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Marketing Bites: The case of the too-quiet concept

When your emerging chain is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, is it time to shout your story or keep your lips sealed?
Silence
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Welcome to RB’s weekly roundup of the latest developments in restaurant marketing.

It would seem to be a restaurant marketer’s dream scenario:

Your scrappy little regional chain has landed a massive fish—the CEO of a top-performing, publicly traded restaurant brand was just announced as your new leader.

Now’s your time to seize some national headlines. Get your story out. Maybe attract some investors. Maybe the positive press will help lay the foundation for a potential move to franchising later down the road.

It would seem to be a no-brainer that an emerging chain would capitalize on this time in the spotlight.

Well, no one told that to Salad and Go, apparently.

That’s the 50-unit drive-thru salad chain that few people outside of Arizona and Texas, where it has its restaurants, had even heard of until this week.

That is, until late Monday afternoon, when Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison surprised Wall Street and everybody else with his resignation after a decade at the chicken chain to helm Salad and Go, where he had served on the board of directors since 2020.

Eleven minutes after Wingstop sent me news of Morrison’s departure, I emailed Salad and Go, looking to set up an interview.

An outside PR person hired by the salad chain replied about 45 minutes later, letting me know that “the brand is not accepting interviews at this time” and provided me with a three-sentence statement (the bulk of which enlightened me on Morrison’s resume) as well as seven, one-sentence talking points that didn’t say a whole lot.

Salad and Go didn’t respond to my follow-up questions, or even a request for a photo of one of its restaurants.

Salad and Go’s founders, who left the chain in 2020, similarly refused to chat.

My requests to connect via LinkedIn with all of Salad and Go’s leadership have gone un-connected.

I’ve covered emerging chains at Restaurant Business for quite a few years now, and my inbox can attest that I get multiple pitches a day from growth concepts who very much want to tell their stories.

It remains a bafflement to me that Salad and Go gave us all the silent treatment during this big moment for the brand.

Perhaps they have reasons for silence that outside observers don’t know about. But, to this outside observer at least, it seems like a massively missed opportunity to tell the chain’s story far and wide.

A return to date nights

Fondue concept Melting Pot, which has more than 90 locations in the U.S. and Canada, is very much hoping omicron was the last COVID surge and couples can get back to dunking bread cubes in a shared pot of molten cheese.

The chain this week debuted a new campaign around transforming Thursday into “Thursdate” with the help of digital conversation starters called Sweet Talk.

Diners can scan a QR code at the table to be offered conversation prompts such as “What is your favorite item dipped in melted chocolate?” and “What can I do more often to make you feel appreciated?”

The conversation is meant to accompany Melting Pot’s four-course dinner for two, which also includes a table that’s romanced-up with rose petals and candles.

“At Melting Pot, we love creating a romantic weekly date night occasion for guests to connect with their special someone,” CMO Ana Malmqvist said in a statement. “With Sweet Talk, we help start the conversation over craveable fondue, making Thursdates even more meaningful and memorable.”

ICYMI

Some good marketing-related pieces by my RB colleagues this week, including:

Add Chili’s to the list of chains getting in the online merch business

Why restaurants should really be paying attention to TikTok

How wartime impacts restaurant menus and marketing (the latest installment of the fabulous new Restaurant Rewind podcast from Editor-at-Large Peter Romeo)

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