White Spot reconnects with diners, wherever they eat

B.C.'s family casual chain pivots from its "Spotitarian" platform to strengthen its connection to loyalists and lapsed customers.


Last October, B.C. family casual restaurant chain White Spot launched “Spotitarian,” a campaign that embraced the fact that its menu had something for everyone, aiming to bring in a diverse audiences across the dietary spectrum.

According to Cathy Tostenson, White Spot’s VP of sales and marketing, the campaign, developed with creative agency 123w, was very successful in driving traffic and sales to its 65 locations and post campaign research with Ipsos also revealed positive brand results. The plan was to further develop the platform and launch a new campaign in April, but COVID-19 put those plans to a halt.

“Our dining rooms closed and the world as we knew it, turned upside down,” Tostenson says.

Now it has come back with new creative, “Great Food Connects Us All,” in an effort to reconnect with it loyalists and reconnect with lapsed customers, reestablishing itself as “BC’s restaurant,” says Tostenson. With the campaign, White Spot is emphasizing enjoying dine-in, take-out or delivery, showing that a meaningful connection can be formed regardless of which option is chosen. Instead of the more light-hearted approach of “Spotitarian,” the new work is more emotional, showing that White Spot can still be part of moments like birthdays and post-game meals, no matter where its food is eaten.

“Now more than ever, it’s very important that we keep our brands top of mind with reasons to drive occasions,” Tostenson says.

While the restaurant industry has been sustained by provincial support, rent relief efforts, wage subsidies and the addition of liquor delivery with orders, Tostenson says it has still been hit hard. She says, however, that White Spot is well positioned because it has always had a strong take-out business, a channel that continues to grow. And it’s one that may be important to invest in strengthening further as a second pandemic wave comes. Two weeks ago, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry placed new restrictions on the sale of alcohol at pubs, lounges and restaurants, which includes earlier closure times, in response to the rate of new COVID-19 cases beginning to rise in the province.

Tostenson adds that White Spot has also built up a lot of equity and trust, as it is Canada’s longest-running restaurant chain, founded in 1928. Keeping up the “B.C.’s Own” messaging gives locals a sense of shared ownership of White Spot, which will be important to enforce as loyalty and brand trust become bigger influences on getting consumers to choose over factors like price or convenience.

During a typical fall season, White Spot works closely with its media agency DSA on the development of its overall media strategy and a fully-integrated plan that is then launched across its home province. Campaigns are typically supported with TV, radio, digital, social, direct emails and point of sale. This year, however, Tostensen says, campaign spend is lower than previous efforts because of removing OOH from the mix.