This is a difficult one for me to write because of my previous relationships. I hate when a restaurant location goes out of business because I know what it takes just to keep your head above water. And I don’t even think happy is the right way to describe my feeling about this, maybe it’s more about taking solace in knowing that what I was preaching a while back was correct. Hell even saying that I’ve been “vindicated” is too extreme. Here is the situation…..
In the last 3 weeks, I have been in 2 separate shopping malls here in the Tampa bay area, Citrus Park Mall and Westshore Mall. Both of them had the same My Little Greek restaurant in the food court… until recently. The MLG in Citrus Park Mall has gone out of business. There are so many reasons why this is just crazy to me not the least of which is that I actually had a chance to invest in this location several years ago. It’s a concept that I believe in and think it has huge potential… if marketed correctly.
This is where the vindication part comes in.
I had a previous relationship at the time with the the Little Greek folks through another startup company that I was the co-founder of called Teburu. An investor in Little Greek was a board member for my company so over a few years span working with them I got to know their operation pretty intimately and absolutely think the world of what they are doing. The food is good, the operation is tight, and you just feel good after eating there. What’s not to love?
So one of the last times I communicated with them, for no other reason than I had another focus, I recommended that they change the name of their mall locations, after they just changed it. I did a ton of research on mall demographics and restaurant patron demographics to find the cross section of exactly who would be their potential customers. I spent several hours looking at research reports I had available from the library at USF and other reliable resources I could find on the internet. No one asked me to do this, I just did it on my own. It was a topic I was passionate about and wanted to find something I thought would help move the needle business wise.
You know what that research said? 70% of mall patrons are Women. So how do you make a restaurant that makes super fresh and healthy food attractive to a demographic that may be a bit pickier on where they eat? You name it something that would appeal to them!!!!
Prior to my idea, they just renamed the mall locations to: “Little Greek: Fresh Grill” where the Fresh Grill part was the tagline below the name.
Can someone please tell me what they hell is a “Fresh Grill”…. figuratively speaking of course. I was told that they had “consulted an MBA class and this is what they came up with so they are going to stick with it”. At the time I was a bit angry because as they say, the proof was in the pudding. My research was tight and well reasoned. But more importantly, the damn crappy mall food court Chinese restaurant DIRECTLY NEXT to the Little Greek was called “Bourbon Street Grill & Cafe”. So you are essentially causing confusion between the two. Do you want people to think shi$%y Chinese food when they hear “Grill” in the name??? No? Well I’m willing to bet that’s what you did when you called it “Fresh Grill”, plus it tells me nothing about your restaurant anyway.
What was my solution you ask?
I recommended that they call it “Little Greek: Fresh Salads & Pitas”
I suggested this because for someone who was walking by it would tell you EXACTLY what you could get there. And as I mentioned the demographic before, Women would probably be more apt to eat there when looking for a healthy, diet friendly option. Heck men would too but the research showed women were the target customer. I also thought they could see a ~10-15% gain in business just from changing the signage alone. Yes, I did the math of how many people eat in the food court vs walking by and additional foot traffic based on line of site, etc. etc.
But here is the kicker in all of this and probably the part that actually fired me up to write this in the first place.
The Little Greek in the Westshore mall has implemented a change to their signage very similar to what I recommended several years ago. I can’t remember exactly what it says but I’m certain it’s pretty damn close. I saw it on a trip to Old Navy with the wife and I distinctly remember turning to her while walking through the food court and saying “can you believe this sh*&”. No phone call, no email to say “hey Leon, turns out you were right” or “hey thanks for the idea, we’re taking it and running with it”. All good guys, I hope you at least keep with it and that it helps grow your food court locations.
It is what it is at this but some times it’s just good to know you’re not going crazy. This is obviously an abbreviated story/timeline of it all but it’s the gist. I’ll update with photos of the Westshore location as well when I go by there again but the photo above tells the story… Listening to MBA’s is bad for your health and your business 🙂
Til next time