A burger is a burger, right? A ground-beef patty placed between two buns. Maybe a slice of your favorite cheese, some ketchup, a helping of French fries - and voila - the all-American meal.
Beyond that, most people are unlikely to give their burger consumption a second thought. And consumers generally perceive little difference between one restaurant chain's burgers and those of another.
Colorado-based restaurant chain Red Robin wanted to set itself apart as being the leader in creating gourmet burgers, and was determined to do it by developing an event that it could own now and into the future. The best way to do so, the chain surmised, was to generate awareness of Red Robin and said event in the media.
Red Robin enlisted the help of Linhart McClain Finlon Public Relations to get people thinking about its 22 gourmet burgers as one-of-a-kind twists on an American icon.
Linhart conceived of a burger cook-off contest it called, "What's between your buns?"
The contest was held nationwide at all Red Robin locations. The cook-off happened in conjunction with Red Robin's fall food and beverage celebration, the Gourmet Burger Tour. Red Robin encouraged customers to submit their original gourmet burger recipes, which were accepted at all Red Robin restaurants and via mail from September 10 through October 10, 2001. The company promised to make the winning burger available at its restaurants in 2002.
Linhart began by distributing information to every newspaper and magazine within a media radius of a Red Robin restaurant, the purpose being to promote the contest and encourage people to submit recipes. Linhart targeted over 400 publications in 24 states.
The firm's press-release dusting paid dividends quickly, as more than 500 recipes had been received by mid-October. After whittling the recipe list to 12 semifinalists, Linhart distributed semifinalist-specific news releases, emphasizing the local angle in each market.
Next, the firm promoted four regional cook-off events, and event-specific releases were distributed in each market to local newspapers and TV stations.
The four competitions took place in four different markets over two days in late November.
Three contestants participated at each cook-off. Linhart used local media personalities to judge the competitions.
The first week in December, the national grand-prize winner was announced.
It was 13-year-old Lauren Berg for her grilled portabello burger, and the teenager's victory was announced to the Denver and Colorado Springs media.
When the contest was over, Red Robin generated close to 9 million print media impressions in publications in 20 states, as well as 20 television news stories in several major media markets, including Denver, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis.
Red Robin is currently planning the second annual Gourmet Burger Recipe contest, which is scheduled to kick off in August. Linhart plans to employ the same media relations tactics.