Executive Chat by Rebecca Patt,
Senior Vice President of Development, Wray Executive Search
Featuring Greg Sausaman, CEO of Topper’s Creamery
Greg Sausaman is the co-founder and CEO of Topper’s Craft Creamery, a complementary brand featuring a turnkey, soft-serve, frozen custard. He got his start in complementary branding working with Allied Domecq and the Dunkin’ Donuts brand.
What is complementary branding?
Complementary branding is adding a daypart option that you don’t already have. I just wrote a book about this called Inside the Box: The Power of Complementary Branding. The guy who wrote the forward for the book was Ed Ramsey. I tracked him down because he was the CEO for McDonald’s when McDonald’s added soft serve to their menu back in 1995. In McDonald’s case in 1995, they were looking to add to the traffic with senior citizens and with kids to have something to upsell with the Happy Meal.
Another complementary brand is Starbucks. They started the “We Proudly Brew” back in the 90s. They went to healthcare, military bases, university campuses and said, “you don’t have to drink the generic coffee, we can provide you with a branded product.” They give you turnkey operations with all the training, operations, and support on how to execute the brand, and that’s exactly what we do.
You’ve named a couple of the most successful examples of complementary branding. What do you think are some of the cautionary tales?
What happens in the unsuccessful cases is that it becomes too complex when you put two or three full brands together, particularly with the nature of the labor force, the complexity of the operation leads to a reduced execution to the menu.
A lot of brands have tried and failed because they didn’t commit to the integration. There was no marketing around it, no execution around it, and no cultural buy-in.
What are some projects that you are working on right now that you are most excited about?
We are having conversations with a couple of larger brands to insert our crafted frozen custard in the brands. It’s really rubbing nickels together. It might add a hundred bucks a day in sales. But if you add one hundred bucks per day, you are going to keep $50 to $60 of it. That’s the whole key. Over time, the upside is staggering. The investment is $10,000 up front to add another $20,000 in sales annually per location.
I’m also excited about the advisory board I’m putting together. I just had my first advisory board meeting. Ed Rensi is on the board. Also, Ron Weinstock, the CEO of Weinstock Marketing, an agency that has worked for McDonald’s, Burger King, Disney. The third guy is Tom Coba, who was at Dunkin’ Donuts for a while and the COO of Subway. He’s currently the CEO of Murphy Business Brokers. I have three heavy hitters on my board, and we have really outlined the simplicity of what we are doing with putting in a soft serve vanilla ice cream into these operations. We’ve got it down to the point where we think it will be just as easy to put in as a soda machine.
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