BurgerFi hopes customers give a cluck about its new name

Marketing Bites: The struggling fast-casual burger chain, looking to goose sales with a new platform, said it is changing its name to ChickenFi. It's a marketing gambit that's been tried before.
BurgerFi said it's changing its name to ChickenFi to promote its new sandwiches. | Photo courtesy: BurgerFi.

Marketing Bites

Be right back. I’m off to change my name to Oprah so I’ll become a billionaire.

What? You say that’s a ridiculous fool’s errand?

You’d better tell that to BurgerFi.

The fast-casual burger chain this week said it’s “changing” its name to ChickenFi as it debuts antibiotic-free fried and grilled chicken sandwiches.

Said CEO Carl Bachmann: “Chicken presents a significant opportunity for business growth. We’ve expanded our chicken offerings by 50%, broadening our menu selection and improving our existing products.”

A BurgerFi spokesperson confirmed to my colleague Lisa Jennings, though, that no permanent signage would be changed on restaurants and that “marketing materials” are currently being used as temporary signage for the chicken promotion, slated to run through the summer.

If this BurgerFi/ChickenFi marketing promo sounds awfully familiar, you are, indeed, experiencing déjà vu.

Perhaps you recall in 2018, when IHOP similarly changed its name to IHOb to promote its better-burger menu?

At the time, that was a pretty novel stunt. As I reported back then, IHOb garnered about 15,000 news stories, 1.2 million tweets and a big lift in new website traffic early in its campaign. The marketing initiative helped IHOP sell four times more burgers than before the temporary name change.   

Copycat efforts, though, have been less impressive.

Fast-growing Dave’s Hot Chicken earlier this year rebranded some of its locations temporarily as “Dave’s NOT Chicken” to promote the launch of its fried cauliflower alternative.

And who could forget (most everybody, probably) last September when The Habit Burger Grill temporarily renamed one of its restaurants in Glendale, California, “The Habit Sandwich Grill” in honor of its Santa Barbara Char sandwich, which is served on bread rather than a burger bun?

Back to BurgerFi, though. The fast casual, which closed 14 units last year, said earlier this month it had closed eight more restaurants as it continues “right-sizing” its portfolio. The chain’s same-store sales dropped 13% during the first quarter.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based brand has said it hopes its upgraded chicken sandwiches will grow to become 10% to 12% of its menu mix.

And, who knows, maybe a name change will be just the thing to do the trick.

If so, I hope you’ll all address me as “Oprah” going forward.

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