Spreading The Word

February 14, 2014


Companies find promotion strategies that work (Supplied)


From T-shirts to tickets to toys, franchisors are constantly refining their marketing strategies to find the perqs that will help attract customers and make them loyal brand followers. Executives from The Pegasus Group of Restaurants, Cara Operations Ltd. and Smitty’s Canada Ltd. share their secrets of success.


The Fox & Fiddle, a Pegasus company, partners with Molson Canada to spice up its high-end pub fare with tickets to sporting events. This year it offered a pair of tickets to the Winter Classic from each of its 18 Ontario locations, a promotion that was well-received. The company also has one location in B.C. and one in Manitoba.


“We usually develop about four different promotions a year that are chain-wide,” says Mark TenEycke, director of operations for Pegasus, which in addition to the Fox & Fiddle owns six other brands. “But we understand that each of the locations has a different clientele, so they also have their own internal promotions based on the market for their areas.”


The Super Bowl, the Olympics and St. Patrick’s Day are all special times. On birthdays the company goes beyond the staff singalong to provide signed T-shirts for guests to take home. The goal is to touch people at a personal level so that they remember the event and become guests for life, TenEycke says.


The Fox & Fiddle, which turns 25 this year, has many long-time fans. But the company has also embraced social media as away to reach out to a new generation.

For Christmas it launched a successful Twitter and Instagram promotion that encouraged patrons to tweet about and send pictures of their favourite menu item. Prizes for the best entries were given out each week, with the grand prize being an iPad.


The company enlists staff to get customers involved by providing gift cards and other incentives. “If the staff is passionate about what we want to promote, it makes it a lot easier and more impactful,” TenEycke says.


Fionn MacCool’s, owed by Cara, is part of Prime Pubs, a family of 27 Irish eateries that also operate under the trademarks of D’Arcy McGee’s, Paddy Flaherty’s and Tir nan Óg.

“Our greatest success and feedback comes from the exceptional menu and party programs we develop to provide our guests with a premium pub experience and keep them coming back,” says Jack Gardner, vice-president of marketing at Casey’s Grill Bar and Prime Pubs.


Coming up to enhance the social experience is a special Irish-inspired menu and weeklong celebration of events for St. Patrick’s Days, which is being promoted online, in-pub, in print and through social media.


To keep the party going, Fionn’s has more than 33 types of beer on tap and in-bottle, a wide selection of new and old-school cocktails, 31 whiskies and 20 varieties of wine. “There is always something fun happening,” says Gardner, noting Hopped Up Wednesdays, Craft Addict Thursdays and Two-Fisted Fridays. “Every night we find a Reason to Celebrate, giving guests who share their reason a chance to win a gift card.”


The marketing and promotion strategies are developed by a brand marketing team in collaboration with the franchise executive committee, which meets three times a year. The advertising cost to franchisees is 4 per cent, with half spent to support national marketing and half spent locally under the direction of the franchisee.


“Local store marketing is a huge priority for Prime Pubs, and we work diligently with our franchisees to implement strong initiatives to drive local traffic and sales and to make each pub feel like our guests’ “local,” Gardner says.


On a national level, the company has found success in the area of traditional PR, as well as what it calls “digital influencer relations.” The launch of last year’s new brunch menu, for example, generated much media interest and many blog posts, which created an audience-reach of more than 12 million.


Calgary-based Smitty’s Canada Ltd. takes a slightly different approach to marketing than some national chains, placing the most importance on franchisee efforts tailored to local environments.

While it does have opt-in national programs, such as kids clubs that give away toys and seniors programs that offer discounts, it does not collect a set marketing fee from franchisees over and beyond the standard royalties.


“We feel it’s important that they become part of the community,” says president Chris Chan. “And we encourage them to spend that money in their communities.”


Sponsoring sports teams and working with local business groups pays off, not just because of the exposure, but because these types of activities build a loyal following of community-minded patrons. “In the smaller centres, that sense of commitment is so important,” Chan says.


And, of course, so is the food. While Smitty’s has a set national menu, it encourages franchisees to serve special items that appeal to local tastes, such build-your-own grilled cheese in Calgary, all-you-can-eat fish and chips on Friday nights in Newfoundland and lobster salad in Halifax.


The company, which was started as a pancake house by Chan’s grandfather in 1960, has a strong presence in the Prairie provinces and is looking to expand nationally by finding franchisees that share its vision.


“We view ourselves as a family company and see the franchisees as part of our family,” Chan says. “It’s in our blood.”