Quick, widespread growth was an instant priority for Moe’s Southwest Grill. “It was very much a shotgun approach,” says Paul Damico, brand president. With more than 400 stores and plans to open 100 per year for the next 10 years, expansion is still important to the concept. The approach, however, is more strategic.
“Our goal is to build the 92 core markets where we already have TV marketing until they’re at maximum media efficiency,” Damico says. Here’s a look at Moe’s entry into what became some of its key markets.
Atlanta – 2000 Early marketing initiatives such as distributing free burrito cards were purely grassroots. Today, franchisees work in regional co-ops to pursue more effective strategies.
Charlotte – 2001 The first Moe’s opens outside of Georgia.
Tampa – 2002 – With more than 70 Florida restaurants today, the state represents Moe’s biggest market.
Jacksonville – 2002 The Moe’s franchisee with the most locations (17) opened the first store here.
Knoxville – 2004 As growing excitement over fast casual and southwestern food drove interest in the brand, Moe’s opened its 100th store.
Toronto – 2007 The first international location opened. Turkey is the next foreign market for Moe’s, with the first of 40 planned locations scheduled to open this month.
On May 7, 1985, Dennis K. Marlin did more than celebrate his 35th birthday. He founded communications company Marlin Network, for which he’s still the CEO. After 25 years of working with big names like Starbucks, he’s learned a few things about quick-serve success.
Put up your guardrails. “Make sure you keep sight of where you came from and what your concept was originally based on. Sometimes companies lose their rudders trying to compete with other brands. Others understand exactly why they exist and are successful because of it.”
Look for creative opportunities to enhance your image. “A lot of times we get so attached to core menu items that we don’t see opportunities to change our image with a new offering. A chicken sandwich may not turn out to be the No. 1 seller at a burger place, but it can help customers see the brand in a new light.”
Size doesn’t matter. “Some large companies aren’t very attuned to the marketplace, and some smaller ones are. You don’t have to be the biggest company to be the most successful—you just have to offer the solutions that meet the consumers’ needs.”
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, CiCi’s Pizza decided to lower its buffet price from $4.99 to $3.99 as a nod to its original cost of $2.99.
“We wanted to go back to our roots,” says Michael Shumsky, CEO of CiCi’s.
The promotion was originally slated to run for two weeks. But sales were so phenomenal that CiCi’s brought it back for another round.
“We took a two-week break and then had another two weeks of $3.99 buffets,” Shumsky says.
Anniversary promotions reward existing customers and attract new ones, but the more popular the discount, the more difficult it can be to get consumers to pay the prepromotion asking price later.
“To help ease the transition after the promotion, we added an Italiano Thin Crust pizza to the menu and marketed that,” Shumsky says. “That way customers weren’t coming back to a normal $4.99 price point, they were coming back with a new component added.”
Shumsky says customers have responded well to the new offering—despite the price increase.
“There’s not a lot of buffet competition out there, and we provide a great value at a great price,” Shumsky says. “It’s a powerful premise.”
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