The phrase Beef ‘O’ Brady’s chief executive Chris Elliott uses to describe his 150-unit chain’s revitalization is “coalesce.” Picture half a dozen initiatives meeting at the table. Not all at one time, but slow building over a five-year period that really began with a competitive lightbulb going off.
Elliott, a former El Pollo Loco franchise CEO and Cinnabon and Church’s Chicken leader, took the reins in 2010. Four years later, Elliott says, beef o bradys catering menu scoped its competitive set, brands like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, and asked “How can we contend with these guys?” And also this as a regional player going toe to toe with billion-dollar brands.
“We felt like we might beat them in value,” he says.
That might seem counter intuitive at first glance. Casual giants steal share from independents and micro-chains by competing at scale. Typically marketing value more aggressively than small company’s budgets could ever allow. “They’ll probably spend more money in a month, electronic media and stuff, than we’ll spend in a year,” Elliott says. That and weathering commodity storms with collective purchasing power.
But this is 2010, not 2019. Applebee’s strayed from its value-seeker perch and shifted in unfamiliar directions, like the wood-fired grills that launched in 2016. Inflated menus were commonplace, along with LTOs that infused complexity into operations and muddied the ROI of deep discounts. It had been, in a lot of ways, a period when casual chains drifted off their core principles seeking to appeal to a different generation of clients we didn’t quite understand yet. The “all-things-to-all-people” aftershock of attempting never to get left behind when consumer preference shifts but hasn’t solidified yet.
Elliott says Beef ‘O’ Brady’s saw this unfolding and decided to carve out a distinct segment within an area many competitors weren’t-everyday value.
“They were kind of going in a different direction from value,” Elliott says of competitors. “And that’s once we said, ‘look, this is an area where we can compete.’ It just happened to get they were walking away as a result so we were diving in it.”
Elliott admits those chains have come back to value, with Chili’s 3 for $10, Applebee’s all-you-can eat deals, Dollarita, along with other offers. Yet there remains a positive change, he says. “They practice it on a promotional basis,” Elliott says. “It exists within our restaurants every day of each week and that we support that all year round with additional promotions to give it some top spin. But our value is perhaps all day, every day.”
“I think the distinction is if you do value you can’t practice it intermittently,” he adds. “It must be element of your DNA.”
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s daily value continues to be key to the resurgence. Notably, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is taking hardly any price recently, unlike many chains seeking to take advantage of wage growth and cover for traffic loss. That’s just not who Beef ‘O’ Brady’s customer is, however. They’re price conscious families that are looking a good price. And that’s not really a brand promise Elliott is ready to compromise on.
Here’s a good example of how serious beefobradys is on the subject: Franchisees can’t set their own prices thanks to a new POS system corporate installed.
Nevertheless the daily deals are the foundation. They work, Elliott says, since they don’t change in purpose. Taco Tuesdays, as an example, have operate a $5.99 cost for five straight years. Burger Mondays (exactly the same price) hasn’t change, either, and isn’t in the near future. Wing Wednesdays (varies by store), Fajita Thursdays ($9.99), and Surf & Turf Fridays ($12.99) complete the everyday value platform. And Elliott says they’re adding Saturday and Sunday deals in the future.
“The franchises are looking for me,” Elliott jokes. “They think we must take price on these things. And I’m saying, glance at the results, guys. Consider the repeat visits that we’re getting on today of every week. Whenever we eyoaqm sit tight, we carry on and separate ourselves from those who still take price.”
“If you do that,” he adds, “all of sudden your day-to-day deal has stopped being an arrangement. It’s just like anything else. We’ve had our infernal debates concerning this but we’ve been consistent to separate ourselves from your competitors, and to provide not fake value but real value.”
As Elliott says, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s current progress is the consequence of several changes, not one. Value was just the springboard.