The Melting Pot Stretches Marketing Budget
In late February, fondue specialist The Melting Pot introduced a new menu designed to broaden its appeal by expanding less expensive, a la carte options and reducing emphasis on its signature, special occasions-driven four-course dining experiences.
The challenge: Launching its repositioning with a marketing budget of under $3 million — far smaller than the budgets of casual dining competitors like P.F. Chang's ($11.9 million) and Benihana ($6.8 million).
Not surprisingly, The Melting Pot's strategy relies heavily on unpaid PR and social vehicles to promote the new menu and change consumer perceptions, reports Alisha dos Santos, communications manager for Front Burger Brands, the restaurant management company for chains Burger 21 and GrillSmith, as well as The Melting Pot.
One emphasis has been building consumers' awareness of its new dining options and how far their money can now go at The Melting Pot by driving them into the restaurants with social media promotions.
For example, a social-based $10,000 gift card giveaway ($20 gift cards for 500 winners) yielded more than 50,000 entries, secured more than 1,000 reservations through the sweepstakes Web site, and added 16,000 people to The Melting Pot’s email marketing database, according to dos Santos.
On Facebook, the brand is currently promoting a cause-related campaign in which those who donate $10 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital receive a Fondue for the Kids card good for $20 off a purchase of $50 or more at The Melting Pot.
In addition, throughout December, the Facebook page is featuring random prize giveaways driven by puzzler contests and other engagement devices. In some cases, fans can earn additional chances to win by visiting the brand's Pinterest page, repinning an image and submitting a quiz answer, using a designated hashtag. The Facebook-based contests are also being cross-promoted on Twitter.
The brand's Facebook and Twitter pages currently show more than 392,000 "likes" and about 15,000 followers, respectively.
Another major focus has been empowering and equipping franchisees to market better locally. In a single year, The Melting Pot developed more than 20 traffic-driving off-the-shelf marketing programs that franchisees (and company-owned locations) can implement easily in their local markets at any time to drive incremental sales. The company is also expanding its local store marketing team to provide more support for franchisees in working their local marketing plans.
While still working to increase sales across the franchise system, The Melting Pot is seeing promising gains, dos Santos reports. For example, its company-owned restaurants in Tampa Bay, Fla., have seen a sales increase of about 5% gross year over year by employing the off-the-shelf programs and promoting the new menu campaign.