Moe's Southwest Grill parent picks Allison+Partners

The firm is taking over responsibilities for its Restaurant Group, which also contains McAlister's Deli and Schlotzsky's Bakery Café.

ATLANTA: Focus Brands, the parent company of Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister's Deli, and Schlotzsky's Bakery Café, has named Allison+Partners as AOR for its Restaurant Group.

Work on the account is starting this month, following a competitive review that began in March. Focus Brands sent an RFP to 12 agencies, ranging in size from global to boutique. After four rounds, it selected Allison from a group of four finalists, said Paul Macaluso, SVP of marketing for the Focus Brands Restaurant Group.

The company restructured at the beginning of this year. Until January, Focus Brands was comprised of Moe's Southwest Grill, McAlister's Deli, Schlotzsky's Bakery Café, Cinnabon, Carvel, and Auntie Anne’s in one group. At that point, it placed the latter three in the Snack Group, a separate entity from the Restaurant Group.

"This structure was established to help us drive more efficient ways of working across the organization," explained Macaluso. "With the new structure and our growth, it was an opportunity to look for a partner to elevate us across the three brands."

Allison will support the Restaurant Group on consumer PR. The firm will help to build brand awareness and generate publicity for key initiatives, promotions, and product offerings across each brand.

The firm is also responsible for helping with franchise sales, and it will work to increase awareness and interest in franchisee buying rights, as well.

"Focus Brands Restaurant Group is in aggressive growth mode, so we will be supporting store openings and expansions, and we will be focused on general brand-positioning work," explained Allison+Partners Chief Creative Officer Lisa Rosenberg.  "We might start things off with a brand positioning launch for Moe’s Southwest Grill; we haven’t figured out timing yet."

Rosenberg will be providing senior strategic and creative oversight. Emily Wilson, consumer VP, will lead day-to-day account work. Eleven staffers from Allison+Partners are working on the account.

"Allison+Partners is bringing a heightened level of creativity to the process; they have breakthrough ideas to help us grow brand awareness," explained Macaluso, when asked why the company selected the firm. "They have brought in a much more disciplined research and planning approach, and demonstrated an integrated approach to PR and how it could work across our objectives and have a lot of sustaining ability."

The contract’s length has not been determined, according to Macaluso.

Focus' individual brands also work with Fishman Public Relations and Fish Consulting.

This is the first time Focus Brands has worked with Allison+Partners.

Budget information for the account was not disclosed.

This story was updated to correct Focus' relationship with Fishman PR and Fish Consulting.

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