Boston Pizza targets local, global

Boston Pizza is accelerating its move to create an international brand image while expanding awareness for its more than 90 franchise outlets across Canada and Asia.The two-level campaign for the Richmond, b.c.-based restaurant chain has to carry the corporate image as...

Boston Pizza is accelerating its move to create an international brand image while expanding awareness for its more than 90 franchise outlets across Canada and Asia.

The two-level campaign for the Richmond, b.c.-based restaurant chain has to carry the corporate image as well as local promotional tie-ins for franchise outlets.

The $1-million campaign, which includes tv, is aimed at the company’s major franchise markets of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver where Boston Pizza franchises are using flyers, coupons, newspaper inserts and print advertising to publicize theme promotions such as ‘Pasta Tuesdays,’ ‘Non-Stop Pop’ and ‘Fast-Lunch.’

The company also sponsors sports teams and charities.

This helps to spread the message that Boston Pizza franchises are locally owned, a key point in the company’s positioning effort, which closely reflects the president and founder’s image for his business.

Jim Treliving was an officer with the rcmp when, in 1968, he first experienced Boston Pizza.

Treliving was so impressed he quit his job and bought the Penticton, b.c. franchise with his pension.

More franchises followed, and, in 1983, Treliving and his accountant, George Melville, bought the entire franchise from an Edmonton businessman.

Executive lineup

Treliving now serves as president, and Melville as vice-president.

Bruce Fox, the company’s executive director of food service, has directed the company’s product and business development since 1983, when he took over Boston Pizza’s 48 restaurants.

At the time, the company was earning $23 million in annual sales revenues.

The first thing Fox did was close five outlets.

‘In 1983, we were a 1960s company in 1970s clothing,’ Fox says. ‘Our first step was to bring it into the ’80s.’

The company quickly upgraded its image and burst on to the western scene when it operated three restaurants at Expo ’86 in Vancouver.

‘We did six years’ worth of business in six months,’ Fox says.

After Expo ’86, Boston Pizza was earning $90 million.

Today the company is approaching earnings of $100 million, with an annual growth rate of 15%.

Fox credits much of the success to the repositioning and repackaging the company has undergone in the past two years, moving away from a pizza eatery to a quality sit-down restaurant.

In 1991, Boston Pizza underwent its first major image revamping, led by Grey Advertising in Vancouver, with a new positioning campaign under the theme of ‘We’re not just pizza anymore.’

In 1992, Boston Pizza switched ad agenices, moving to Glennie Stamnes Advertising in Vancouver, which broke the new positioning campaign nearly a year ago with the theme, ‘Come In. Sit Down. Enjoy.’

Fox says this theme was designed to focus on the true product – the Boston Pizza atmosphere.

Focus group research indicated customers wanted more than just price and quality. They wanted the whole experience of quality food service in a relaxed atmosphere at a reasonable price.

Customers also wanted a friendly food environment in which they could bring the family, as well as get together with business colleagues and friends. Customers also wanted a place at which they knew the owner and the staff knew the customers.

While developing the advertising, Boston Pizza began to tinker with the interior design of its franchise outlets in a major repackaging effort.

The company bucked the retail restaurant trend by moving away from theme restaurants targetted to specific customers.

Boston Pizza created a design in which several customer segments could dine simultaneously.

The lunchtime business crowd prefers a range of light meals in booth seating. Dinner customers want a wide selection of pizza entrees in the family open seating area. The after-movie crowd favors light snacks in the bistro, while the late-night crowd prefers the sports bar, where beer is served on tap.

Shifting patterns

‘The aim is to provide an environment aimed at the shifting patterns of customers,’ Fox says. ‘Even to the point of changing the music to fit the taste of the crowd.’

The Glennie Stamnes tv spots show upbeat, wholesome visuals of customers enjoying their particular dining experience at Boston Pizza, with background music selected from the ’70s rock group Boston, singing Oh What A Feeling.

‘The 30-second commercials were intended to show customers, ranging from grandmothers, to baseball teams, to kids on their first date,’ says Rob Glennie, co-founder and art director of Glennie Stamnes.

Based on the latest recall surveys, the campaign was a hit.

Mike Cyr, Boston Pizza’s director of marketing, says there has been an 8% increase in sales since the campaign began a year ago, double that of the sit-down restaurant industry average.

Satisfied that the image awareness is working well at the franchise level, Fox says the company is now ready to expand its image awareness into Ontario, where it has planned an expansion of 15 to 20 restaurants, along with another 18 per year into the u.s., Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China and Japan.

‘We’ve done a good job refining our business and penetrating the market across Western Canada,’ Fox says. ‘We’re a $100-million business, yet our image is low. We need to create an image as we grow internationally.’

PR support

The company has responded by adding public relations support through Write Ideas in Vancouver to increase the awareness of Boston Pizza’s corporate business achievements, one of which was the announcement the company had recently won the International Franchise Association’s ‘Twenty-Five-Year Award,’ only the second Canadian franchise to do so.

The company now wants to undertake a major brand image campaign to pull new Boston Pizza customers into any one of its restaurants worldwide.

A new image will also help Boston Pizza in its move into shopping malls.

The company is already testing a pared-down pasta and pizza menu in quick snack locations.

Boston Pizza will begin its new campaign without Glennie Stamnes, which resigned the account this past September.

Fox says the company is looking for an agency which can work with a large-scale organization globally, and is capable of helping the company in its proposed expansion.

The mandate for a new agency is simple.

‘People eat 21 meals a week, ‘ Fox says. ‘We are aiming to get two or three of those meals.’