Bennigan's Emphasizes Its Celtic Heritage <b></b>

Plano, Texas-After almost 25 years in the casual-diningsegment, management of Bennigan's Irish American Grill &Tavern realized it "could not define what was unique aboutBennigan's hospitality," says John Beck, vice president ofmarketing for the chain.

With that insight, the chain started a search for a new adagency, an effort that would lead it to replace its two-year-old"Let's Get Together" tagline, part of a campaign thatemphasized the chain's bar but failed to differentiate it fromother casual-dining concepts.

Last February, Bennigan's hired The Redlands Group, aDallas-based ad agency, to handle the $10 million account. Shortlythereafter, members of both the corporate management team and thenew agency traveled to Ireland in search of nuggets of the Irishspirit that could be exported to the 325-unit chain.

Timed with the chain's 25th anniversary, Bennigan'sresulting advertising campaign is an effort to rebrand the concept,along with a revamp of the menu and introduction of new footprints.Using the tagline "Slante," a Gaelic toast meaning"to your health," the campaign emphasizes what the chainand agency are calling the Irish spirit, a willingness to celebratesmall victories, rather than authentic Irish food andatmosphere.

The new campaign, Beck says, is just one piece of Bennigan'sefforts to set itself apart from its myriad competitors. Threeyears ago, the chain began remodeling units and designed a new4,500-square-foot store layout rather than the traditional7,000-square-foot plan. The smaller design also reconfigures thebar more prominently in the restaurant, which Bennigan's feelscontributes to a more pub-like feel for certain smallermarkets.

The chain has worked to incorporate Ireland into the food aswell, including an Irish whiskey marinade for its steaks and naminga 1-pound double cheeseburger the Big Irish, an item the chain nowsells about 30,000 of each month.

Over the past three years, these efforts have helped the averagecheck climb from $12 to $13.34. Management expects the newrebranding campaign, along with new stores, will help systemwidesales increase 30 percent to $650 million in 2001. -ChainLeader

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