LOGAN'S FOCUSES ON HUMOR, RADIO: ROADHOUSE STEAK CHAIN'S CAMPAIGN USES STILLER TO MOCK PRETENTIOUSNESS

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Comedian Jerry Stiller plays "Larry the Renegade Gourmet" in a new radio campaign for Logan's Roadhouse, a midprice steak chain known for its peanut-strewn floors and downscale ambience.

The brand-building campaign, the first Logan's ad work from Atlanta agency Fricks/Firestone, began last week in spot markets. It includes two 60-second commercials, which will be followed by two more later this year plus outdoor support.

TV commercials with Mr. Stiller may follow next year, said Elliot Firestone, executive creative director at the agency.

Fricks/Firestone won the steak house chain's estimated $5 million account in August via an unsolicited pitch letter (AA, Aug. 17).

NEW AD THEME

A new theme-"Logan's Roadhouse, the food is everything"-replaces "Logan's Roadhouse, the hoppin' little joint down the road" in the humorous spots written by Scott Ellmaker, senior copywriter at Fricks/Firestone.

In the advertising, Mr. Stiller-known most recently for his role as George Costanza's father in "Seinfeld"-touts the chain as a place to get good food without froufrou extras like cafe lattes and fancy art on the wall.

"When I walk in a restaurant serving lattes I say, `See you latte,' and I head to Logan's Roadhouse, where the food is everything," Mr. Stiller says in his signature New York accent. "Ask for something fresh at other places, you get a pinch on the tushie," he says.

In the other spot, Mr. Stiller lambastes restaurants that spend money on art instead of food: "You won't find any Monets on their wall [at Logan's]. They put all their `monet' in their food."

"We are playing off the idea of a roadhouse where you put everything into the quality of the food and decoration is minimal," Mr. Firestone said. The previous campaign touted the chain as a place to have fun.

`CUTS THROUGH PRETENTIOUSNESS'

Mr. Stiller, the embodiment of a no-nonsense New York guy, is not your typical Southern steak house pitchman. "The last thing we wanted to do for the Roadhouse was go Texas cowboy," Mr. Firestone said. "He's a great person to cut through the pretentiousness."

The campaign is a clever approach for the chain, said Malcolm M. Knapp, president of a restaurant consultancy bearing his name.

"Their customers can feel superior because the fancy guys are being put down," he said. "Their core customer would be very uncomfortable where the maitre d' is unctuous and at least pretended to be five social stations above them."

The 34-unit, nine-state Logan's chain is on a growth path, with plans for 20 new restaurants over the next year and a half. However, same-store sales for the second quarter dipped 1.5% at a time of growth for the estimated $35 billion casual dining segment of the restaurant business.

But that was before potential customers had a new champion to extol their unpretentious preferences in dining.

"I think [the new campaign is] good because the people who will go to Logan's Roadhouse don't like the froufrou places," Mr. Knapp said. "Stiller becomes their hero."

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