Rococo Restaurants & Catering

Rococo Restaurants have been in Oklahoma City for 11 years, with the original location at 28th/Penn and the newer location in Northpark Mall added in 2010. Rococo sets themselves apart in the sit-down dining space by offering very high quality “East Coast” style food, daily specials, extensive wine list and local craft beers. Both restaurant units have a solid reputation with distinct “personalities”.

The Penn location is smaller, more intimate and a hidden gem for the locals in the historic home districts. The Northpark location is a much bigger and brighter with two bars, a private room for 60 and catering kitchen. This unit attracts customers from the surrounding higher end neighborhoods and nearly country club. The Northpark Mall is a boutique mall with a reputation for catering to “older” shoppers.

The Rococo brand is well established with older, traditional diners who value quality and service and are willing to pay more for it. The average guest in 55 or older who makes $75,000 a year, college educated and will spend $50-$75 per person on dinner.

The challenge for Rococo is to attract a young audience (18-45) who currently find the restaurants “too expensive” and are intimidated by upscale dining while maintaining the current customer base. Fine dining is also a small margin industry with lot’s of competition and imitators. Rococo sets themselves apart in the style of food and preparations they serve. Any new initiatives must reflect that established style.

The restaurant industry has a lot of turnover. Wait staff are the first and sometime only contact with customers and kitchen staff can make or break a quality reputation. Training and integrating new staff (Front house or kitchen) is time consuming and costly. Rococo’s is constantly trying to attract the best, most experienced talent and position themselves as a preferred employer.

Margins for restaurants are tight. On average, only about 10% of every dollar in sales is profit. We needed to draw new and different clientele to Rococo without spending a huge amount of money. The marketing budget is only about 3% of total sales.

Objectives

  • Attract more customers under 45 to increase sales while maintaining established customer base
  • Increase sales for catering
  • Establish Rococo as a preferred employer in the food service industry

Our approach was to make Rococo inviting, exciting and approachable through special events, social media and “thought leaders”. We wanted to create a “something always going on” impression, engage younger diners via social interaction and community causes, educate the intimidated and overall de-mystify the Rococo dining experience. We changed how we reached out to the younger audience, not how Rococo did business, to keep the current (older) customers happy.

The younger (under 35) target market is most often motivated by a desire to be included in “what’s hot” or trendy, supporting community focused businesses and social media. We tailored our approach to this audience based on these ideas. We maintained status quo when marketing to the older, established audience.

For catering, we focused on communicating directly with those who appreciated what Rococo does and how they do it. This included in-store marketing and relationship building. We supplemented that with our online and social media campaigns. We added new ideas (online) to traditional (print, public relations) for an integrated approach.

Tactics

Print: We maintained a consistent color ad in the OK Gazette, often featuring special events, charity functions, etc. The Gazette audience is exactly the younger demographic we were targeting.

Online: We revamped the very traditional feeling website by including videos and a community section. Our biggest push for attracting a new, younger audience is social media. Using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram platforms that are updated daily and consistent, use of video and photography and prompting all employees to utilize social media on a hourly basis during operational times. We created social media accounts for both restaurants, catering and the Rococo Crab Cake. This is the menu item Rococo is best known for. We humanized the crab cake with an “East Coast” attitude. The @RococosCrabCake twitter account is fun and engaging. We also created several Pinterest accounts for showing off the restaurants, chefs, catering, etc… visually. Rococo does a tremendous amount of special event and wedding catering, so Pinterest is a natural fit for establishing the staff as event experts.

We also incorporated e-mail blast and mobile offers with mixed results. These items are used sparingly to not desensitize our audience. We partner with OpenTable.com and Restaurant.com for special promotions and coupon offers. We developed partnerships with food media specialist at the OK Gazette, Oklahoman and Fubelly.com for special features in print, web videos and events. We share these articles, blog post and instructional videos via social media channels.

We created a YouTube channel to feature videos about both restaurants, event catering (including a huge event we did for the OKC Thunder) and why employees enjoy working at Rococo. We also share these videos via social media channels and on the website.

Public Relations: Rococo made great gains in Public Relations in 2012 by winning the Beacon Award (small business category) for Charitable Influence from the Journal Record. This award represented how the owners and staff participate in the community, increased their positive reputation and made Rococo even more attractive to all demographics. We capitalized on the Beacon Award with print ads, in-store promotions, e-mail blast, on our website and heavily on social media.

Every summer Rococo partners with the Salvation Army and NewsChannel 4 TV on a well-received fan drive to help low income Oklahomans deal with the dangerous heat in summer. On average, Rococo raises over $2,000 and over 300 fans for Salvation Army to distribute. Rococo gives free appetizers to those who donate, NewsChannel 4 reporter Scott Hines covers the event for the noon, 4:30, 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 broadcast from Rococo Penn.

Rococo is featured 20+ times ayear in local print and TV media for food, service, community support and positive business practices.

Overall, we were able to create a positive perception of Rococo as a great community partner, employer and dining destination. These items were beneficial in maintaining our base customers while attracting younger audiences.

Events: Rococo utilizes all type of special events to expose new people to their food, service and space. Some off the more popular events include Ladies Night and a monthly “Give Back” night at Rococo Penn. These events have a charity partner so people can come for fun, feel good about spending money on food and drinks. Rococo donates 10% of sales from each event, raises additional funds via a raffle or auction and promotes the mission of the non-profit partner.

At Rococo Northpark, we organized a “Big Night Out” quarterly that does the same thing as the Penn “Give Back” nights but also includes the Northpark Mall merchants. They also hosted several “Celebrity Waiter” nights and Charity Happy Hour type events. Rococo Northpark has a private dining room for 70 people. We utilized this space for wine or beer dinners (paired tasting courses) and hosting groups like the Oklahoma City and Edmond Chamber of Commerce, professional groups and special events such as 30 Days 30 Photos.

In Store: At each location, we take advantage of video screens, chalkboards and check presenter books to communicate messages about menu specials, charity events and catering.

In the summer (traditionally slower) we offered the Taste of Tuesdays cooking class and wine sampling. This event included cooking instructions, food sampling and wine for one low price. We often attracted new and inexperienced dinners with this event, who often returned and promoted to their friends.

Brunch: Rococo Northpark is well known for a huge “cruise ship” style brunch and Bloody Mary bar. We feature this brunch in videos, social media and on the web calendar to reinforce this Sunday morning happening. We also offer social media “insider” special deals for a discount by sitting at the bar during brunch, only telling people about it on Twitter. Sunday Brunch sells out (400+) most weeks and is reservation-only on holidays (Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc.) due to popularity.

Thought Leaders: When looking to add a younger demographic, we reach out to popular figures in Oklahoma for input and promotion. We offered these thought leaders free dining in exchange for secret shopper feedback. We intentionally picked people we know could influence other people by dining with us. In turn, these popular people often recommended, endorsed and promoted Rococo via personal interactions, social media, etc. 

During our time working for Rococo we have seen a 6-1 ROI in total sales to marketing budget for both restaurants and catering. 2012 sales for the Penn location increased by 25% over 2011 (pre-Golding Group). This was the second best year for sales in that locations 9 year history. Rococo Northpark had a 15% increase in 2012, building on the success of the opening year (2011) for that location. The Catering division had a 300% increase of 2011. Sales have continued to increase each year since.

Since our first year working together, both restaurants have increased sales, attracted new audiences and adjusted to increase in dining options. Catering tripled in sales since 2011. Rococo reduced staff turnover and have began to attract more experienced servers from other fine dining establishments. Overall, the company sees tremendous success, loyalty and community support while spending well under 5% of total sales on marketing budget.