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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005 — March — Storyboard

It's All in the Delivery
A new ad campaign—and a little controversy—exposes Green Mill to new delivery customers.

Green Mill
Arden Mills, Minn.
2004 Systemwide Sales
$80.1 million (company estimate)
2005 Systemwide Sales
$86.5 million (company estimate)
Average Unit Volume
$2.54 million (full-service units)
Average Check
$9 lunch, $14 dinner
Ad Budget
Ad Agency
Don Farleo Advertising and Design, Minneapolis
Expansion Plans
3 to 6 in 2005
*Chain Leader estimate

Green Mill, the Arden Hills, Minn.-based casual-dining concept better known for its pizza than its full menu, had been suffering from a delivery slowdown. Delivery revenues had been declining 2 percent to 3 percent annually since 1999. So to differentiate from its pizza-only competitors, Green Mill introduced a TV advertising campaign last year promoting that the entire menu is available for delivery.

Delivery and takeout combined account for as much as 40 percent of sales in some of Green Mill’s older stores and a minimum of 20 percent of sales in newer restaurants. “Although the segment was declining for us, we thought it was a point of distinction that we deliver our whole menu,” explains Todd King, president of Green Mill.

With 37 units, including five grocery-store kiosks, in five states, the 31-year-old chain didn’t have the volume to justify television advertising in its early days. It spent the money that franchisees paid into an ad fund on billboards and direct mail rather than television.

However, in 2000, the chain spent all of its available advertising budget—approximately $200,000—on a TV spot designed to show that Green Mill wasn’t just a deep-dish-pizza place but a casual-dining restaurant with more than 105 items on its menu. But with no clear call to action and pricey media buys during the evening news, the campaign failed, King says: “It was very expensive, and there was no uptick.”

Media Exposure
Green Mill changed strategies. Instead of buying the expensive nightly news time, the company aired the spots during programs like The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil and morning news shows. Many senior citizens and office workers, who are part of Green Mill’s target demographic, tune in to these programs. Green Mill also courts families who are already familiar with the brand.

Minneapolis-based Don Farleo Advertising and Design, the concept’s ad agency for the last seven years, also helped Green Mill save on production. For the 1999-2000

TV spots, Green Mill shelled out almost $75,000 in production costs alone. In 2004, the company spent just $13,000 in production costs, with what King considers better results. It used still food shots from other Green Mill campaigns rather than paying for a food stylist and new food photography. The commercials were shot on video, rather than film, which reduced editing costs.

Farleo developed a series of ads emphasizing Green Mill’s full-menu delivery and a strong call to action. “Pizza Lunch” is one of several 30-second spots in which co-workers discuss ordering in because the boss wants them to work through lunch or work late. Instead of being disgruntled about the extra workload, they rejoice at ordering from Green Mill.

But it was another spot, “Pizza Nudist,” that caught the attention of some of Green Mill’s senior citizen diners when it aired on Sept. 20, 2004. The spot—which carefully avoids showing any verboten body parts—depicts a nudist couple ordering Green Mill delivery so they avoid the complications of going out to eat without clothing. After a few complaints, Green Mill pulled the ad the next day.

A local news program covered the controversy and ran the segment five times. “That’s coverage I could not buy,” King says. He doesn’t rule out the possibility that “Pizza Nudist” might air again someday, although next time it will be on late-night TV. Until then, the spot is on the Green Mill Web site.

For now, King is happy with the results from both the pulled spot and those that have stayed on air. Delivery sales increased 3 percent the first week of the ad campaign and soared 8 percent to 11 percent the second week. Overall, Green Mill has seen its delivery business increase 7 percent to 8 percent since the campaign began.

Aspiring for Everyday
The company will spend an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 on the small screen this year. New television spots focusing on salads, as well as a retro-styled, 1975-esque deep-dish-pizza campaign, are currently in the works.

The TV spots will continue to position Green Mill apart from pizza-only competitors. While its customers appreciate value, the concept’s appeal isn’t rock-bottom pricing. The average check is $9 at lunch and $14 at dinner.

The emphasis on TV spending will help increase systemwide sales from $71.3 million in 2003 to $86.5 million in 2005, King predicts, with much of that growth coming from increased frequency of visits from loyal customers rather than new restaurant expansion.

“We’re not like Domino’s and Papa John’s,” King says. “People come to us when they want higher quality. We think we can convince them to look at us for more than special events.”

“Pizza Nudist ”
Length: 30 seconds
1. Man: Being full-time nudists has its drawbacks. 2. Going out to eat, for instance, can cause quite a ruckus.
3. Lucky for us, Green Mill delivers their whole menu. 4. From award-winning pizza to sandwiches, salads and nearly 20 appetizers, Green Mill delivers it all.
5. Green Mill even delivers full dinner entrees. 6. Voice-over: For a limited time, get one of Green Mill’s classic pizza favorites for only $9.99.
7. Man: Green Mill delivers their whole menu to your home or work. 8. [Doorbell] Ah, where’d I put my wallet?

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