LongHorn leads casual-dining brands
“From a creative perspective, the recipe for casual dining has remained consistent,” Symonds said. “What’s relatively different in the past few quarters has been the emphasis on value messages, consistent with price pressure they see from fast casual and a limited-recovery mode in the economy.”
LongHorn Steakhouse had the highest Ace Score of the quarter at 636 out of a possible 950. The 30-second commercial highlighted entrée after entrée before adding a five-second tag about its $7.99 Steakhouse Lunch Combos.
T.G.I. Friday’s finished just behind with an Ace Score of 635 for a 15-second spot about its Pick 2 for $10 offer. The ad combined the aggressive price point with the same kind of food photography that LongHorn’s ad featured, right down to the opening shot of steak being pulled off the grill.
An ad for T.G.I. Friday's "Pick 2 for $10" offer scored just behind LongHorn
High Ace Scores for commercials do not always translate into sales growth, Symonds conceded. Ruby Tuesday, for instance, had the third-, fourth- and sixth-highest Ace Scores of the third quarter at 631, 626 and 618 for spots advertising its Taste of the Islands menu, pretzel cheeseburgers and crispy flatbreads, respectively.
But the chain reported same-store sales declines of 11.4 percent at company-owned restaurants and 8.4 percent at franchised locations in its fiscal 2014 first quarter.
Symonds noted that Ruby Tuesday’s well-liked commercials are one part of its years-long plan to rebrand itself as an upscale-casual chain and that succeeding in marketing, operations and menu development simultaneously in an effort like that takes time.
“From an advertising perspective, we’re seeing more and more Ruby Tuesday commercials higher on our lists, which reflects a growing customer consideration of them as an upscale-dining experience,” he said. “But that’s a little tough place to be right now, because the economy didn’t rebound like we expected it to five or six years out from the recession.”
Another dinnerhouse struggling recently to build same-store sales, Red Lobster, also had several ads place in Ace Metrix’s top 10 list for the third quarter. The commercials continued Red Lobster’s “Sea Food Differently” campaign that feature real team members, like a culinary manager and an Alaskan fisherman who supplies the chain with crab. The ads had Ace Scores of 618 and 617, which tied for the No. 6 and No. 8 spots on the list, respectively.
“The reason ‘Sea Food Differently’ doesn’t get stale for Red Lobster is because it’s been consistent and is so authentic to the brand,” Symonds said. “Since they did their brand relaunch a few years ago, they’ve remained committed to that, and consumers feel it’s authentic, which comes through in the advertising.”