Saturday, April 17, 2021

Are Multi-branded Restaurant Companies a Platform for Success or Debacle?


Are holding companies that own a collection of chain restaurants a creating value for each brand or simply creating a melting pot of sameness? According to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, “collecting mediocre chain restaurant brands without a point price, value, flavor differentiation that is distinct, without a plan to make them so, is not a good idea in 2021.”

Does Which of these companies could be the next ‘Sun Capital; Bloomin’ Brands, Landry’s, American Blue Ribbon Holdings, Golden Gate Capital, Ignite Restaurant Group?  I would like to know how many of our regular readers of this blog can name all of the chain restaurants own by each holding company listed?

We all know that customer is dynamic not static.  We also know that Sun Capital bought brands then practiced ‘brand protectionism’ all the while the customer moved on.  Does your brand look more like yesterday than today or tomorrow? Do you own a holding company filled with restaurant brands you are waiting to resurface, regain, re-energies consumers like they did when the brand was launched?

Many restaurant brands that at one time not only had ‘cachet, customer relevance, they had the pulse of the consumer, and an understanding of how to drive brand value.  At that point in each of the chains lifecycle other legacy retailers were running flat bought by investment groups have clearly had mediocre leadership that focused on the past glory days rather than the leadership skill-set to drive relevant growth. So, we ask, is that what is going on once again? If you can’t name their brands, it just might be.

Regular readers of this blog know that Sun Capital closed more Boston Markets than they opened, and have reduced Friendly’s from 500 units to 174.  Why, buy a chain restaurant that has lost its ‘mojo’ without a clear path drive top line sales and bottom-line profits?  How many mediocre restaurant brands have been stifled by those doing what they have always done and doing it the same way?

The value of a product or brand at times diminishes in consumer relevance as consumer evolve.. The team at Foodservice Solutions® understands that the consumer is dynamic not static. Here are 10 clues to keep your brand dynamic:

1. Symbolism. Why you are there! The most successful brands are inclusive include values greater than themselves. A lifestyle, a philosophy, an emotion a point in time.

2. A story. Most major brands have a story. Examples: if you like Ford vehicles, you might be familiar with the story of Henry Ford or if you love your Nikes, you probably know how the Nike swoosh logo was created.

3. A track record. When your business is first starting out, don't fool yourself into believing that your marketing efforts are 'brand building' efforts. They're not because to build a real brand, you have to have an extensive track record with consumers.

4. Trust. When you've consistently delivered for your customers long enough, you'll gain the type of trust that many brands have. Case in point: a friend of mine always reminds people that he won't buy an automobile that isn't a BMW. He's had a good experience with his and trusts so much in the company that he doesn't believe there's a better-made car.

5. Expectation. When a consumer chooses a product or service because of brand association, he or she is buying an expectation. Perhaps it's the expectation that the branded product is of higher quality or that the service will be provided in a more efficient manner.

6. Differentiation. Expectation is often borne of differentiation. Many brands offer products and services that are commodities but they're successful in developing some differentiation for their products and services that consumers are sold on.

7. Imitators. Imitation is the sincerest of flattery and you're probably not a 'brand' until you have competitors trying to copy you.

8. Market leadership. Top brands are usually looked at as leaders in the markets they compete in.

9. Adaptability. The best brands are flexible and capable of reshaping and reinventing themselves and their messages over time. Coca-Cola is a good example of a brand that has never abandoned its core product but has evolved its message over time to keep up with changes in the marketplace and society at large.

10. A strong marketing presence. Although it's nice to believe that you can market yourself for free on Facebook and Twitter, the reality is that brands aren't advertising on television and radio because they're dumb. Building and maintaining brand equity requires awareness and awareness requires broad marketing efforts.
Steven Johnson is Grocerant Guru
® at Tacoma, WA based , with extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert.  Office: 1-253-759-7869

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