An illusionist, a daredevil and a metalhead mom walk into a burger joint. What might sound like the start of a joke is actually the start of a campaign from BurgerFi, which wants a bigger bite of the "better-burger" business.
BurgerFi, a name that plays off what the company calls the "burgerfication" of America, launched in 2011. Now, with 98 U.S. locations and 104 overall, plus plans for about 25 more this year, the Florida-based chain is eager to start a bigger marketing push with some big burger talk.
"Fast food means lesser quality, ingredients that contain chemicals and additives and other things that are not the best for us," says CEO Corey Winograd. "With BurgerFi the idea is that you could have burgers that are clean, with transparent ingredients."
BurgerFi recently hired Partners & Napier as its first creative agency, and its work on the brand, "Burgers for Every 1," riffs on the message that BurgerFi uses what it says is the top 1 percent of U.S. beef: Angus beef patties with no additives, antibiotics, chemicals, growth hormones or steroids.
The illusionist, daredevil and mom are meant to humorously depict the top 1 percent of their pretty specific groups. In all, there will be eight characters in the campaign.
As for any possible confusion with the bandied-about term "top one percent of country"—the top percentage of Americans who own almost half the country's wealth—Winograd isn't concerned.
"We're focusing on the opposite aspect of that. It's not about money, it's not about economics," he says of the quirky campaign. "Everyone excels at something. We want to celebrate that."
Beef burgers, including one where the bun is replaced by lettuce for the mom, are the focus of the first three ads.
"They wanted to make sure that that [the quality of the beef] came through the campaign loud and clear," says Pete VonDerLinn, executive creative director at Partners & Napier. Then, the "Every 1" message can be adapted for other items on the menu, including chicken sandwiches, a veggie burger and onion rings, he says.
The campaign comes as other "better-burger" chains, including Five Guys, Habit Burger and Shake Shack, try to maintain and grow their businesses.
"Generally speaking, the better-burger category is still growing well above the broader restaurant industry, but it's getting more mature and more saturated," says David Henkes, senior principal at Technomic, a restaurant and food industry consulting firm.
"Taken in a vacuum, each of those players has a great message … but it's become a fairly ubiquitous message," says Henkes. "The challenge, then, is what else are you differentiating yourself on, or, is what you're promoting different enough from all of the other players?"
Meanwhile, fast feeders are cleaning up their own acts. Most notably, McDonald's says it will nationally launch some burgers made with fresh beef, rather than frozen patties, later this year.
"Are we concerned that others are copying us? Yes, no question. But I view it as more complementary than anything else," says Winograd.
Of course, the food itself isn't the industry's only focus these days. BurgerFi knows it needs to deliver its food how customers want it. It now routes all calls for takeout orders to a national call center with trained operators, freeing up restaurant staff for other work.
BurgerFi's systemwide revenue rose 14 percent last year, with same-store sales growth that outpaced the industry, according to data provided by the company, which did not disclose specific figures. BurgerFi was the 216th largest U.S. restaurant chain in 2016, with sales up 34.4 percent to $148.2 million, according to Technomic estimates.
The campaign includes national and local digital media, pre-roll ads, radio, social and in-store elements. Zog Digital handles national and local digital media.