Why Jack Astor’s spent its summer working on the patio

The restaurant chain has sought to give people fun reasons to come back, and now it's putting a focal point of its campaign on tour.

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Jack Astor’s has been busy this summer, marketing its patios in a way that gives them place with Canadians still working from home.

A 30-second spot in the “Work From Patio” campaign features a man and woman as they surreptitiously “work” while enjoying the amenities of Jack Astor’s patios, complete with backdrops and props meant to mimic a home office, as well as a sound proof work-from-patio pod designed for meetings.

The pod is real, and is now on tour across Ontario, while the “work from patio” backdrops are present at 37 Jack Astor’s locations across Canada.

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Not only is the campaign a means of capitalizing on summertime, the peak of patio season and the growing number of people working from home, it also serves to remind people what they enjoyed at Jack Astor’s from before the pandemic.

“We really wanted to drive awareness that our patios are open and kind of get back to the roots of what made Jack’s famous in the first place, which is its irreverent sense of humour and do something fun to celebrate that we can actually have social occasions again,” says Anesie Johnson, VP of marketing at parent company SIR Corp.

While campaign is rooted in moving past the pandemic, it is difficult to ignore how the pandemic reshaped the restaurant industry.

Like many restaurants, Jack Astor’s pivoted towards takeout and delivery. While it became proficient in that regard, it wasn’t sustainable as its sole income, despite the demand for takeout not subsiding as the country reopened.

With the restaurant experience was replicated in the home more and more, Johnson says Jack Astor’s response was to expand its services, capabilities and malleability, sometimes acting as a takeout and delivery grocery story, at other times a bundle dinner family option, as well as incrementally implementing alcohol.

While the campaign is designed to attract patrons, it is also intended to raise morale and make the workplace more enjoyable for Jack Astor’s employees, known as “peeps.” Working in the restaurant industry was tough even before the pandemic and retention became more difficult. The need to keep its employees engaged and satisfied is further exacerbated by the general labour shortage facing Canadian employers, Johnson says.

The cost of entry for restaurants today isn’t limited to great food and a large variety of beverages, although those are two main pillars for a successful restaurant. Another key factor is injecting humour and/or entertainment to elevate the dine-in experience, which is something Jack Astor’s strives to do and is a key part of its brands, says Johnson.

The national campaign, led by creative agency The Garden, launched in mid-June to coincide with patio season and will run until the end of September on Jack Astor’s owned social platforms, primarily TikTok and Instagram. It also includes OOH and digital displays that capture the campaign’s playful tone. Media buys were handled by Cairns Oneil.

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