Mary Brown’s gets trendy

How the chicken spot is driving trial, hopping on food trends and offering alternatives to compete in the QSR space.

1538939_10153777139493378_7031959321687525002_nMary Brown’s Famous Chicken and Taters is changing up its menu and tapping into food trends to compete in the tough QSR space.

The restaurant, which has 120 locations across Canada (except Quebec) has two new product offerings. Until the end of May, Mary Brown’s tater poutine will be available in two new varieties: a spicy Buffalo BBQ poutine and a Sweet & Sticky poutine. The restaurant has also added the more traditional cheese curds to its poutine, replacing the shredded cheese it previously used.

Shelley Berman, VP of marketing at Mary Brown’s, says the new varieties are not only meant to cater to the palates of the different provinces the restaurant has a presence in, but are part of a strategy to have a menu that’s more in-line with current consumer tastes.

“With our future vision of our menu evolution, we’re looking to introduce things that are a little more on-trend,” says Berman. “We’re certainly not ahead of the curve, but we’re with the curve.”

A combination of the new varieties, which launched last month, and promoting poutine more in its messaging has led to poutine sales doubling compared to the same time last year, Berman says. She adds that the poutine is being offered to appeal to younger customers who might want an alternative to chicken for a lunch option.

For families that are looking for an alternative, the other new product at the QSR is the Big Mary 4-Pack, a value pack featuring four of the restaurant’s Big Mary boneless chicken sandwiches, which have become its signature product. The pack also comes with a $5 coupon for a future visit, which Berman says serves as both a reward for loyal customers and way to get new customers to return.

The new offerings are being promoted nationally in-store, on social media, radio, billboards and transit ads, as well as regionally in Ontario on GO Transit and in a 15-second TV spot in Newfoundland. The campaign was led by Tag Franchise, which also worked with Mary Brown’s package designers on the 4-Pack to create something that reflected the playful tone the agency helped strike during a brand re-positioning last year.

For the 4-Pack, all of the creative is playing on the convenience of the carrying case compared to the ways someone would otherwise be forced to carry four sandwiches at once. Patti Laine, president of Tag Franchise, adds that the promotional platforms were chosen very strategically. For example, Mary Brown’s does not have locations in downtown Toronto, so GO Transit was chosen to reach consumers that were travelling to areas that do have locations. The length of the TV spot also makes it easy to re-purpose for social media.

“They don’t have budgets that are the same size as their competitors, so every dollar has to count,” Laine says.

She adds that while bone-in chicken has long been a popular family meal choice, there has also been a trend to boneless chicken, and the new offering gives consumers looking to feed a family an alternative option. In addition to being a family option, Berman says it also has appeal to a younger customer, which have shown an affinity to boneless chicken offerings.

Mary Brown’s selling point compared to its competitors has been the way it is cooked and prepared fresh in-store, in a way that makes it less greasy. However, the restaurant believes driving trial of its product is the best way to communicate that, instead of working it in to its playful messaging.

“We’re very conscious of the competitiveness of QSR and I don’t think that the market really appreciates the quality and freshness of Mary Brown’s,” says Berman. “I think we’re Canada’s best-kept secret when it comes to chicken and taters, and the best way for us to get new guests is to get it into people’s hands.”