The term 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 once, but slow building over a five-year period that actually 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. Four years later, Elliott says, beef o bradys scoped its competitive set, brands like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, and asked “How can we contend with they?” 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 glance. 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 money 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 from 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 absolutely was, in a great deal of ways, an era when casual chains drifted from their core principles attempting to appeal to a different generation of consumers we didn’t quite understand yet. The “all-things-to-all-people” aftershock of attempting not to get left behind when consumer preference shifts but hasn’t solidified yet.
Elliott says Beef ‘O’ Brady’s saw this unfolding and made a decision to carve out a distinct segment within 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 becomes an area where we can compete.’ It just happened to be they were walking away from this and we were diving in it.”
Elliott admits those chains came back to value, with Chili’s 3 for $10, Applebee’s all-you-can eat deals, Dollarita, as well as other offers. Yet there remains a positive change, he says. “They practice it on the promotional basis,” Elliott says. “It exists within our restaurants every day of each week and that we support that all year round with additional promotions allow it some top spin. But our value is actually all day, every day.”
“I think the difference is if you do value you can’t get it done intermittently,” he adds. “It has to be a 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 seeking to maximize 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 want a good deal. And that’s not a brand promise Elliott is prepared to compromise on.
Here’s a good example of how serious beef o bradys opening hours is on the subject: Franchisees can’t set their 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, as an example, have run a $5.99 price tag for five straight years. Burger Mondays (the identical price) hasn’t change, either, and isn’t anytime soon. Wing Wednesdays (varies by store), Fajita Thursdays ($9.99), and Surf & Turf Fridays ($12.99) complete the everyday value platform. And Elliott says they’re adding Saturday and Sunday deals in the future.
“The franchises are looking for me,” Elliott jokes. “They think we should take price on this stuff. And I’m saying, glance at the results, guys. Consider the repeat visits that we’re getting on today of every week. If we eyoaqm sit tight, we still separate ourselves from those who still take price.”
“If you accomplish that,” he adds, “all of sudden your day-to-day deal is not an arrangement. It’s just like everything else. We’ve had our infernal debates concerning this but we’ve been consistent to separate ourselves from our competitors, and also to provide not fake value but real value.”
As Elliott says, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s current progress is the consequence of several changes, not one. Value was just the springboard.