Branding, graphics firm targets big restaurants with ads, direct

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In 2000, Cincinnati-based brand marketing, graphics and architectural company FRCH Design Worldwide reorganized its restaurant practice in an effort to win business from large national and regional chains. The restructuring paid off: That year, the company generated $1 million in revenue and landed a major client, Starbucks Coffee Co. By the end of this year, FRCH expects to reach $3 million in revenue.

"We'd long been very successful providing our brand services to retailers, but restaurants presented a more difficult nut to crack," said Tom Horowitz, FRCH principal. "Not only do you have to cut through the clutter of marketing messages they have little time to sort through, but you also have to present compelling arguments why they should spend some significant money for updating their image with new graphics or a front-of-room redesign," Horowitz said.

First off, FRCH decided to stick with sizable establishments, specifically those ranked in Nation's Restaurant News' Top 100 restaurants and the next 100 after that.

The restructuring of the restaurant practice gave the company a dedicated marketing and sales team that Rita Baker, business development manager for FRCH's restaurant/hospitality unit, describes as "very targeted." FRCH has made great efforts to speak the language of the restaurant business. "For instance, we've created direct mail campaigns-using messaging that looks like menus-that showcase exactly how our work has made an impact on our restaurant clients' businesses," Baker said. "We also advertise in major trade publications to tell these stories and build awareness and interest."

Many restaurant vendors say trade shows are the best marketing venues, but FRCH eschews them. "They're more suitable for showcasing kitchen products and novelty items that restaurateurs want to touch and feel," Horowitz said. "We don't feel it's the most efficient way to market our services."

These broad marketing messages focus a lot on the graphics services-ranging from signage to menus-FRCH provides, because "that's what most often opens doors for us," Horowitz said. "It's one of the most simple ways to update restaurants' brand image and then, once we've made a difference in their businesses, they're more likely to become interested in redesigning their dining areas or something else more ambitious."

Once FRCH gets prospective clients on the phone, the sales team works diligently to uncover as much detailed data about their needs and history as possible. If things go well, there's a trip to the location, and a thorough evaluation is conducted.

FRCH won Starbucks this way after approaching the company at its headquarters in 2000. "Aiming this high is not for the squeamish or impatient," Horowitz said. "But certainly it has added an ongoing story that gets a lot of other restaurants interested in what we're doing. Starbucks is seen as revolutionary and industry-defining, and some of that rubs off on us." 

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