Kelseys builds its return around road trips

As dining rooms begin to fill up again, the restaurant chain is positioning itself as a spot to stop during summer travels.

Kelseys Original Roadhouse is trying to reconnect with its clientele, urging them to “get off the busy road of routine” as summer patio – and road trip season – looms.

The family casual chain’s latest spot, “Trip Down the Block,” features camaraderie, a night on the town, and friends enjoying its signature dishes.

“It’s about celebrating being back in the restaurant,” says Shannon Lawler, director of marketing for Kelseys Original Roadhouse. “We know that people will prioritize getting together to have fun and enjoy an engaging out-of-home dining experience.”

Even as large scale, conventional travel is poised to return to normal, Lawler tells strategy that, conceptually, the approach is built around more everyday, local adventures. “We are a roadhouse and are all about road trips,” Lawler says.

With its Creedance Clearwater Revival soundtrack and sepia tones, the new push mirrors the retro feel of its 2018 campaign celebrating the restaurant’s 40th anniversary.

“We’re all about our 70s groove,” Lawler says. “We were built in the 70s and have that nostalgia feel.” According to Lawler, there’s a lot of history with the brand, and that its roadhouse format has seen a lot of copycats recently.

While the campaign is airing on conventional TV, Lawler says YouTube is a key focus and the biggest shift this time around. All versions of the spot feature TSN’s Rod Black, the longstanding voice of the brand.

Further campaign support for “Trip Down the Block,” including out-of-home, social and experiential activation, is coming in May, Lawler says, coinciding with both warmer weather and a new menu launch. Kelseys also has summer-focused beverage partnerships with Moosehead and Michelob, and will be promoting Route 78, a proprietary hard soda it launched last year with Ketel One Vodka.

Delivery and off-premise business is not going away, Lawler admits, but she’s seeing levels of dining room percentages rise, and saw an especially big shift over March Break.

The new brand positioning and launch campaign was created by Toronto-based Ostrich Studios, with the agency-production hybrid managing all creative, directorial and film production duties. Genuine Media did the buy.

Ad spend is its largest since 2019, Lawler says.

In March, parent Recipe Unlimited, which runs approximately 1,200 restaurants also including Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and Montana’s, reported it had turned around its operating losses from a year prior, and increased total system sales 29.3% to $790.4 million in Q4.