Izzy’s Restaurants

Case Study

Izzy’s Restaurants

Full-Service Design and Marketing Support

Izzy’s (was) a pizza-plus buffet-style restaurant chain with 10 locations in the Pacific Northwest. They invited us to lead the creative account after a short stint in a supportive/production role. Our mission was to elevate the Izzy’s brand through a variety of media and provide strategic consulting in a continually evolving restaurant marketing landscape.



Multiple economic downturns had affected the industry severely, especially those in the middle pricing tier; Izzy’s was not spared. Societal views had shifted toward healthy and natural dining choices, reinforcing negative stereotypes around the buffet format. Operationally the client tried to expand their menu too far, turning off diners with confusing options that weren’t executed well. Izzy’s needed to get back to the roots of their brand, while still bringing tasty new dishes to the table.

Job One: Setting the Standard

Previous branding efforts resulted in media that ranged from “schlocky”/corny, to amateurish, to distasteful. It also lacked a consistent look and feel. In the beginning, all of our efforts went into pushing for higher production values and design standards and enforcing basic brand guidelines. This shift had a big impact on the TV spots—which we brought visually into line with national restaurants—but it also affected key touchpoints such as signage and Eblasts.

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Focus on the Fundamentals

With our full support, Izzy’s finally decided to focus on the values and menu items they built their name on: neighborhood restaurants serving delicious pizza with a recipe you can’t get anywhere else, supported by the variety of choices that buffets offer. This shift was heralded in a new TV spot and influenced all marketing collateral.

Strategically, the team decided to make food the hero in the advertising. This provided production advantages, as shooting in-studio was more cost-effective and allowed for greater control over quality. But it also allowed Izzy’s to leverage the time-tested appeal of the appetite, and regularly showcase new dishes that inspire plans to eat out.

To counter stereotypes, we created messaging that focused more on variety than quantity and conveyed the value: one low price, with something for everyone. We also made diners aware of healthy options such as a generous salad bar, partnerships with local suppliers of fresh ingredients, and gluten-free options.

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Embrace New Media

On top of helping them launch and grow a successful email marketing initiative, we offered leadership in the areas of social media and digital marketing. Knowing their reliance on television marketing, we pointed them to modern alternatives that could supplement those efforts, and showed them how to evaluate the results.

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We built a robust promotional framework that, along with our support, allowed Izzy’s to focus on operations and food development. We cultivated their email list to over 60,000 members, with an open rate consistently five or more points above the industry average. Anecdotal feedback was consistently positive: that Izzy’s advertising and collateral made the brand and the food more desirable.

Website, SEO highlights:

  • Built traffic to over 15,000 sessions/month
  • Average of 3.16 pages per session
  • Average duration 1:54
  • 83% new users
  • 67% of traffic from organic search
  • 37.31% Bounce Rate (that’s pretty low)
  • 5,608 email list signup completions (2018)

Cardwell has been a reliable partner in helping us evolve our brand. Beyond creating a contemporary look and feel for our TV advertising, they’ve helped us navigate the quickly-changing technology landscape. They are able to grasp key elements of our business, translate them to marketing initiatives and prioritize resources around them, while helping us keep an eye on the future.

Dave Freeman past President, Izzy’s

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