Mellow Mushroom is getting a bit of a makeover just ahead of its 50th anniversary next year. The Atlanta-based, stone-baked pizza brand has launched a comprehensive rebrand that touches everything from its logo to its website to its restaurant design.
The rebrand includes refreshed visuals and new color schemes; a new, cohesive website that includes online ordering and payments; a new catering channel; updated employee uniforms; newly designed menus and in-store signage; and an updated Mel O. Mushroom, the brand’s character. Further, Mellow Mushroom has overhauled its retail shop to reflect its rebrand and will launch its first ever connected TV campaign on Nov. 14.
This effort has been in the works for over a year and, according to Anne Mejia, vice president of brand development, it is the biggest rebrand in the company’s history. During an interview this week, she said several factors drove the launch of this holistic effort – a sustained off-premises business chief among them.
“Increasingly more guests are experiencing Mellow as a branded entity and not the unique, immersive dine-in experience we’ve been known for over the past 49 years,” she said. “Thirty percent of our orders now come from online, so that experience has to be great, and it has to be branded.”
Mellow Mushroom also wanted to streamline its brand identity. The chain has long leaned into both its stone-baked pizzas and its art- and music-inspired psychedelic vibe. Through its research, the company discovered that these dual elements may have inadvertently caused confusion among its guests.
“We have always been into ‘hey, we’re making great, delicious stone baked pizza in an eclectic and visually stimulating, one-of-a-kind restaurant,” Mejia said. “What we found is, from all of our brand touchpoints, many of our guests weren’t really clear on our identity. So, we can now address that.”
Mellow is tying together all of its new elements to “address that,” and Mejia said the biggest objective is to grow brand awareness and relevancy among younger audiences. This is also where the website and connected TV campaign come in. Prior to this initiative, Mellow Mushroom had a website and a separate online ordering website. Those are now combined, while load times are also faster, and online catering and multiple payment options – from Apple Pay to Google Pay – have been added.
“Customers now demand we make the online experience as frictionless as we can. That includes everything from ordering and payments. We were getting a lot of drop offs before in the shopping experience. We’ve corrected all of that,” Mejia said.
Further, Mellow has dabbled in TV advertising “maybe twice” in its history, but nothing that conveyed the brand’s message across its entire system. Its new Connected TV campaign marks a change in that strategy.
“It’s a great solution to build brand awareness because it’s digital. You can purchase what you need and where, depending on where your restaurants are. You can target who you want to target,” Mejia said. The campaign is called the “Mellowverse,” promoting what the brand is calling a “higher order of pizza” and will be streamed on platforms like HULU, Paramount Plus, Apple TV, and YouTube TV.
“This is where consumers consume TV now and how they get video content and a lot of times they do it on their phone,” Mejia said. “I’m excited to introduce Mellow to this audience.”
Next up: A new prototype
Additionally, the company will open a new prototype in Atlanta’s Grant Park at the end of next summer. The prototype will be about 1,000 square feet smaller than a traditional Mellow Mushroom restaurant and will include a counter-service order experience, back-of-the-house technology updates and new menu profiles.
“Now when we build a restaurant, we’ll have a to-go door, a to-go counter, to-go people. That’s the business today. We wanted to make sure wayfinding is clear. We’re starting with things that are easily changed across the system, like uniforms, the website, and the cover of the menu. Eventually we’ll add new restaurants and get into remodels,” Mejia said.
And, ideally, the brand will grow its footprint beyond the current 160-plus units; Mejia said in addition to supporting an elevated to-go business, the prototype test will also inform a new growth strategy.
“We want to see if we can take the concept and make it more compact while still delivering the great pizza and vibe we’re known for,” she said. “Then we can start to drive construction costs out that come with having a bigger place. We think if we want to start to grow, we have to drive investment costs down. We want to grow we just have to fine tune our offering.”
The fine-tuning process will also include new back-of-house technologies, like inventory management and kitchen display systems, and front-of-house enhancements, like a new music program and sound systems.
“We know this is our opportunity to make this easier for franchisees to operate restaurants and we’re looking at the systems we need to do so,” Mejia said.
This prototype, like the entire refresh, was created out of qualitative and quantitative research, including in-restaurant testing with over 160 guests to better understand what resonates and what doesn’t. Prior to that research, the company worked with a brand consultant, who pulled insights from people across the organization – guests, franchisees, staff, executives. Then, the company conducted a two-day workshop with departments, from marketing to accounting, before solidifying the new brand position. Though the rollout begins this week, and the TV campaign debuts later this month, the entire refresh will be a years-long process to gain proof points. There are no franchisee remodeling requirements now, for instance.
“We haven’t set deadlines yet. Our franchisees are busy running restaurants, and we want to make sure that’s what they’re doing. We want to be able to show this will help them and have proof something will improve before jumping in whole hog,” Mejia said. “So far, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from our franchisees about what we’re doing. They know we’re meeting and unmet need and I’m excited to see where we go next with a stronger brand and how we bring that to life.”
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]