Brand Reinvention

Hooters / Henry McDaniel /

Updated designs and improved menus give casual-dining and family-dining chains new life.

Updated designs and improved menus give casual-dining and family-dining chains new life.

Who says you can’t teach an old brand new tricks? Some of America’s iconic full-service chains are betting that remodeled restaurants and reengineered menus will rejuvenate their images.

Paul Mangiamele is not hesitant to use the “re” words—reinvestment, rebranding, and reintroduction—to describe the process that Bennigan’s restaurants are undergoing. He even goes so far as to call what is happening within the chain a revolution.

The Dallas-based company’s president and CEO says the casual-dining segment has been “in a coma” the past few years, suffering from a condition he calls “brand drift.”

“We had drifted away from the basics—those elements that made us successful in 1976 when we opened our first restaurant and allowed us to maintain our leadership in the segment through the early ‘90s,” he says. “As a result, customers drifted away.”

To fuel the brand’s resurgence, Bennigan’s unveiled a makeover plan that included new designs and menu shifts. A 5,000-sq.-ft. prototype replaced the typical 10,000- to 12,000-sq.-ft. design, effectively lowering cost of entry for franchisees and fitting more readily into different site options—from end-caps and in-line spaces to freestanding pad sites. Since 70 to 75 percent of sales come from food, Bennigan’s new design moved the bar from the center of the restaurant to the side, freeing valuable real estate for tables and creating a more communal feel. And while the dated Tiffany lamps are gone, colored glass is used in windows overlooking the food preparation area.

“We’re respecting our traditional trade dress, but giving it a new energy and vibe,” Mangiamele says. The same goes for the food and drink. For example, Bennigan’s popular potato skins are back, but instead of their 80’s iteration of piled-on toppings, they now come with a variety of dipping sauces.

On the beverage side, a carefully crafted collection of specialty drinks is being developed to pair with updated, chef-driven menu items and the original 100 offerings have been pared down to 14. Accentuating the emphasis on warm, Irish hospitality, one signature drink is the Long Ireland Iced Tea and the restaurant is testing an Irish coffee made tableside with house-made whipped cream.

“It’s a $100 presentation for a third of price,” he says. “That’s part of how we’re giving our guests real value for their money.”


Add new comment