What is in this article?:
- Top 10 restaurant brand advertisers
- Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse lead casual-dining category
- Top quick-service ads focus on culinary innovation
Research firm Ace Metrix reveals which restaurants had the most effective ads in the quick-service and casual-dining segments
Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse lead casual-dining category
Casual-dining No. 1: Olive Garden
Average Ace Score: 624
Darden Restaurants’ Olive Garden brand stuck to an effective formula for its five highest-rated commercials in 2012. All of the 30-second spots showed families and groups of young diners in the restaurants enjoying special promotional menus and featured the price points prominently. The offers included Olive Garden’s 2 for $25 Italian Dinner, the 3-Course Italian Dinner, the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl for $9.95 and the Taste of Tuscany menu, which started at $10.95.
“You have to get people’s mouths watering, get them feeling good about the environment and get the value right,” Symonds said. “Olive Garden is frankly better than everybody else at delivering those three messages.”
Casual-dining No. 2: LongHorn Steakhouse
Average Ace Score: 611
LongHorn, another casual-dining brand in the Darden portfolio, also deployed the food-value-ambiance trifecta in its commercials to advertise structured deals such as the Steakhouse Dinner for Two for $29.99 or individual items like the Outlaw Ribeye. It also added short tags to the end of most commercials to advertise the $7.99 Steakhouse Lunch Combinations.
All the spots capitalized on LongHorn’s advantage with its signature product, Symonds said. “America loves steak,” he said. “All the chains have steak in most of their food shots, and that’s not by accident.”
Casual-dining No. 3: Ruby Tuesday
Average Ace Score: 609
Whether it was promoting new signature dishes or its Fresh Garden Bar, Ruby Tuesday did the most good for its brand in new commercials that played up the chain’s upgraded ambiance and décor, Symonds said. The highest-scoring commercials emphasized the environment “where eating feels more like dining.”
“It’s possible to break into this group, and Ruby Tuesday did this year by introducing themselves as the ‘new Ruby Tuesday,’” Symonds said. “The perceptions of Ruby Tuesday have [gotten better] recently, and the commercials are showing glasses of wine poured at the table and people seated in leather chairs and upscale dining rooms.”
Casual-dining No. 4: Applebee’s
Average Ace Score: 607
Applebee’s consistently scored high with ads typical of casual dining last year, showing people in the restaurant and in the test kitchens enjoying tight shots of food from several promotional menus. Those included the Sizzling Entrees for $9.99, new Southwest flavors on the 2 for $20 menu, and the $9.99 Spirited Cuisine offering.
But Applebee’s highest-scoring single ad from last year was a spot for its “Thank You Movement” to offer military veterans a free meal on Veteran’s Day.
Casual-dining No. 5: Outback Steakhouse
Average Ace Score: 603
Outback also garnered its highest Ace Score of 2012 with a cause-marketing spot for Veteran’s Day, in which the brand’s staff visited troops at overseas bases to feed them and with several offers at each unit back in the United States. Veterans were offered a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage on Veteran’s Day, as well as a 10-percent discount for the rest of the year.
In other spots for special menus like the Outback 4 combo or signature entrees, Outback supplemented the usual in-restaurant food shots with scenes of people doing adventurous activities associated with vacationing in Australia, like zip-lining, snorkeling, outdoor grilling and beach parties.