GSR Brands, parent company of Gold Star Chili, not only has survived the myriad challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak but has bested sales for the same year- to-date period in 2019.
“We kept a good pulse on consumer attitudes and behaviors throughout all of this,” says Roger David, president and CEO of GSR Brands. “We stayed on top of the rich research data we had — and have – and kept a finger on the pulse of consumer conversation and sentiment. We built plans and tweaked plans for both ops and marketing based on that intelligence. We knew early on how important building consumer trust and confidence around ‘safety’ and ‘protection’ would be and remains, and we have put a lot of operational and marketing energy into that.”
When shelter-in-place and shutdown measures began to take effect, Gold Star Chili was able to pivot quickly to drive off-premise dining through drive-thru and carry-out as well as strategic partnerships with third-party delivery and their newly launched online ordering platform. While Gold Star did experience a dip, as all restaurants felt, it was able to cross the deepest ebb of distancing smoothly and immediately pick up steam.
“For example, in the Cincinnati market, we had a good first quarter that was above 2019, despite the dramatic impact of COVID, as the State of Ohio issued shutdowns on March 15,” David says. “Prior to the shutdown, our sales were up 9.7 percent above 2019. From March 15 through the month of April, we went from 9+ percent up to down -0.5 percent. That was the major impact from COVID-19. But, then, from the week ending May 3, 2020, through June 21, 2020 we have bounced back and are now back up, surpassing last year’s sales by 7.4 percent.”
David attributed the solid success to the GSR Brands’ team’s focus and determination through this trying period, giving credit to his executive team, franchisees, and customers, who all faced the challenge of the changed world head-on.
“Our operations team was top of all the updates from the government to ensure that again all of our franchisees had the information necessary to stay safe and healthy,” David adds. “Development and accounting teams were up-to-date on PPP and relief programs to ensure our franchisees were in the know on what was available to them. Our VP of operations even wrote out a script that our franchisees could use to request relief from lenders and landlords.”
David says the Gold Star Chili’s established reputation over more than 50 years instilled confidence for all involved, enabling its strength through this period.
“Our guests trusted us to do it right, and our marketing team communicated that very effectively.”