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January 28, 2021

Want to Generate Traffic at a Fast Food Chain?

Tony Treadway

Want to Generate Traffic at a Fast Food Chain?

We Build Cult Brands.

Restaurant chains took a punch to the gut in 2020 thanks to the pandemic. About 90,000 restaurants permanently closed nationwide because their traffic waned and so did their resources. Yet, some chains thrived because of their operational excellence and their cult brand status. Here’s a cult brand client case study on one that thrived, Pal’s Sudden Service.

We’ve been a strategic partner to Pal’s for 29 years, so we’ve been privileged to be part of one of the most prolific stories in the restaurant history.

With 30 units, each with 1,100 square feet in a limited menu, drive-thru only environment, a typical Pal’s store will generate about $2.9 million in sales (that’s more than $2,600 per square foot). O.K. that’s crazy good. As a comparison, Business Insider reports that an average McDonald’s will have $2.7 million in sales with 4,500 square feet, or $600 per square foot per year.

“Cult brands don’t have to discount their price to compete.”

There are hundreds of ways that Pal’s Performance Excellence Model outperforms even the biggest chains. It boils down to the exceptional simplicity of a well-tuned manufacturing plant. That means Pal’s units are plants that make great food fast with employees who are trained and empowered to be successful. How successful? A typical Pal’s will move 200 cars an hour through its drive thru, with only one order mistake in about 3,900 customers. This magic is at the heart of a cult brand. To be a beacon of “great food in a flash” magic that astonishes and delights cult brand followers in our crazy mixed up world is beauty in the midst of ugliness, death and fear. “Delighting the customer” is in Pal’s mission statement so why not?

So how has our ad agency supported and grown a cult brand? Here are a few:

  • We’ve Never Advertised Price. Cult brands don’t have to discount their price to compete. Instead, our ad campaigns have been designed on creating the same delight that a Pal’s experience creates with an emphasis on their food. Ultimately, Pal’s customers don’t care how cheap the food that they put in their belly is so why give it away with a discounted price? Instead, give them great food quickly, and they’ll come back again and again.
  • Share Your Brand Culture With Customers. This is the number one way to build a cult brand. Every person wants a connection, whether it’s to family, friends, or belief. The Pal’s cult is built on an archetype of a Houdini who amazes friends with feats of magic based on principles of disciplined love and orchestral teamwork. Who doesn’t connect to someone, or a brand, like that? It’s like being a member of a S.E.A.L. Team, or the Texas A&M marching band. They are perfectionists as being artists in fast food.
  • Have A Heart. What does that mean as a restaurant chain? It’s not about writing a check to a charity, but something more important. If you come up a dime short on the cash for your order at Pal’s, the employee is empowered enough to say, “That’s O.K. Have a great day.” Have an order mistake? Expect the store operator to be knocking on your door or tracking you down to hand you a correct order and an apology. Does it disrupt the process of manufacturing food? It’s what a cult brand does.

As the pandemic began to emerge, Pal’s was the first to mask up its employees. Hand an employee your credit card for payment. Pal’s was the first who offered to wipe down the credit card with sanitizer before handing it back. Pal’s was the first to systematically develop a process to monitor incoming delivery people and monitor the health of their employees to assure a safe place to work and serve customers. There was no advertising of this. Brand-loyal customers could witness it at the drive thru and told friends who instantly abandoned national chains because of the humanity displayed and executed flawlessly by Pal’s.

What does all this discipline and delight mean to a restaurant chain? A Pal’s customer will visit a Pal’s three times more frequently than customers of a national chain. Pal’s figures the lifetime value of a brand loyalist at about $30,000. That figure is only based on the customer’s business between the ages of 16 and 44 (28 years) so the estimate is wildly underestimated in a world that is increasingly going grey headed.

That’s how you get a return on investment in being a cult brand. Is it easy? No. To pull it off you need an agency partner who understands how to build a cult brand for you. You need to be a restaurant chain executive who is willing to do the hard things in your organization to deserve to be a cult brand. Once it is done, you will reap a golden harvest year after year.

Want to learn more about this mystical brand? Listen to an excellent podcast by TJ Schier with Pal’s CEO Thom Crosby or watch some of the incredible ads and view metrics we’ve created for this iconic chain. Want to discuss how you become a cult brand? Let’s talk.