam: I wish– I want it to be that easy. I mean I wish it was. I would love to go sell journeys all day. I agree with you. I think they’re more– for most brands, there are some brands that can parkour their way around a journey and figure out how to shuck and jive and build on it versus being constrained. But I think for most brands, they barely have the bandwidth to build the operation they’re trying to build and it becomes a trap, it becomes a tunnel they’re stuck in.
[00:24:59] Daniel: Yes, exactly.
[00:25:02] Adam: Talking about brands, we talked about– we touched on the digital experience. We talked about Amazon who’s eating everything. Ultimately, I don’t think Amazon will be the only company in the world. I’m pretty confident. There’ll be other companies that also exist.
But another side of the digital experience is that people are spending much more time doing things that they think they’ll be able to share online, that’ll be share-worthy, that can be Instagrammed. Most stores at a mall are not that.
[00:25:35] Daniel: There’s no Instagram options in Dillard’s. Sorry, Dillard’s.
[00:25:40] Adam: No, it’s rather hideous, right?
[00:25:42] Daniel: Yes
[00:25:43] Adam: So, when we think about restaurants– who was it? There’s a few brands that do table tents that are shaped like picture frames. So, you can put your face in there and then do a selfie or take a picture of the person you’re with. It’s a dumb thing, but again, going back to that Taco Bell example, it’s something little, like just the right amount of interesting for I’m at this casual Mexican chain. That’s okay. That’s good. It doesn’t have to be much more intelligent or dynamic than that. If it is, that’s cool, but man, if you have a standee of the most interesting man of the world from Dos Equis and people can take a picture of it, they will. They will do it.
[00:26:26] Daniel: Yes, classic don’t overthink it, make it simple. Furthermore, as you know, all our stats our showing this, that user generated content is shared and consumed and liked so much more than the brand generated content because it’s not curated. It’s more organic. It’s natural. It’s more interesting because like-minded people are sharing these things and I think this example that you give, gives the user the opportunity to generate content-
[00:27:02] Adam: And control it.
[00:27:03] Daniel: -and control it and can potentially be shared because they’re friends are going to see it and then they’re going to want to say “Oh, you should see what’s going on here.:
[00:27:10] Adam: Right. Yes, that’s right. It’s more authentic in a way that the word is really intended to be used not in a way that a ’70s slide deck on authenticity for your brand-
-it brings to life the authentic side of it.
[00:27:26] Daniel: Be sure to be authentic.
[00:27:28] Adam: Oh, jeez. These millennials they love the authenticity.
[00:27:31] Daniel: That’s right.
[00:27:33] Adam: Any last parting shots you want to take on retail? Do you think that we’re in the midst of a funeral and almost will be close in the next 30 days?
[00:27:42] Daniel: I do not. I think it’s more like 45 to 60. No. [laughs]
[00:27:46] Adam: You think that’s good?
[00:27:47] Daniel: I subscribe to your theory. This is a major evolution going on, 25% of the malls are predicted to be closed in the next five years. I don’t doubt that. I think there’s probably a great deal of reality that I think like anything in these downturns, if you will, these evolutions, the strong will survive. The ones that are smart and in the right place and with the right mix of stores and offering new experiences within their malls instead of just resting on their laurels as to what’s been driving mall traffic for the last 20 years is not what’s going to drive mall traffic going forward.
[00:28:31] Adam: Yes, I agree. It will be new things. We won’t miss 25% of the mall’s closing. I don’t miss– I haven’t been to a mall. I can’t remember how long. You can close a quarter and nobody will miss them. I think they probably just had overbuilt.
[00:28:47] Daniel: Yes, major overbuilt. Absolutely.
[00:28:49] Adam: Yes, and so I think we’ll see what– as those really do close and are closed or knocked down and rebuilt into something else, the part of the evolution will be, “Okay. Well, which one of these restaurant brands is left standing when a major source of traffic closes?”
[00:29:05] Daniel: Yes, and it becomes the next big question for our restaurant brands as these malls close for those brands that have the luxury of expanding right now and there are many, where are they going to go? I think the real estate model and this is probably something we could do in our future-
[00:29:26] Adam: I think we should, yes.
[00:29:27] Daniel: -podcast is I think the real estate departments of all these chains are going to have to start really thinking about the model they’ve been using to select locations, I think in itself, probably it needs to evolve in the light of this evolution going on in retail.
[00:29:45] Adam: Yes, that’s a great point. I think we’re going to close on that and that’s a great place for us to pick up with our next episode. So, I think we can make a promise to do that.
[00:29:53] Daniel: Perfect.
[00:29:54] Adam: So, thank you very much for listening. If you have any questions, you can email us or or bug us on Twitter @FandRm. You can read the article I mentioned at and please comment, tell us what you like, tell us what you hate. We love to hear it all. We really appreciate it.
[00:30:18] Daniel: Take care, eat well.

Listen to the episode here.

retail, sales, traffic, restaurants
Things aren’t too busy in retail locations.

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday?

To use a clichéd musical-themed pun, we could soon be saying goodbye to Ruby Tuesday. The Tennessee-based bar and grill restaurant chain announced this past March that they would be putting themselves up for sale or a potential merger. The unsurprising announcement comes after years of declining sales and location closures for the brand that thrived in the 1990s and early 2000s. Ruby Tuesday has not seen a year of growth since 2011 and approximately 100 locations closed in 2016 alone. The chain had also recently taken to selling certain locations to investors in sale-leaseback deals, foreshadowing the brand’s desperate move to come. More than anything, the sale of Ruby Tuesday signals an end to the reign of the casual dining category of the food industry.

Ruby Tuesday can’t seem to resurrect itself.

Unfortunately for Ruby Tuesday’s executives, the announcement also comes after years of attempts at menu innovation and risky marketing decisions. In 2016, Ruby Tuesday gained a new CMO and re-focused their advertising efforts on targeting families, especially millennial moms; in previous years, the brand had tried to do away with their focus on the family and move to a more adults-only aesthetic, even going as far as to remove diaper-changing stations from restaurant bathrooms. This attempt at brand revitalization resulted in removing advertising dollars from television completely, choosing instead to focus on paid social advertising and online video with Hulu and YouTube.

The nontraditional move was risky but allowed the struggling restaurant chain to geo-target their advertising to areas surrounding their locations, specifically reach their chosen audience and tell more emotional visual stories than a mere 30-second television spot could ever allow. 2016 also saw Ruby Tuesday honing in on their Garden Bar, a self-service salad bar, in advertising. There was an introduction of new, fresh Garden Bar ingredients, better to serve the moms the brand desperately wanted to appease. For all of their risk, it seems that the brand’s moves did not result in much reward.

Ruby Tuesday’s attempt to reinvent themselves is a great example of marketing trial and error, but it also signals trouble for the casual dining industry as a whole. Similar restaurant chains like Olive Garden and Applebee’s are struggling as well, though those brands have not made such brazen attempts at menu and marketing changes like Ruby Tuesday. Both still favor a heavily TV-focused media rotation, insisting that inundating consumers’ screens will work in their favor, and rely on limited time offers and slashed prices in order to attempt to make a splash in a dining landscape that currently favors fast casual restaurants and healthy food trends.

You wouldn’t exactly go to Olive Garden and eat their bottomless breadsticks if you were looking for a healthy place to eat out with your family, but a “two entrees for the price of one” deal can only do so much to convince you otherwise.

How casual dining can survive a changing industry.

So, were Ruby Tuesday’s last-ditch attempts to make a profit worthwhile? Yes and no. The re-focus on family dining and adding new ingredients to the Garden Bar menu prove that the brand wasn’t willing to go down without a fight.

The move away from traditional advertising and increased efforts in paid social advertising were innovative and forward-thinking, particularly because TV commercials are a familiar and effective way for brands to reach a wider audience and straying from that tried-and-true model will always be perilous. However, those risks might also have contributed to the chain’s demise. Other casual dining restaurant chains have stayed the course, choosing to put the majority of their ad dollars in television and not make drastic changes to their menus.

Those chains are still open for business, though they might soon follow in Ruby Tuesday’s worn footsteps. In February 2017, Applebee’s posted their sixth straight negative sales quarter and in March their CEO was ousted. Bloomin’ Brands, which owns casual dining chains Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Grill, recently announced plans to close 43 locations after a rough 2016. Though brand reinvention wasn’t to be for Ruby Tuesday, perhaps other troubled chains could take a few notes from their demise and, at the very least, go down swinging

Transcript of Food & Restaurant Podcast – What is Your Brand Movie?

Transcript of Food & Restaurant Marketing Podcast – Episode: What Is Your Brand Movie?

[00:00:05] Adam Pierno: Welcome back to another episode of Food and Restaurant Marketing. I am Adam Pierno, and with me as always, Mr. Daniel T. Santy.

[00:00:14] Daniel Santy: Hello. Hope you’re doing well.

[00:00:15] Adam: We are coming to you today from our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it is typically sunny but today cloudy, and we’re actually happy about that.

[00:00:25] Dan: Yes, enjoying the dreary weather.

[00:00:27] Adam: We’re not roasting for one day. Let’s all enjoy it, to token it. Today we are going to talk about something a little different. We are going to a have a little bit of a different format. We are both excited as Cinema Files and people interested in the restaurant world. This movie coming out called The Founder. The questions it’s asking of its viewers and the question that it spring boarded for us. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it is the fictionalized story of Ray Kroc who was the famous “founder” of McDonald’s, who actually discovered the McDonald brothers’ hamburger stands and built on that, and turned it from the hamburger stand into the hamburger empire that we all know and love.

[00:01:17] Dan: Yes. It’s such a great story and so near and dear to me, I mean I grew up on and which I met a lot of people, dude, but it was relatively new. I remember that when we used to go to at Des Plaines, Illinois. It was the original, and you know the big arches going through it, just a tiny little sitting area inside and real clean, or talk about a simple menu.

[00:01:40] Adam: That one was more of the hamburger stand model with like a smaller restaurant inside. Oh, that’s funny. You still see those and now they’re repopulating those a little bit. Yes, that small dining room.

[00:01:52] Dan: It was so simple and it survived so long. It’s amazing. My dad and I, we’d go get the McDonald’s for the family and we’d always get an extra order of fries, and he and I would pound them. [laughs] Having fries on the way home. Otherwise we’d end up eating everybody else’s fries, and then would be that bad.

[00:02:15] Adam: Those were the originals. Those were the beef tallow fries. Those were the real good ones. There is a place in my hometown called All American Burger, that is still a hamburger stand with the chrome exterior. Looks like a diner, and I think there’s a few tables. It’s almost no dining room and you just queue up and you go through and you order your hamburgers and you bring them to wherever you are going. Something about that hamburger stand experience, and I don’t know if McDonald’s captured it. If they are still doing that, it’s a much more different brand experience. But just something about that experience, just an All American experience.

[00:02:53] Dan: Well, the company they built around that. You see so many brands like of McDonald’s that have a meteoric rise and then they fall out of grace and they just diminish, but without storing.

[00:03:05] Adam: Keeping up for this long.

[00:03:07] Daniel: It’s just phenomenal. It’s equally phenomenal in light of other competition it has faced since its inception. Think about the restaurant industry since, what was that? 1950 something?

[00:03:20] Adam: Yes, ’55, I think.

[00:03:20] Dan: ’55? Yes.

[00:03:22] Adam: What’s interesting about the movie itself, it’s not a movie about the history of McDonald’s and it cuts to today and the new CEO stepping up and saying, “Yes, everything is great,” or, “Here is what I’m doing.” Nope, not at all. It stops around 1961 before there was ever a Ronald McDonald, before they changed their market focus or had one. Initially it was just American consumers. Before all the things they have been facing, and before our awareness as consumers about some of the downside of just eating fast food or not a balanced diet. That’s how dense and rich their brand story is.
They can make a movie that essentially is a ten year story about the founding of it. It is interesting enough to lure an Oscar winner Michael Douglas to be– or Michael Keaton to be in it. A story that is going to captivate people and I’m going to go see it. I don’t know if all Americans are as geeked out about it as I am. But I am. The question that Dan and I were debating and talking about today, and we’re doing this a little different format than we usually do, there is no outline for today’s conversation. For most brands – what would the movie be?

[00:04:47] Dan: Great.

[00:04:47] Adam: McDonald’s is lucky to have this- not lucky, they have earned this long legacy and something’s good and something’s bad. You can look at two sides of even Ray Kroc himself, there’s positives or negatives. That Founder story is such a magical, you think of Walt Disney’s and you think of Steve Jobs, and like the garage story and the whole stupid mythos that goes around all the huge companies.

[00:05:11] Dan: The Hewlett Packard guys. Those are wonderful made in America stories.

[00:05:18] Adam: So we are thinking, never mind just The Founder story. Through the lens of a consumer what would most brands, what would the movie or the story of that brand be, and using that as a tool for them to perpetuate that story that they would love people to take away.

[00:05:35] Dan: You know what brand I think would make actually probably a very good movie, we have to get a good director though, is the story about Denny’s. Denny’s is a lot more like McDonald’s. They have survived a very long time.

[00:05:51] Adam: They are on a good upswing now.

[00:05:52] Dan: They are on an upswing now. I drove by one of the other day and I literally almost went in. I need to get in one because I haven’t been in a while.

[00:06:01] Adam: A new one.

[00:06:01] Dan: Yes. A new one, yes. I think it’s a great story. I think the story of the Denny’s could be less about the founder and more about all the experiences that happen Denny’s over the years. Families and stoned out kid.

[00:06:18] Adam: Yes. There is millions of stories you can do it, like that would be such a fun way to tell the story over time. Maybe it’s one booth and generation after generation something different happens and the background changes.

[00:06:30] Dan: We should call them up [unintelligible 00:06:31]
[00:06:36] Adam: Yes. Exactly. Love to bring it up. That’s funny that you bring up Denny’s. There is one that just opened here north of the office and seeing that brand opening new stores. I mean, 10 years ago did you think they would be opening up new stores?

[00:06:51] Dan: Their demise has been predicted for a number of years now.

[00:06:55] Adam: Right? Like everybody in casual dining. I guess that’s the space they fit in.

[00:07:00] Dan: Absolutely that’s casual dining.
[00:07:02] Adam: If I ask, Denny’s is a great one because I can go outside into the office here and just shout, “Hey. Does anyone have a funny story about Denny’s,” or, “Does anyone have a memory about Denny’s.” I know from those 40 people, I will get 10 stories at least I can count on. McDonald’s the same thing. Can i get the same thing at Pei Wei? I don’t know, it’s a different animal.

[00:07:28] Dan: I don’t think so. I don’t think they have the– well, of course, they don’t have the heritage, Pei Wei, as the example. They don’t have a heritage yet. At the same time they were a little darling brand that’s just plateaued. You don’t really hear much about them as much.

[00:07:43] Adam: Struggling to find itself and figuring out where it’s going, and trying to reorganize. What do you think if we say that consumers have good stories about it? Consumers can already tell a story about the brand and that’s part of what the movie would be. That’s part of what the brand story would be. I think that The Founder is a powerful story because I have such a knowledge of McDonald’s that anything they add to it or plug into it, it’s like– we know that attention is a something that people are fighting over and it’s something that at least 100 million Americans know pretty well and eat at. They have plugged into that. They have co-opted that interest that I have in McDonald’s to some level, awareness of it, which is really hard to do. I don’t know of other brands, most brands don’t have that capability to have that mass shared awareness.

[00:08:45] Dan: I agree and when you look at what they are doing with their coffee offerings now and the whole McCafe, pretty powerful. They didn’t go at Starbucks. They just said, “Look, there is a coffee culture out there, and we are not going compete with Starbucks, we don’t want to. We are not going to sell our $3 cup of coffee up. Obviously that’s not who they are as a pricing strategy, but why can’t we up the quality of our coffee and our coffee offering still make a value play with it.” Now all of a sudden probably pretty powerful penny profit for the franchises in their products, in that core offering from McCafe.

[00:09:26] Adam: Yes. It gets folded into the greater understanding of the brand because they are so masterful at the marketing angle of it and passing that information through and building it up over time. I mean that platform we still think of as new but I think it’s 10 years old.

[00:09:39] Dan: Yes, you are right. I think they’ve been putting a lot of money behind with the whole breakfast thing.

[00:09:44] Adam: Now they are on a value. Now they are actually saying, “Hey. Coffee is four bucks a cup at Starbucks. We are at quarter of that. Come on in.” Which is smart. The question of what would the movie be, what would be the story be, is really about, to me, what was interesting, Dan and I read an article that was on the Ringer about the Ray Kroc movie, and we’ll put a link in the show notes. It’s really about how consumers understand the brand. They know how to use the brand. They know how to move around inside the brand. People have their own customization strategy and their own kind of approach. I was just talking to my father last night, and he was telling me, “Oh yes, I went to McDonald’s at the airport, and I did this, and I always do this. I order these two sandwiches and I mix them up in this way.” Everybody has that thing. So does your brand have that? That’s the question. I’m trying to think of another brand that’s out there that’s in the world- let’s talk about Ruby Tuesdays.

[00:10:44] Daniel: In a QSR category?

[00:10:45] Adam: No. Let’s talk about something like Ruby Tuesdays, that’s again, is in a place where it’s trying to find itself. You couldn’t make a movie about Ruby Tuesdays. I’m sure on the inside they say, “No, no. Here’s what the movie would be.” But it’s not going to be about the garden bar. Will it? I guess time will tell.

[00:11:07] Dan: Well, I think the question you’re posing is when you hear the phrase “Ruby Tuesday”, when you said it, nothing came to mind.

[00:11:17] Adam: I threw it out there to see what reaction I would get.

[00:11:21] Dan: Yes, and the only reason I know about the garden bar is because I’ve read about it.

[00:11:26] Adam: It’s an industry thing, it’s not consumer thing.

[00:11:29] Dan: There’s a brand that is in decline, and I think it’s in decline because it doesn’t know what it is, and hasn’t articulated that to consumers.

[00:11:39] Adam: That’s it, and consumers don’t know how to enter the brand.

[00:11:43] Dan: If I being go back to Denny’s, Grand Slam. That’s a great entry point for me.

[00:11:50] Adam: That’s right. We wrote an article about- I’m trying to remember which article from Food and Restaurant- well, we’ll link to everything we mention here in the show notes- about ‘do people know how to use your brand?’ Buffalo Wild Wings is another example. I don’t think you could make a movie about or tell a story about Buffalo wild wings because now it’s the opposite of Ruby Tuesdays. When I say Buffalo Wild Wings, tell me what’s the occasion that you think of? It’s their tagline.

[00:12:23] Dan: I’m going to watch sports, and eat wings with my-

[00:12:26] Adam: What are you going to drink?

[00:12:27] Dan: -Some of my buddies and I’m going to have a beer.

[00:12:29] Adam: Beer, wings, sports, right? We were laughing yet just yesterday we were doing an audit of that brand for another projects we’re consulting on, and they’ve nailed it down so much, which is normally we preach that. Nail down your occasion, nail down your visit. That they’ve hemmed themselves in in a way that they can’t tell an expanded story. If someone says to me, “Hey, let’s go to Buffalo Wild Wings.” I go, “Well, what game is on?” “If there’s not a game, I’m not going. I’m not interested.” Luckily for them, there’s a lot ESPN has serve to put on a lot of games. But I mean a game that is interesting to a casual fan like me. I’m hardly ever going out just to watch college basketball or something.

[00:13:08] Dan: By the way, what restaurant doesn’t have television on right now? I mean, obviously McDonald’s doesn’t or I could be wrong, and I don’t know if they do or not but-

[00:13:18] Adam: A lot of them do.

[00:13:20] Dan: That’s like the old- remember when Quiznos came out, and they said, “We toast our buns.” Subway just started throwing toasters, and you could meet that competition. Well, same thing, “Hey, come watch sports here.” I can watch sports just about at any restaurant where I would go, and sit down like that.

[00:13:35] Adam: Buffalo Wild Wings too is funny because wings were the late ’80s, early ’90s appetizer du jour, or I guess du decade, and- I don’t know French enough to know decade. They just said, “Okay. That’s going to be our offering. We’re just going to be the masters of that.”, and they were able to grow on that because of the popularity of that entree over that appetizer, that dish, and that flavor profile, kudos to them. It’s still a strong business even though they’ve been in a little bit of decline for the past two quarters. But now, what do you do now they introduced hamburgers, and to me that’s what Dan and I talk about is, what’s the move of desperation, and that’s it. When they say, “Well, now we’re going to expand to this.” Now people are freaking confused. Because you’ve been telling me for 15 years that you are beer, wings, sports, and now what’s this? I don’t want pulled pork from you. I don’t want it.

[00:14:34] Dan: I got another place I can go get that. A really good-

[00:14:37] Adam: A really good one. So you better-

[00:14:39] Dan: That I trust and know.

[00:14:40] Adam: Yes, and it’s not cheap. They’re not delivering out of value. That place, you can get into the triple digits on a bill without even ordering beer there.

[00:14:49] Dan: That does go under the idea, “Let’s expand them menu. Maybe that’ll expand our sales.” In that article you mentioned, that we both read, I love what they tested or piloted. It was fascinating. Wraps, fancy coffee, I heard some burgers, but did any of that make- none of it, none of it.

[00:15:16] Adam: No. The McDLT. You remember that thing? Do you have the stat up about their core menu? I’m scrolling through the article now to find it, which I’m sure people love to listen to.

[00:15:26] Dan: You mean what their sales are?

[00:15:27] Adam: Yes, that core, craveable menu that we were talking about.

[00:15:32] Dan: I think it was a Big Mac, fries and McMuffin.

[00:15:35] Adam: Yes, that’s 40-something percent of sales?

[00:15:37] Dan: That is correct, yes.

[00:15:39] Adam: Oh, good. You got it. And that’s part of the story of that brand. Does the McDLT get included in that the famous ad with Jason Alexander? I don’t think so. You can tell the story without that. You don’t need to go into the failings of the McWrap, and some of the other things that they’ve tried. Because they’ve done a few things really well.

[00:16:02] Dan: Now the McRib, I think they’ve been smart about, because they only have it once a year. For a limited time. They don’t try to make it be successful, 365.

[00:16:15] Adam: Well they play the market. That is actually a product, as I understand it, that’s a product of availability at the price that works for them, of the ingredients for that.

[00:16:25] Dan: Those little fake riblets?

[00:16:27] Adam: Yes. So when they can get that pork product, that’s when they release it. It’s not a calendar timed thing. Although I’m sure they’re disciplined in their planning and know when it’s going to happen, but it’s when the price is right, we buy it, and we issue it as an LTO, and they’re just masters of it because the McRib is part of the story, I think, for a lot of people. They know how to use that occasion and when it comes out, there’s a buzz about it, which is not a fake influence or campaign on Instagram. It is real people saying, “Oh, this thing is back. Oh, I’m going to go get one.” Every third year, I’ll go get one, and get caught up in the madness of it.

[00:17:04] Dan: What a great way, though, to actually pull in traffic, then. You’re not a regular McDonald’s guy, but what pulls you in-

[00:17:13] Adam: It’s another way to get me in.

[00:17:15] Dan: It’s what we talked about, that craveable–

[00:17:18] Adam: They also have the benefit, you said it right off the top of this which surprised me that, “Hey, I grew up with this. It reminds me of my childhood.” Every time you go in there, subconsciously, some sense memory happens for you, so that you have your own individual story. Do you think everybody has a story like that for-

[00:17:37] Dan: For McDonald’s? Or a lot of brands?

[00:17:39] Adam: For McDonald’s, yes. For Denny’s, a large population does. For Mr. Goodcents Subs, a local population probably does. But for Applebee’s? Is that a real thing or a manufactured thing? I don’t have any thoughts about Applebee’s it’s like a blank slate.

[00:17:59] Dan: Again, what is Applebee’s? There’s something coming out here in this conversation, and that is McDonald’s had Ray Kroc, the founder, and the Big Mac, and these really successful things like that. But how many brands have that? You know Denny’s has the Grand Slam-

[00:18:25] Adam: They have things they own.

[00:18:26] Dan: Things they own. Say, Applebee’s, what does Applebee’s own?

[00:18:30] Adam: They got all their operators to buy into the grills that they installed, and they put all this money behind it. I didn’t know what they were before, but I sure didn’t know what they were after. Because I’m not going there for a steak. Because in my mind a steak is going to be 25, 30 dollars, as a consumer. So I was just more confused. I think it made me go to Outback.

[00:19:00] Dan: It reminds you you want a steak.

[00:19:03] Adam: Beef is good. I’m going to the place that does beef, Lonestar. I’m going to the place that will do that there. You’re dead-on. I don’t think Applebee’s has a story to tell or I’m sure they have a story to tell. I don’t know people that can articulate that story. That people know how to use that brand and I think the sales and the traffic are reflecting that because I don’t know where it fits into my life. We did a project last summer for another brand that is kind of turning over, and rebooting itself, and we got to do some research for them. It was a lot of fun and very interesting.
We did some social media listening where we looked at the time and day that the people referred to the brand. We thought, “All right, well, let’s just see if there’s a pattern or anything.” And there was a pattern, and it was very low comments, which was not surprising because its traffic and sales were low and we knew that, but the time and day of week was basically the same pace, there were no spikes. When we compared that just for fun we compared it against Subway, we compared it against Outback and for Subway at noon every single day there’s a spike. If you look at it on a seven-day chart it’s like a heartbeat, right, it keeps the brand going. Lunch time I know how to use it and on the weekends it drops. So five days a week, lunchtime that Subway’s business, intuitively you know it but the social media backs it up.
For this brand it was essentially low and flat throughout because people didn’t know how to use the brand. They don’t know where it fits into their life. They don’t know the story it’s going to tell. So they don’t know do I go there for happy hour? Do I go there for dinner? Do I go there breakfast? Do I go there for lunch? So they just stopped going altogether. Probably if we look at Applebee’s and we haven’t done that and created that chart for them.

[00:20:57] Dan: You’d see something very similar?

[00:20:59] Adam: I think so.

[00:21:00] Dan: Yes.

[00:21:00] Adam: Don’t you think it’d be diminished?

[00:21:01] Dan: I think you’d see that flat pattern for a lot of brands out there. Ruby Tuesday we were talking about a while ago. I bet you if you do it for Cheesecake Factory you’ll see spikes.

[00:21:14] Adam: Yes, what do you think those spikes would be?

[00:21:16] Dan: I think it’s a dinner place. I definitely think– and it’s a celebration place too.

[00:21:23] Adam: Yes, it’s transcended casual-dining into that next — actually it’s not quite, it’s not white tablecloth. It’s not fine dining, but people do, it’s a special occasion place. You go there after something happens.

[00:21:34] Dan: Right. I noticed that it’s not just like a big event too like graduating from high school or anything. It’s even the smaller things that people want to celebrate, maybe a good day at work, more on a little bonus or something.

[00:21:50] Adam: That’s part of what fast-casual has stolen from casual-dining as a category. If that’s my every day in casual dining it’s like that’s, ‘Okay. It’s little bit of a bump and then the pinnacle of casual dining which is Cheesecake Factory probably and some other players, steal the special occasion space, well then if you don’t have a story when do I go there. Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesdays and Chili’s are learning lesson. We don’t know. We don’t know. Please come in. Please eat here.

[00:22:25] Dan: Look at the people in my commercial they’re having a good time.

[00:22:28] Adam: Yes, look how happy they are. They’re toasting and they’re ordering all these add-ons, please won’t you do that? Average check needs to go up.

[00:22:36] Dan: I was saying — what we’re asking you about the brand story and it seems like the thread then we keep referring back to is there’s this famous, famous is probably the wrong word, but this very memorable food item so Grand Slam, Big Mac even Cheesecake for Cheesecake Factory.

[00:22:59] Adam: Something ownable.

[00:23:00] Dan: Doesn’t Cheesecake sound good right? i wouldn’t mind that.

[00:23:03] Adam: It never doesn’t, yes.

[00:23:04] Dan: Right. So if you have a chain today, casual dining or otherwise, find the product that can be a pinnacle for you. Can be something that you can point to consistently and it represents who you are. The type of offering you have and build around that’s because that’s, now you build story around that item.

[00:23:28] Adam: Right, and you can — it’s almost that you could make a list of the– I bet if we looked by stock price or by sales for the non-public brands we could probably say, “You don’t have one, you don’t have one, you don’t have one. A signature dish or a signature. Even Chili’s has shifted cuisines from- it was modern southwestern cuisine now they’re doing more of a Mexican play.

[00:23:55] Dan: Is that right?

[00:23:56] Adam: Yes. It’s more of a Mexican influenced cuisine, more tacos and that kind of thing. How the hell can they switch that? How can that — how can you be the brand and make that change and feel good about that if you really do have the story to tell? You know what I mean?

[00:24:13] Dan: Yes, I agree. I don’t know if this is– it feels right, but you one chain that’s really struggling is PF Chang’s, but they have an item.

[00:24:23] Adam: What’s the item? The lettuce wraps.

[00:24:25] Dan: It’s the lettuce wraps, and they’re good for you, oh, yes, not good for you —

[00:24:32] Adam: They don’t have carbs.

[00:24:35] Dan: The whole idea, but lettuce wraps they is fresh–

[00:24:36] Adam: They are good. I love them, yes.

[00:24:38] Dan: They’re very good. You can get it as an appetizer. You can get it as an entree. A attorney friend of mine asked me to meet for lunch last week and said PF Chang’s, I’m like, “No, okay. I’ve been here in forever and I knew exactly what I was going to get but you could have shot a cannon through this place and they were not six tables.

[00:24:58] Adam: No, the last time I was there too, but what’s the story of that place?

[00:25:02] Dan: That’s a great question they just lost its way. Maybe, it expanded too fast.

[00:25:11] Adam: That brand I feel like has a story they just haven’t told it yet. The way they figured it out how to put a real twist on American Chinese cuisine they did some new things to it. That brand has a story. They could make an interesting story about that.

[00:25:30] Dan: I would venture to guess that the recession didn’t help them at all. As casual dining goes that’s– on that price-wise on that brand of casual dining.

[00:25:41] Adam: Right. Then you’re competing with Cheesecake Factory and there’s no veto there. They have everything you could want. That’s interesting. Yes, I think they could have a story, but I think on top of —

[00:25:53] Daniel: I think I’m going to call them today.

[00:25:56] Adam: I think on top of the recession hurting them. I think they’re spread pretty thin. They have that Hard Rock [Cafe] model where they’re not concentrated anywhere. They have a national footprint, but it’s more like dots on the map.

[00:26:06] Dan: Right, they can’t do a significant TV campaign.

[00:26:11] Adam: They don’t have critical mass anywhere. It becomes this tourist destination for lazy tourists who will you say “Oh, I don’t want to try some local, but I know that place.” That doesn’t last very long. See Planet Hollywood it fails over time people get bored of it. All right, well, this has been an interesting conversation. Thank you for humoring our experiments to see where that conversation would go.

[00:26:35] Dan: I do think we’re going to- we should float this movie idea about the booze inside the Denny’s December.

[00:26:42] Adam: I texted Scorsese already so we’ll see.

[00:26:44] Dan: Oh, perfect. Let’s see what he says.

[00:26:45] Adam: He hasn’t responded yet.

[00:26:47] Daniel: Yes? Send it to Bobby.

[00:26:48] Adam: No, I’m on it. I love it. So if you have thoughts or questions you want to debate us on our movie ideas here please do. I’m adam [at] You can get to Dan at dan [at] or hit us on the Twitter @FandRM. Thanks for listening.
[00:27:08] Daniel: Eat well.

Transcriptions by Go Transcript.

discounting, movie, story, brand, LTO, daypart

Listen to the Episode.