Fully Integrated Marketing Campaigns and Chili’s Burgers

I recently spent a pleasant Saturday attending “Blogger Boot Camp”, sponsored by the forward-thinking DaVinci Institute, and at lunch, Greg Reinaker (of NewsGator), Bill French (of MyST Technology Partners), DaVinci head Thomas Frey and some additional folk who don’t have blogs (imagine!) went to Chili’s. Typically I skip these franchise restaurants because when you don’t eat meat or chicken there’s not much left on their menu, and because the quality of their food tends to be poor. But when you’re with a group, you go with the flow…

By coincidence, I’d seen one or two TV advertisements from Chili’s for their new “Build Your Own Big Mouth Burger” campaign, and was intrigued when I saw the campaign’s blank order ticket on the table. I borrowed a pen from Tom and checked off the burger and toppings I wanted.

However, when the burger was delivered….

Are you surprised to find out that the burger was completely wrong, and that the kitchen staff had completely ignored the ticket I’d filled out with the details of my order? I bet you’re not, because this sort of breakdown in internal communications is all too common in modern companies.

My burger order was messed up because Chili’s clearly failed to ensure that its company works as a coherent team, from cooks to restaurant managers, to corporate communications. When I asked the manager about the situation, he looked embarrassed and said “we’re working on getting the kitchen to pay more attention”. The server just rolled her eyes. It clearly wasn’t the first time this had transpired.

I don’t see the lack of communications and buy in as a problem in our specific restaurant, however, but rather with the corporation itself. Do you think that Chili’s corporate allocated funds to help with training the cooks in the individual restaurants, sent out training materials and incentivized managers to ensure that individual restaurants support the new marketing campaign? Of course not. Like many large companies who don’t understand the critical importance of coherent communication, Chili’s corporate doubtless believes that the extent of their responsibility is to come up with a marketing campaign, print up the order forms, ship them to individual restaurants and pay for the necessary TV and magazine ad space.

From the individual restaurant’s perspective, however, there’s no time for new things, new menu items, new promotions, because, just like any satellite division, they’re just too busy working in the proverbial trenches, making sure that the doors open on time, the health department likes their kitchen sanitation, the toilets flush, that every customer is happy and that the staff isn’t messing up too much.

So I end up with a completely wrong burger and no-one, from the server to the manager to the bosses at Chili’s corporate, seems to be particularly surprised. Not even you, the reader.

I suggest that this is symptomatic of the old style unintegrated corporation. If you can’t have everyone on the team buy into a new project and you can’t measure compliance and success, then maybe it’s time to skip the project, come up with a new method of incentivizing the team, or find a new team entirely. And that’s something to think about, Chili’s.

2 comments on “Fully Integrated Marketing Campaigns and Chili’s Burgers

  1. Hi Dave, I’m currently a college student at an Eastern University, majoring in Marketing minoring in Hospitality managment. I also work for Chili’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have been working at this resturant for seven months and I can assure you that it, is staffed with not only communicating, personable individuals from the front door to the back of the kitchen, but we are also a resturant the is constantly striving for excellence.
    One major example of this would be our G.S.S. (Guest Service Survey). This survey is looked upon greatly with, a one being the lowest score possible and a five being the highest. The managers of this restaurant are the exact opposite of uncaring, instead they are empathetic to not only the customers but the staff as well.
    It’s true that Chili’s as a corporation has a ways to go as far as its advertising and in some resturants its communication. However Dave, I can assure you that Chili’s as a corporation will see through any kind of struggle, as long as we keep getting letters and surveys from our guests. Without the letters there would be no factual evidence to base a concern off of.
    In conclusion try us out again and then take a survey or write another letter. I’m sure the second time around will be better.

  2. Delores, you are very right. I’ve worked for Chilis for two years now.
    Also, GSS stands for (Guest Satisfaction Survey)

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