The easiest projects to work on as a marketer are the ones where you work on brands you love, support, and believe in. So when a post in an Instagram story from Christian Petroni of the restaurant Fortina said they were in need of an agency to help them with a new website, our eyes lit up. We were big fans of the Fortina brand. We loved their food, the experience and vibe at the restaurants, and followed them on social media (and you should too on Instagram and Christian on Instagram). To us, they had all the ingredients of what makes a great restaurant brand.
So we shot them a cold email and to our delight, they responded. We set up a time to meet and to see if the right chemistry was there to create a successful project. The thing that struck us most was the authenticity behind the brand. They care deeply about making sure their guests have a great experience, go to great lengths when they hear of a guest having a less than optimal experience, and see their network of partners as part of their “family.”
To understand Fortina you have to understand the chef/owner behind the brand, Christian Petroni. CP, as he’s affectionately known, is full of talent, creativity, humor, New York chutzpah, and exudes hospitality. He’s a rare combination and one that is a tremendous asset to have behind a brand. And a website for his restaurant had to capture his unique personality but in a way that didn’t cause friction for people trying to find key information. In other words, we couldn’t let our desire to create something unique and fun get in the way of the website’s intended purpose.
Our brainstorm consisted of ideas of all scale, from the creation of a Wes Anderon-style film on Fortina for their 404 page (as a nod to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, one of Christian’s favorite films) to hidden menu items in the source code, and unique ways to invite friends to go out to Fortina. There were obvious things – like the typical mobile “hamburger” menu had to be a pizza slice. But one of the pieces we’re most proud of is something we created called PizzaBot.
PizzaBot came from a conversation centered around the premise that we had this great attraction in Christian that guests frequently ask if he’ll be at a particular restaurant that evening. But he’s also someone who is constantly on the move and does everything on his phone. We needed to create a way that made it easy for him to get the site updated with real-time information. We figured that if we can make something that is easy as sending a text message that would update the site immediately we’d have something that would solve that challenge. So PizzaBot is a text-based functionality that a message can be sent to a number and it will then ask which restaurant he’ll be at that night and will automatically update the site. It then is set to automatically switch to a default message after several hours, to eliminate the risk of having outdated information on the site that may disappoint a guest.
There are a few easter eggs currently active on the site. Maybe you can find them. Some or obvious and some are a bit more hidden.
This has been one of our favorite projects at Response. And we’re looking forward to continuing to push the envelope with their team.