The phrase Beef ‘O’ Brady’s chief executive Chris Elliott uses to describe his 150-unit chain’s revitalization is “coalesce.” Picture half a dozen initiatives meeting at the table. Not all at one time, but slow building over a five-year period that really began with a competitive lightbulb going off.
Elliott, a former El Pollo Loco franchise CEO and Cinnabon and Church’s Chicken leader, took the reins in 2010. 4 years later, Elliott says, beef o bradys menu scoped its competitive set, brands like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, and asked “How can we contest with these people?” And this as being a regional player going toe to toe with billion-dollar brands.
“We felt like we could beat them in value,” he says.
That might seem counter intuitive at first. Casual giants steal share from independents and micro-chains by competing at scale. Typically marketing value more aggressively than small company’s budgets could ever allow. “They’ll probably spend more in a month, electronic media and stuff, than we’ll spend in a year,” Elliott says. That and weathering commodity storms with collective purchasing power.
But this was 2010, not 2019. Applebee’s strayed looking at the value-seeker perch and shifted in unfamiliar directions, like the wood-fired grills that launched in 2016. Inflated menus were commonplace, in addition to LTOs that infused complexity into operations and muddied the ROI of deep discounts. It had been, in a lot of ways, a period when casual chains drifted using their core principles seeking to appeal to a new generation of consumers we didn’t quite understand yet. The “all-things-to-all-people” aftershock of trying not to get left behind when consumer preference shifts but hasn’t solidified yet.
Elliott says Beef ‘O’ Brady’s saw this unfolding and chose to carve out a distinct segment inside an area many competitors weren’t-everyday value.
“They were kind of going in a different direction from value,” Elliott says of competitors. “And that’s once we said, ‘look, it is really an area where we can compete.’ It just happened to become they were walking away from it so we were diving into it.”
Elliott admits those chains have come back to value, with Chili’s 3 for $10, Applebee’s all-you-can eat deals, Dollarita, and other offers. Yet there remains a positive change, he says. “They do it over a promotional basis,” Elliott says. “It exists inside our restaurants every day of each week and we support that throughout the year with a lot more promotions to give it some top spin. But our value is actually all day, every day.”
“I think the difference is should you do value you can’t do it intermittently,” he adds. “It needs to be part of your DNA.”
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s daily value continues to be key to the resurgence. Notably, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is taking very little price in recent years, unlike many chains attempting to capitalize on wage growth and cover for traffic loss. That’s just not who Beef ‘O’ Brady’s customer is, however. They’re price conscious families that are looking a good price. And that’s not a brand promise Elliott is ready to compromise on.
Here’s an example of how serious beef o bradys holiday hours is on the subject: Franchisees can’t set their very own prices thanks to an alternative POS system corporate installed.
But the daily deals are definitely the foundation. They work, Elliott says, simply because they don’t change in purpose. Taco Tuesdays, for example, have operate a $5.99 cost for five straight years. Burger Mondays (the same price) hasn’t change, either, and isn’t soon. Wing Wednesdays (varies by store), Fajita Thursdays ($9.99), and Surf & Turf Fridays ($12.99) round out the everyday value platform. And Elliott says they’re adding Saturday and Sunday deals soon.
“The franchises are after me,” Elliott jokes. “They think we should take price on these things. And I’m saying, look at the results, guys. Look at the repeat visits that we’re getting on today of every week. When we eyoaqm sit tight, we still separate ourselves from those who carry on and take price.”
“If you accomplish that,” he adds, “all of sudden your everyday deal has stopped being an agreement. It’s just like everything else. We’ve had our infernal debates relating to this but we’ve been consistent to separate ourselves from our competitors, and to provide not fake value but real value.”
As Elliott says, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s current progress is the result of several changes, not one. Value was just the springboard.