Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You can read his column on Twin Peaks here, Abuelo’s here, Kenny’s Restaurant Group here, Firenza Pizza here, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston’s here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, Melt Shop here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.
How do you keep a 60-year-old brand relevant to existing customers and appeal to new generations discovering your restaurant for the first time? With 134 locations, iconic family-casual steakhouse Sizzler is known for its USDA Choice steaks and craft salad bar, which has gotten even more premium with added ingredients and services. Sizzler CEO Kerry Kramp says their brand success is a mix of blending established traditions with new trends. By executing food well and service by a committed team of workers, Sizzler has provided decades of dining experiences that have exceeded guest expectations. Below is our conversation on how their food does the marketing for them keeping Sizzler a top favorite restaurant across so many generations.
How has Sizzler been able to position the brand for more than six decades?
Since 1958, Sizzler has been a way for families to dine away from home and enjoy delicious food at an affordable price. While that concept has remained consistent, we have evolved with the changing consumer. From our 60-item salad bar and new salad-mix technology, to insuring our baked potatoes are always fluffy, we have always maintaining freshness, quality and attentive customer service. What’s most important is our customer mindfulness on budget. We have trained our workers to upsell only when we think it will improve the guest experience and not when it is clear the guest is with us for a high-quality meal but has a very limited budget.
What role does social media play for your brand?
A big one! From Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, each platform is important for us to communicate our offerings and allow our customers to share their experience with others. Social media has been tremendously important for us to reach new customers who aren’t familiar with our brand and user generated photos have been really helpful for that, too. There has never been a better time to stay engaged with customers and finding out about their satisfaction, while also finding ways to improve their Sizzler dining experience even more. I honestly believe that social media is able to generate more traction than other traditional forms of promotion and marketing, including TV.
In what ways have you started marketing to health-conscious consumer?
We now have calorie counts on the menu if guests choose to customize their order. But what we are most excited about is our “build-your-own” salad bar which is a healthy offering available in a very unique way. We have 60 items and the addition of premium items that guests love, but typically don’t buy for themselves like artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, quinoa, avocado and feta cheese. Once the guest chooses all of their ingredients, we have a “mix technology” which combines the salad with dressing for a fabulous salad, in which every bite tastes exactly how you envisioned, with all of the ingredients and dressing perfectly mixed together!
How is Sizzler reaching the millennial generation?
Our connection with millennials has been limited, unless they grew up in families with a Sizzler nearby. But because we are such an established brand that is often confused with a boring brand our marketing must showcase how exciting dining with us can be. This includes remodeling some of our Sizzler restaurants and making sure we showcase photos of our incredible salad bar, steak & lobster, fluffy baked potatoes, and more. What we know from 60 years serving customers is that trendy falls off but a high quality, consistent, dependable, clean, and affordable dining experience is always in style. This is what we focus on and millennials are discovering our brand and loving it.
Ultimately, what would you say is your biggest marketing success?
Love and attention toward our food and our guests has always been part of our success. This means caring about our employees, too because in turn, they will take care of our guests. Integrity of the Sizzler brand has allowed us to last for 60 years by always serving a good high-quality food product and making sure our guests have the kind of experience they expect when they walk through our doors.
How important is it to have the exact same menu items at each location? Fairfax, VA
There are always core pillars of the brand that need to be at each location but do not need to appear in the same order on the menu. For example, if beef tacos are number one in most cities but review your data to see if shrimp and seafood tacos should be listed first in a coastal city. Plus, flavors are regional and even within a large city can differ vastly. Play up ingredients and specialty items that drive affinity (by location whenever possible) to insure the customer has the best chance for an incredible experience.
Do you have a restaurant marketing question? Email Rom@MarketingVitals.com and follow him on Twitter @Vitals_com