Having endured four months in bankruptcy, Bugaboo Creek Steak House is back with new ownership, new food, décor and marketing.
Christopher Campbell took over as president in April 2011, and is now ready to let consumers know that the chain’s 13 locations—known as lodges—are not only open for business, but for better business.
Along with the team of the new owners, Capitol BC Restaurants, Campbell has had to work hard on changing perceptions of a brand that went into bankruptcy along with its parent company, CB Holdings.
“We are still getting over the perception that people don’t know if we are open or bankrupt,” he says. “I feel a bankruptcy gets more bad press than the company that takes it out [of bankruptcy] and into a positive place. We’re still fighting bad publicity.”
Campbell made changes to the brand internally first.
“For my first six months I traveled day and night and visited the lodges. I wanted employees to know who I was, where we were going, that I was there to listen to what their needs and wants were, what their anxieties were. I was able to build up an emotional bank account with our team and that’s moved into the service and the food. What we have feels like a new company, with revived energy.”
Campbell also sought his employees’ input on revamping the brand. Everyone from bussers to managers to executives provided a “voice,” Campbell says, and their input included new uniform, old menu favorites being brought back, and servers introducing themselves “using their Bugaboo Lodge names such as Sally Mae, Forrester, Mary Lou, Gunner, and Blue.”
Capitol BC Restaurants also contacted Ned Grace, founder of the brand, who, Campbell says, “was a fantastic resource for us … His advice was to keep it simple, don't try to be everything to everyone, but everything you do, do it the best.”
And now that the company is almost ready to roll out its new menu (on July 9), its revival is almost complete.
Over the past year it has used traditional media such as print advertisements, billboards and radio for marketing, and has also used newer online methods of reaching consumers.
The company has increased its Facebook community, largely by running contests to draw people to its page. A recent question posted on the Bugaboo Facebook page was What’s Your Favorite Steak? The winner received a free steak every week for a year.
These questions are on the chain’s Facebook page and circulated via email to all 250,000 of its Creek Club loyalty program members.
The first Bugaboo Creek Steak House opened Warwick, Rhode Island, in 1993. The restaurants, which all have a Canadian mountain lodge theme, are in six states: Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Maryland.
Since the new ownership took over, it’s been very important, Campbell says, to keep Bugaboo’s loyal customers happy, and to expand that customer base.
The new menu is being brought in for that purpose.
A number of value dishes have been added to encourage consumers to consider Bugaboo as a place for everyday dining, rather than only a special occasion.
“We’ve been known as a destination spot, but that takes away the Monday through Thursday guest who thinks we’re just for a special occasion,” Campbell says. “We have come up with some price conscious decisions because the first thought is that a steakhouse might be too expensive.”
To this end, sandwiches and salads have been added to the menu. Other value items include fish and chips, the Tavern Chicken Sandwich and a Moosebreath Burger.
The company has also hired a full-time purchaser who has “allowed us to source better items at a better cost,” Campbell explains.
A new kids’ menu, dessert menu, and cocktail menu have also been rolled out. Healthier sides like low-sugar applesauce and fresh fruit have been added to the children’s fare, along with a drink called Northern Lights that features a light-up ice cube.
The cocktail menu has been designed to refocus on the bar. Formerly simply waiting areas for dining room tables, Campbell and his crew hope to make the bars a destination, with the restaurant’s full menu and a cocktail list.
Along with the cocktails, Bugaboo has also released its own beer, made by local brewery, Harpoon. Bugabrew is a value draft beer at $1.99 for 20 ounces.
The goal of launching this beer, Campbell says, “was to build the brand, to add value, to add credibility to the fact that we’re not bankrupt and we’re not closing.”
By Amanda Baltazar