CAMPAIGNS: Green Mill adds PR to the recipe for its Bismarck opening

PR Team: Kohnstamm Communications (Minneapolis) and Green Mill Restaurant and Bar chain (Arden Hills, MN) Campaign: Bismarck, ND restaurant opening Time Frame: September 2002-October 1, 2002 Budget: $10,000

PR Team: Kohnstamm Communications (Minneapolis) and Green Mill Restaurant and Bar chain (Arden Hills, MN) Campaign: Bismarck, ND restaurant opening Time Frame: September 2002-October 1, 2002 Budget: $10,000

Kohnstamm Communications knew it was in for a challenge when it took on the campaign for the Bismarck Green Mill Restaurant opening in North Dakota. The 25-year-old, $75 million, 34-restaurant chain had never embraced PR as a sustainable program for branch openings. Kohnstamm, an 11-person boutique agency, saw that Green Mill's previous restaurant-opening programs had no real traction, and felt that with a few resources and a little imagination, it could effectively solidify the value of PR for the restaurant chain. "Green Mill needed to harness PR for what it could bring to the table for them," says Josh Kohnstamm, president and CEO of his eponymous agency. "Their previous strategies had been in fits and starts, and they never had a whole program. They were having inside success, but no real effect." Strategy The goal was to spread awareness of Green Mill by creating a strong relationship with the people of Bismarck, ND, and to establish the restaurant as an integral part of the community. They wanted to front-load the campaign with event-based PR, and create anticipation and interest in the restaurant launch. In order to ensure success, it was important for the restaurant's staff and ownership to be ambassadors for Green Mill, as well as reach out to the community. "We had the same goal in mind as Kohnstamm," says Todd King, Green Mill president. "As we went into North Dakota, we didn't have the same brand recognition as we had in Minneapolis, so we had to introduce the restaurant and tell our story." Tactics Green Mill gave Kohnstamm permission to distribute unlimited free pizza, which it took advantage of by devising a five-pronged approach. First off, Kohnstamm promoted "pizza for breakfast" by offering hundreds of slices of free pizza during morning rush hour. This generated local media attention, making the front page of the Bismarck Tribune, and also receiving coverage on many local radio stations. Second, Kohnstamm wowed crowds by booking Tony Gemignani, the five-time pizza-tossing world champion, for corporate, charity, nonprofit, and public events. The agency also set up free pizza lunches for 10 of Bismarck's largest employee companies - including a state capitol lunch, at which nearly 4,000 slices of pizza were given away. Kohnstamm's next goal was to raise thousands of dollars for the nonprofit organization Bismarck Park & Recreation through community events. The final touch was the introduction of pheasant pizza to the large North Dakota hunting community. The preparation of the pheasant pizza was demonstrated by Gemignani and Green Mill's corporate chef. Results The Bismarck restaurant's sales hit an all-time record of more than $90,000 in its first week - 17% higher than the previous mark. The campaign also sustained its success by generating record revenues of more than $300,000 for the first two months after its opening. Future Kohnstamm will continue to run the campaigns for the opening of new Green Mill restaurants. The firm has developed PR protocols and a company guidebook to help revitalize sales in all of the chain's 34 restaurants. Kohnstamm will also help in the launch of Green Mill's retail product line, which includes salad dressing and pizza sauce, scheduled to hit grocery-store shelves this month. "Kohnstamm really changed how we look at PR," says King. "If I had to pinpoint one shift in our approach, it's that PR is now first, and advertising later."

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