It’s not your typical restaurant. In fact, Snap Kitchen CEO David Kirchhoff says his charge is competing as much with at-home cooking and grocery stores as with restaurants. Described by Kirchhoff as a kind of convenience store cooking from-scratch food that’s individually packaged and portioned, Snap Kitchen was designed to bring the luxury of a personal chef to the masses. It serves up what it touts as healthy yet flavorful meals, all clearly labeled and individually packaged for grab-and-go consumers. “It combines the holy trifecta of what good food should be: craveable, nutritious and super fast and easy,” says Kirchhoff.
With a price point for entrees between $8 and $12, and serving up on-the-go meals for one, Snap sees a spike with millennial customers—especially those without kids. “Our biggest age bracket is 30 to 35, but we do well above and below,” says Kirchhoff. Because of the labeling system, Snap also does well with consumers following dietary lifestyles such as paleo or gluten-free. And customers often come in and buy multiple meals for the week—taking sales from other restaurants. “The way I describe Snap is it’s what’s for dinner Tuesday night. Snap fills in a lot of meals for people over the course of the week,” he says.
A roadblock in the growth path
What it was missing, says Kirchhoff, was brand unity. “It was a classic startup,” he says of the emerging chain. The logo didn’t match package labeling, fonts weren't consistent across printables, labels were difficult to read, etc. “Like a lot of young companies growing in an entrepreneurial way, it needed to come up with a singular, cohesive system that felt tied up.” So the brand launched a multi-piece makeover.
Starting a makeover
Step one was finding the right team. Not only did Kirchhoff join Snap less than a year ago (following a stint outside of the restaurant world as the CEO of Weight Watchers), he brought in a chief technology officer with a deep startup background and, impressively, he wooed now-CMO Tressie Lieberman away from her job leading Taco Bell’s digital team.
And to lead the rebranding, Snap worked with an outside firm—the same designer who created Shake Shack’s branding—to approach everything from signage to menu boards. “It deserves iconic branding that rises to the level of food and service,” says Kirchhoff. And that meant breaking from the retro-kitschy look it had previously sported. The goal, says Kirchhoff, was to look like a smart, modern brand, not a cute one.
The most difficult piece of the makeover, says Kirchhoff: recognizing that every piece of collateral had to be touched, especially for a brand with so much packaging and printed material. The makeover itself went very quickly—about four months. Once it selected a designer, branding options were presented in about a month and then Snap pushed to get everything finished by the time it opened its first store in Philadelphia (its third market, after Texas and Chicago). But it had to make sure every small element—from T-shirts and reusable tote bags to packaging labels and signage—were ready to roll out at once. Spreadsheets listed all of the items in need of redesigning. To assure an instant changeover, versus rolling out newly branded items over time, everything had to be designed, ordered, assembled and ready to go at the same time.
Taking advantage of new talent
While Snap doesn’t have a digital presence right now, it’s in the work. A custom-built app is in alpha testing, with the hopes that it’ll be out late this summer. “Our concept lends itself to digital,” says Kirchhoff, especially since a sizable majority of its customers are on its loyalty program, and people are coming in multiple times a week. “The notion is that you’ll pull out an app, dial up a meal plan and pick it up at a store. It’s kind of a no-brainer. It’ll make access that much simpler.”
Lieberman, within her first two and a half months at Snap (she started at the end of January), launched the company’s first marketing campaign, which Kirchhoff calls “super pithy.” It’s in play in all three of the brand's current markets.
One thing Snap is throwing down on right now: taking the concept national, says Kirchhoff. Expansion outside of Texas began with the Chicago push last summer (there are now eight Chicago stores), followed by Philadelphia, which is at six stores. Kirchhoff thinks the concept has legs to grow, because it’s a different kind of hybrid built for how customers eat today. “There’s nothing like this in New York, Boston, Denver, L.A., Phoenix, Miami. They’re all kind of fair game,” he says. So now he and his team are spending their time determining the next potential frontier.
This week's head-spinning restaurant moments included a suggestion in court that the "b" in IHOb stood for "bad news for Applebee's." That's just one of the long-shot gambles that came to light as oddsmakers considered the likelihood of restaurants charging into sports betting and who'll win the chain vs. independent bout.