Eureka restaurant bar seen in the background.


From beer and wine dinners to interactive cocktail classes, each Eureka location puts on events to connect with the community.

Eureka Puts its Marketing Power in Employees’ Hands

Empowering managers has helped the brand foster a local feel, no matter how fast it grows.

Marketing teams at regional micro-chains don’t always have the biggest budgets. While a brand needs to get its name out there, often times, marketing is only in the hands of a small team. This might be manageable when a company’s footprint is only five locations. But it can get challenging when that number stretches to double digits. 

Eureka! Restaurant Group is set to open its 26th location this fall. The California-based chain’s stores now spread across The Golden State, Las Vegas, and Texas. 

Despite how big it gets, localization remains a key part of Eureka’s growth strategy. Each restaurant is designed differently. Eureka’s executives, including Alexia Penna, the brand’s director of marketing, travel to each site before construction to meet city officials and develop relationships with local organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce.


The California-based chain’s stores now spread across The Golden State, Las Vegas, and Texas. 

Eureka takes its time researching what makes each market unique and how it can incorporate that personality into restaurants. Sometimes that means including art from local artists into the decor or sourcing spirits from a nearby distillery. 

“It’s an integral part of what we do,” Penna says. “From getting involved in the community, finding out what charities are important locally and how can we support, say the school, in the restaurants.”

Along with highlighting local products and fare, the brand’s community involvement extends to events and festivals, like Coachella, Stagecoach, and Bottlerock to bring the Eureka experience outside of the restaurant. 

Because of the individuality of each unit, every restaurant has its own social media page. The brand would lose its authenticity if it used generic posts for every location. It’s a lot to juggle, Penna says.

She had a flash-bulb moment when she decided to give the power of marketing to managers across the system. In order to form and foster the community relationships Eureka thrives on, Penna decided to empower managers and extend their responsibilities beyond day-to-day tasks.

Each Eureka is already asked to get involved in quarterly events. However, instead of forcing managers to set up or attend an event, they were given the opportunity to support causes that were important to them. “It’s a totally different mindset,” Penna says. Instead of being burdened with community outreach, the managers felt empowered. 


For the past five years, Eureka has catered major events, like Coachella and Superbowl 50.

“We love seeing the passion,” Penna says. 

While the managers liked the new responsibility, it wasn’t always easy for them to get out of the restaurant and away from ground-level work. Operating the restaurant sometimes got in the way. But Penna loved the ideas that were coming in. The solution: extend the program to other team members.

“We were always asking the management team to go out to the local schools, to do the teacher program, to sponsor Little League,” Penna says. “But things came up … So, we started pitching the idea of having an allocated shift a week for somebody who is interested in learning about marketing. Maybe they're studying it in school. Maybe they've done it in the past.”

READ MORE: Why GMs are so important to restaurants, and what's going wrong.

Whether an employee is a bartender or server, they can become an Eureka brand ambassador. 

The brand ambassador program officially launched last November. Once a month, the marketing team and brand ambassadors get together for a training session. The program evolves depending on the needs of the store and the experience of the employee.

Each month, training focuses on a different marketing strategy or skill trainees want to improve on. Penna says the group talks about everything from how to approach local businesses to different strategies for hotels, apartment complexes, charities or gyms. The audience the brand ambassadors target varies depending on the market, but the trainees learn about different situations, Penna says. 


The Carlsbad location recently put on a yoga class.

Eureka also goes over how to post to social media and interact with customers digitally. 

“It's continuous learning and we're always changing,” Penna says. “We have some [ambassadors] that have been with us since the beginning which is great but with the restaurant industry there is turnover. We've created systems that it's really easy to onboard and train, and I'm excited to see where the program goes.”

Some of the initiatives brand ambassadors have come up with recently include serving volunteers who worked on the house build of “Extreme Home Makeover” in Bakersfield. During graduation season last spring, a brand ambassador decided to give grads a handwritten card and gift card if they had a party at a Eureka. “It’s been a lot of fun seeing everything they come up with and they do some wonderful things on their own,” Penna says. 

How can we give that to the local community? How can we be a part of the exciting things? These are just some of the questions brand ambassadors think about when planning events and connecting with the community, she adds.

“We look to them to be the experts, and they've come out from amazing idea of the things that we haven't even told them,” Penna says. “Those ideas I want more of, and they continue to give it to me. I'm like ‘You guys are the brains behind this. You know what's happening, and we'll just help with all of the other logistics.’”

She sees the program continuing to grow as Eureka does. Since opening in 2009, Eureka’s expansion has ebbed and flowed. Now the restaurant group plans on opening anywhere five to 10 locations each year. 

The goal is to reach 45–50 restaurants in the next five years. In addition to building out the existing markets, Eureka plans on growing in Texas, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, and Idaho.

“For everything that we do within our restaurant,” Penna says. “When you say the word eureka you're providing excitement. Our internal tagline ‘Feeling good. Feeling Alive.’ we make sure we're doing that for our team, and our team is doing that for our guests.”