The word 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 once, but slow building over a five-year period that actually 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 during 2010. 4 years later, Elliott says, beef o bradys scoped its competitive set, brands like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, and asked “How can we contest with these guys?” And this being a regional player going toe to toe with billion-dollar brands.
“We felt like we could 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 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, in addition to LTOs that infused complexity into operations and muddied the ROI of deep discounts. It was, in a great deal of ways, a period when casual chains drifted from their core principles seeking to appeal to a new generation of consumers we didn’t quite understand yet. The “all-things-to-all-people” aftershock of attempting not to get left behind when consumer preference shifts but hasn’t solidified yet.
Elliott says Beef ‘O’ Brady’s saw this unfolding and made a decision to carve out a niche 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 when we said, ‘look, this is an area where we can compete.’ It just happened to become these were walking away as a result and we were diving into it.”
Elliott admits those chains have come back to value, with Chili’s 3 for $10, Applebee’s all-you-can eat deals, Dollarita, and other offers. Yet there remains a difference, he says. “They get it done over a promotional basis,” Elliott says. “It exists in our restaurants every day of each week and we support that all through the year with a lot more promotions allow it some top spin. But our value is all day, every day.”
“I think the distinction is should you value you can’t do it intermittently,” he adds. “It has to be a part of your DNA.”
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s daily value continues to be key to its resurgence. Notably, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s has brought almost no price in recent years, unlike many chains attempting to maximize 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 want a good price. And that’s not a brand promise Elliott is ready to compromise on.
Here’s an illustration of this how serious beef o bradys holiday hours is on the subject: Franchisees can’t set their very own prices thanks to an alternative POS system corporate installed.
But the daily deals are definitely the foundation. They work, Elliott says, because they don’t change in purpose. Taco Tuesdays, as an example, have operate a $5.99 price tag 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) round out the everyday value platform. And Elliott says they’re adding Saturday and Sunday deals in the near future.
“The franchises are after me,” Elliott jokes. “They think we need to take price on this stuff. And I’m saying, glance at the results, guys. Consider the repeat visits that we’re getting on today of the week. If we eyoaqm sit tight, we carry on and separate ourselves from people who carry on and take price.”
“If you do that,” he adds, “all of sudden your everyday deal has stopped being an agreement. It’s just like anything else. We’ve had our infernal debates about this but we’ve been consistent to separate ourselves from our 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.