Bruegger’s Bagels has spent 2014 introducing new artisan menu items and revealing a new design prototype in an effort to stay relevant to Millennial guests who grew up with its brand and retain their parents’ loyalty. Next month, it will unveil a series of videos designed to promote the changes.
The 30-year-old Burlington, Vt.-based bagel chain built its reputation on combining authentic, fresh-baked bagels with high-quality fresh ingredients. While this recipe has resonated among its core customer base, the brand would like to remain competitive by appealing to both Millennials and their Baby Boomer parents.
“Over the last couple of years, the brand has been impacted by an increasingly saturated quick-service marketplace,” said Judy Kadylak, vice president of marketing and menu innovation of the 290-unit chain. “[It] made us take a step back and look internally to understand what we need to do to stay competitive and relevant for the next 30 years.”
“Millennials began visiting the chain as children with their parents,” Kadylak said. “Not only do these customers still visit us, they currently account for 37 percent of our customer base.”
Eager to retain existing guests, and compete for new members across the growing Millennial segment, Bruegger’s is taking a three-step approach to “evolve the brand in a way that can stay true to our roots, remain relevant to Millennials and still attract their parents in an evolving marketplace,” Kadylak said.
Bruegger’s strategy includes new menu items, a new design approach and the video series rolling out in January 2015.
At the heart of Bruegger’s strategy, Kadylak said, is the brand’s tagline, “Tradition You Can Taste.”
Expanding to new items and additional dayparts was the first step in Bruegger’s strategy. Earlier this year, Bruegger’s designated sandwiches as an all-day menu item, available morning through late afternoon. Then the company began using fresh-cracked eggs in sandwich items.
“Bringing in these menu items, and new equipment to properly cook and deliver hot sandwiches, were the first big operational shifts in how we served prepared foods,” Kadylak explained.
Currently, the chain is testing seven artisan sandwiches in two Burlington, Vt. locations. The chain expanded the menu to its Cleveland market on Nov. 12. Following the test period, which will last through the first quarter of 2015, the new menu will roll out systemwide.
Since launching the new egg menu options, Bruegger’s doubled average sales for limited-time egg sandwiches, according to Kadylak, and new burgers “are selling three times the amount of average lunch LTO items,” she said. “Increased sales and positive customer feedback has made the company much more competitive at lunchtime.”
Keeping the brand’s heritage front and center, the chain is retrofitting locations with dark wood tables and high-tops, and red brick walls adorned with chalkboard artwork and signs. Bruegger’s also positioned the bakery in the dining room so guests can see fresh menu items being created and displayed.
“Overall, the new design provides a more appealing and comfortable dining space for guests,” Kadylak said. The chain’s Minneapolis prototype already features the new design, and within two years, all of Bruegger’s locations will highlight the new décor.
In addition to traditional advertising, Bruegger’s ramped up digital efforts in 2014 “as this is the best way to reach the millennial customer base,” Kadylak said. The chain has a strong social media presence across Facebook, Google+ and Instagram, but “Twitter is delivering the highest level of social engagement,” she said.
The chain will launch a series of video vignettes it developed with SBC Advertising, based in Columbus, Ohio. These short videos, called “Behind the Taste,” will illustrate Bruegger’s four core ingredients: its signature New York-style bagels; cream cheese; sun-dried tomatoes and fresh salmon. The first two of five videos will launch Jan. 7. The third video will be released in February, the fourth in March and the final video will debut in April 2015. All vignettes will appear on the company’s microsite, behindthetaste.com. Bruegger’s will drive traffic there using banner advertising, social media, email and point-of-purchase messages.
While most of its efforts are still new, Kadylak credits the chain’s early transformations for “increases in sales and traffic,” she said. “Ultimately, we want our current guests to enjoy the journey we are taking them on, and give new guests a restaurant they will enjoy visiting again.”