Three things on every restaurant chain's To Do list: create big media buzz, build greater brand awareness and have increased customer engagement and sales. Houston-based bakery café chain The Kolache Factory was able to meet all three objectives through its recent online “Create a New Kolache Contest."
The nationwide contest asked customers to submit ingredients for a new flavor of kolache. (For those unfamiliar, a kolache is a Czech pastry filled with meats, cheeses and fruit.)
Kolache Factory was founded in 1982 in Houston, Texas, by John and Jerri Banks, who identified a need for a fresh, high-quality breakfast that could be eaten “on the run.” The Bankses encouraged consumers to try the high-quality, fresh pastries filled with fruits, meat and cheeses and soon they were in high demand for business meetings, family breakfasts, on-the-go lunches and afternoon snacks.
The contest winner was the “Yes, Please” mac-and-cheese, a combo of mac-and-cheese, brisket and jalapeno peppers.
Kolache Contest Winner Andy D'Amcio
“We’re thrilled with the results of this contest. It was an extremely affordable experiment to see if we could drive engagement and boost the brand, as we expand from coast-to-coast,” says Dawn Nielsen, Chief Operating Officer of the Kolache Factory, a national bakery café franchise specializing in the kolache, a Czech pastry filled with meats, cheese and fruit. “The winner got free kolaches and a drink every day for a year, so the prize wasn’t a free cruise or a million dollars or anything. It shows me our delicious kolaches have a loyal, cult following and excite new generations of customers every day.”
The Contest that Catapulted the Brand
Big Buzz: Kolache Factory’s creative contest generated media coverage in nine out of 10 targeted media markets, netting more than 14 million media impressions and earning more than $1 million in total media value. No fees were paid for coverage.
New Dough: Total sales increased 4.5 percent during the contest month of June, year-over-year (2017 vs. 2018).
Brand Awareness: The number of views on Kolache Factory’s Yelp profile increased by a whopping 225 percent during the contest period. (Yelp.com has revolutionized the restaurant review industry, and more eyeballs on Kolache Factory’s four-star site increases awareness and revenue.)
Customer Engagement: More than 1,000 kolache contest ideas came in from around the country. Google analytics show the contest drove traffic to the website and led to an impressive 33 percent conversion rate, i.e., the number of people who visited the site and decided to participate in the contest.
Social media: Contest posts resulted in more than a 20% increase in comments and shares. This contest was not a budget buster. Modest social media spends, a simple flyer posted in stores, and word-of-mouth advertising were used in conjunction with support from PR partner to achieve results that far out-paced expenditures.
How They Did It
Keep it Simple: Participants were pointed to a contest submission page on the company website that took less than two minutes to complete. It emphasized creative ideas over technical recipes.
Offer a Valued Prize for Customer and Company: Kolache Factory tied the grand prize — free kolaches and coffee for a year, plus a featured spot on the menu — directly to the brand, and added bragging rights to earn the title Kolache King (that’s resume material!).
Use Guerilla Marketing Tactics: This contest was not a budget buster. Modest social media spends, a simple flyer posted in stores, and word-of-mouth advertising were used in conjunction with support from our PR partner to achieve results that far out-paced expenditures.