What is in this article?:
- Ignite readies Brick House Tavern + Tap for franchising
- Marketing as an investment
Blanchette says that the Brick House brands "has some real strong momentum."
Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. is readying its 16-unit Brick House Tavern + Tap for franchising, bolstered by the company’s acquisition of franchise-oriented Romano’s Macaroni Grill earlier in the year.
Ray Blanchette, chief executive of Houston-based Ignite, which also owns Joe’s Crab Shack, said Wednesday at the investment firm Piper Jaffray’s Consumer Conference that the Brick House brand “has some real strong momentum.” Franchising would help accelerate growth, he said. The company has filed franchise documents, but it has yet to bring on a franchise partner.
“Once we acquired Macaroni Grill, we really brought a franchising component in house,” Blanchette said during the public presentation to investors. Macaroni Grill has a long history of international franchising, and that division also handles some domestic franchising, predominantly in airports, he said.
The Brick House brand’s “-inspired tavern food” is ripe for franchising, Blanchette said. “It’s a brand that is extremely well-positioned for the future,” he explained, adding that the menu appeals to Millennials, who have “an enormously high food IQ.”
“When you look at the sort of bar-and-grill segment of casual dining and try to predict where it is headed, it’s very clear to me that this sort of next-generation, sort of polished bar and grill is going to be an enormous segment,” he said.
With 16 units, the Brick House brand is years away from reaching the size and scale to support national cable TV advertising, he said, but the company is committed to relationship marketing, with an emphasis, on email across all three of its brands.
“No one has really shown me yet how you monetize this sort of social media into actual guests,” Blanchette said. “It’s a conversation, but there’s not a strong call to action associated with it. But with email, I think it’s a little different. So we’re really focusing Brick House on keeping a constant conversation with our guests. Brick House is a high-frequency brand, so it sort of encourages that ongoing conversation.”
Blanchette expressed a dim view of restaurant loyalty programs, though he said Ignite had vetted some. “Loyalty in restaurants is something that I think a lot of folks have spent a lot of money trying to figure out,” he said. “And no one has really cracked the code.
“You know that once you start these loyalty programs, the expense starts immediately,” he said. “But if you don’t establish a switching cost with the consumer, then all you are left with is the expense. I think that’s what most loyalty programs have manifested themselves into is just an expense on the P&L that doesn’t necessarily directly correlate to increased traffic or increased frequency. I think you can accomplish the same thing through email communication for no expense.”