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What are the biggest challenges ahead?

I think the biggest challenge is to find the strongest, most effective way to communicate Macaroni Grill’s already-differentiated position in the market place. The brand has a loyal following and very strong assets, and deserves the best menu and marketing communications.

Secondarily, there is a lot of work to do. So, finding the balance between wanting to execute new promotions, new products and getting the basics right will be a hard balance to strike. We want to get out there and get going.

Are you using one agency?

We have built great partnerships with our agency of record McCann New York, media agency Universal McCann and our public relations partner SPM Communications. They're working on the Joe’s brand, and we have hired those agencies to work on Macaroni Grill and Brick House Tavern + Tap.
What kinds of efficiencies exist in your marketing to all three brands?

We certainly have efficiencies by internalizing much of our menu and creative work and utilizing agencies across the Ignite brands. However, the efficiencies show up more when innovating. When we ideate internally, all brand resources get involved. We rarely copycat across brands, but we do pull in our whole team for ideas and to allow us to more efficiently get to market with something new.

Once Macaroni Grill is integrated into Ignite, do you let its current marketing continue to run so you can review it as a hands-on CMO, or would you move immediately toward changing some things?

The first objective for us is always growing profitable sales and traffic. All menu and marketing strategies must support that goal. If current programs don’t do that, we will create programs that create momentum against sales and traffic.

My management style is to ask the questions: Will this improve traffic versus last year? Will this improve guest perceptions? What is the purpose of this menu item or the marketing program? There are a lot of shiny pennies in the marketing and menu world.  My job is to prioritize those for the team as it relates to our primary objectives. At the end of the day, we have to drive sales in a way that inspires new and current guests.

The consumer will see a few new changes, nearly immediately, including new creative work from McCann that highlights food and beverage propositions that are intended to grow guest counts.

Clay Dover is the chief marketing officer at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers. He serves as a board member for the NRA Marketing Executives Group and as an Advisory Board member of several restaurant industry organizations, including NRN's MUFSO conference board.