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Neil Culbertson - April 2019

Delivering Value Today is Complicated By Neil Culbertson, Founder and President, Growth Partners LLC It wasn’t all that long ago that Value was defined as quality, service and atmosphere relative to the price paid.  Value was essentially formulaic.  Under this scenario, QSR’s benefited from their strength on ease and convenience, and consumers were willing to trade-off food quality; conversely, Full Service offered higher perceived food quality and ambiance, giving it the advantage for less time-pressured occasions. But, due to three major events (the economic recession of 2008, the emergence of Fast Casual and the coming-of-age of Millennials), value has become much more complicated today.

  Take a look at the brands that are winning today – they all have strong value propositions. Recently, I heard the CEOs of Darden and BJ’s Brewhouse each describe the different ways their brands try to offer value to their guests.  Yes, McDonald’s has their $1 $2 $3 value menu, but they have gone well beyond this through offering fresh beef Quarter Pounders, all-day Breakfast, and improved access via Uber Eats. A brand’s overall Value Proposition is very strategic and important to overall brand health.  Consumers want to know much more about the brands they use today. Tim Pulido, fellow strategic operating partner at Corlex Capital suggests today’s definition of value includes: menu authenticity, brand purpose, overall relevance and community involvement, in addition to the overall brand experience. One of my favorite brands, Jersey Mike’s, a ~1400 fast casual “sub shop”, really understands VALUE and has enjoyed huge success against many competitors including the mega-Subway brand.  Here are just a few things that I feel contribute to Jersey Mike’s overall value proposition:

  1. Very easy, descriptive menu that promotes transparency

  2. Yet, customization is strongly encouraged

  3. Abundant fresh ingredients and fresh bread

  4. Every meat and cheese is sliced fresh before your eyes

  5. Warm, personable team members who welcome you and want to make your personal sub

  6. Authentic “east coast” heritage – a.k.a. the sub authority

  7. Real American success story in Founder/CEO Peter Cancro

  8. Deep connection to the community – they are all about local, and just ran their annual national giving day where 100% of SALES is contributed to a local cause, chosen by the franchisee There are plenty of lower priced subs out there, but Jersey Mike’s has chosen to offer a number of differentiators that consumers value and have shown they will pay a premium for. So, to be a winning brand today, I believe you need a strong, unique value proposition.  Value can be and should be delivered in many ways.  The more robust your offering is - the better.  In addition, value requires reinvention/innovation-- sticking to the same approach leaves you at risk of losing valuable ground.   I strongly encourage you to take a fresh look at the specific ways your brand delivers value. For 15 years, Growth Partners has provided outsourced Chief Marketing Officer consulting to restaurant companies. I am a fresh set of eyes for current CEO’s/ CMOs, as well as a Part-Time or Interim CMO for concepts looking to grow their businesses and brands. Follow me at or on Facebook @growthpartnersllc.

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