A Fresh Approach to Restaurant Rebranding & Marketing

How Response helped Uncle Julio’s find their look, voice, and place within the crowded restaurant market.

Uncle Julio’s, a 21-restaurant chain specializing in made from scratch Mexican food, had a problem. Despite receiving good ratings for food and restaurant quality, sales had begun to plateau. Even worse, they weren’t being given credit by customers for their biggest differentiator. Looking to reverse this trend, Uncle Julio’s tabbed Response to deliver a comprehensive strategy to help boost sales, promote new menu items, and showcase this differentiator.

Meal Prep – Cooking Up the Strategy

But what exactly was that differentiator? We began our rebranding experience by asking Uncle Julio’s one simple question: for what would you like to be known? Looking to leverage both their heritage of handmade items, and the rising demand for fresh ingredients, Uncle Julio’s wanted to focus on their dedication to made from scratch.

Analysis showed that customers weren’t giving them credit for making many of their meals from scratch, which instantly informed us on the direction we should take, and the challenges we must overcome. In addition, Uncle Julio’s was adding seven new fajitas to their menu and needed the concept to incorporate this promotion. With our research complete, we set to work developing the many pieces that would become our integrated campaign, including:

  • Overall concept development
  • Copy
  • Design
  • 7 New Fajitas microsite development
  • Social media
  • In-store materials
  • Billboards
  • Banner ads
  • Radio
  • Movie theater pre-roll

The Dish – A Concept for Success

With a single-minded proposition of positioning Uncle Julio’s as the place for made from scratch Mexican, we developed several campaigns based around this idea. Ultimately, Uncle Julio’s chose our “Experiences, Made from Scratch” concept; a concept that abandoned subtlety to connect a feeling and flavor experience with made from scratch. This instantly addressed the main shortcoming of Uncle Julio’s previous advertising, and positioned them as the restaurant that delivers great food, great times, and a fresh dining experience.

Looks Tasty – Designing an Experience

The initial design concept for “Experiences, Made from Scratch” featured two elements we felt were very unique: overhead group photographs in lieu of the usual food photography, and a strip of authentic Mexican tile adorning all visual elements.

To us, the most important aspect of the design was to do justice to Uncle Julio’s commitment to handmade. Handmade represents more than literally sewing fabric, or in this case, chopping vegetables. When something is handmade, it typically has a purpose, represents a personal interest, and displays a regard for quality. The handmade aspect was important to define in this campaign in order for Uncle Julio’s to reposition themselves as a higher standard for authentic Mexican cuisine.

Restaurant Rebranding & Marketing

Using the ambiance of Uncle Julio’s restaurants as inspiration, we chose to portray both the visual and social experiences of the restaurant in this ad. The master creative incorporated handcrafted Mexican tile that hinted at the genuine decor of the restaurant and the appreciation of artistry. The design also embraced the social atmosphere by juxtaposing the tile with a photograph of patrons enjoying the seven new fajitas.

Over time, the neatly constructed concept of overhead photography and group photos morphed into straight-on food shots or photos of the restaurants. The messaging has also moved well beyond the initial seven new fajitas and now addresses group dining and loyalty programs. Everything from the photography to the logo has changed since the first layout of this concept, but the tile, our biggest connection to handmade, remains.

Delicious Digital Marketing – 7 New Fajitas Microsite

One of the most important elements of the Uncle Julio’s rebranding was the 7 New Fajitas promotion. This was particularly exciting because the new flavors, sauces, and ingredients firmly reinforced Uncle Julio’s dedication to made from scratch food. To give this promotion the weight it deserved, Response created a 7 New Fajitas microsite.

The 7 New Fajitas microsite not only features the authentic Mexican tile design element, it highlights each dish individually, giving potential customers a tantalizing taste of the new flavors Uncle Julio’s would be serving. The design of the site features easy to use navigation that allows users to click on a dish to see the ingredient list, and a large image of the actual food to further whet the appetite.

The microsite gave the new fajitas a home that helped to set them apart from the regular offerings, and showcase what makes them so unique.

Bring Friends – Restaurant Industry Social Media Targeting

Uncle Julio’s goals was looking to attract a more affluent, and potentially more loyal, customer base. Through research identifying neighborhoods and area codes where these customers were most likely to live, we created a social media campaign aimed at these high-earning neighborhoods. This concentrated effort led to more fans and interactions, particularly within the audience we were most hoping to attract.

From there, we have expanded our social media efforts in regards to Uncle Julio’s Group Dining initiative. Owing to group dining’s natural tie ins with office parties, we’ve targeted job titles such as office administrators, trade show planners, and event planners. We’re also able to target by events, including birthdays, holiday parties, seminars, reunions, and bridal parties.

Room for Dessert – In Conclusion

The most satisfying part of our experience with Uncle Julio’s is the fact that it’s working. Stores in our target areas have seen an uptick in business, our social campaigns have yielded more fans, and we have several new projects in the pipeline. Our current focus on group dining is beginning to show fruit, and we’re very excited about the loyalty program we’re helping Uncle Julio’s introduce.

Fact is, none of this would’ve been possible without a clear goal from the beginning. By working together with Uncle Julio’s from the outset, we were able to clearly understand their needs, which in turn led to a more effective strategy. As we’re fond of touting how important strategy is to any campaign, our work with Uncle Julio’s shows how instrumental it truly is. And now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk of Mexican food has me craving some guacamole.