Research Paper: Enhancing the Marketing Plan

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Assemblage Marketing Plan

There are thousands of competitors for the Assemblage, no matter how the market is broken down. Even just taking the flagship restaurant into consideration, Manhattan has thousands of eateries and grocery stores that can provide meals to consumers. Within the casual dining segment, the list of competitors may be narrowed down to the hundreds. There are several dozen national and regional chains, and countless other independent restaurants operating in the space. There are nearly 81,000 casual dining restaurants in total in the United States according to industry estimates (Horovitz, 2008). The industry leaders are Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse, Chili's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and PF Chang's (Mintel International, 2009).

Each of these and their closest competitors generally operate at the lower end of the segment, which means that they are not the closest competitors to the Assemblage. They offer consistency of product and service, an established brand, mediocre food and limited character. Moreover, there is a difference in customer perception between national chains and independent outlets. While the ultimate goal in starting the Assemblage is to grow to a national level, that is not the immediate objective. The Assemblage will have hundreds of close competitors just within Manhattan.

The Assemblage intends to differentiate itself from almost all of its competitors in casual dining, but also to differentiate from fine dining as well. The objective of this strategy is to find some "blue ocean" in the market by targeting the high end of casual dining and focusing on a younger clientele with high disposable income (Banerjee, 2010). The lack of family friendliness will be an immediate point of differentiation, as will the element of fun that comes from the staff. In addition, the Assemblage will feature a far more interesting menu of food and drink than its major competitors, though less innovative than its competitors in the fine dining segment. All of these different points of differentiation will help to make the Assemblage stand out from the hundreds of other restaurants attempting to build a business in Manhattan.

Conceptually, it is difficult to find any blue ocean in the restaurant business without a ridiculous gimmick. The key to success is in having a relatively interesting concept and then executing on that concept perfectly. The concept of the Assemblage is essentially taking a sophisticated dining concept, but to it applying the familiarity of casual dining and that segment's operational expertise. The combination of these two is expected to yield both higher volumes and better margins than either idea would individually. This will require execution of the concept to be near perfect.

The intention is for the Assemblage to be a leader in the industry. Casual dining is a relatively stagnant industry at present, with old properties, old brands and old ways of thinking. Brands are faced with a mature industry and for many companies their only answer is to move towards a cost leadership strategy (Horovitz, 2008). That puts them at risk of competing directly with fast food chains, which enjoy the same ubiquitous market presence of casual dining restaurants. The Assemblage's move to the high end of casual dining bumps it up against fine dining, which does not have a strong presence in all markets and very seldom has presence from national companies with strong marketing capabilities.

Industry leadership comes from having a clear vision and a unique value proposition. Other firms in the industry are engaging in a race to the bottom, while the Assemblage is moving towards higher ground. It is believed that eventually other firms in the casual dining will attempt to revitalize their moribund businesses by emulating the Assemblage. However, by fostering a culture of continuous innovation and by forging strong relationships with our customers through innovate use of social media, the Assemblage expects to have not only strong brand loyalty but also to be able to remain one or two steps ahead of the competition.

There are several macro-environmental issues with which the Assemblage must contend. On the legal side, food preparation and alcohol service are both highly regulated. Any errors in the paperwork or in the day-to-day execution of proper food handling or alcohol service could result in the business being shut down or fined. The legal environment guides much of the day-to-day operational issues at the Assemblage, but does not have a significant strategic impact on the company. Thus, while the legal environment must be considered, it is unlikely to be the primary driver of strategy.

Shifts in the technological environment are most important with respect to marketing. Distribution technology is also important but is subject to a slower pace of change and it will be difficult for the Assemblage to gain competitive advantage through development of distribution channels. With marketing, however, the Assemblage is better positioned to tap into the modes of communication common with the target 21-35 market than are most chains. With fresh ideas about reaching the target audience and fostering loyalty, the Assemblage can benefit from shifts in the technological market.

The social environment is shifting, in particular with the emergence of the baby boom echo generation into adulthood. This generation, forms the core of the target market for the Assemblage. The current stock of casual dining restaurants has long targeted other generations and builds its business models around the needs of those generations. The Assemblage will be the first casual dining establishment to build its business model around the needs of the echo generation. By doing so, it will engender significant brand loyalty among this generation, and will be able to gain first mover advantage on other casual dining companies that will eventually aspire to spark their businesses by catering to this demographic.

The economic environment has caused the casual dining industry to struggle. Customers are staying home to eat, or trading down to fast food more often (Hartford, 2008). The result is that there has been some shakeout in the casual dining segment (Horovitz, 2008). This performance is related directly to the core target market of most casual dining chains, which is affected by slowdown, unemployment rates and other macroeconomic considerations. The target market of the Assemblage, being younger and with higher disposable income, is less susceptible to slowdown. So while the majority of the players in the industry are being adversely affected by the slowdown and awaiting unemployment improvements, the Assemblage is ready to expand right away as its economic indicators are better. Only among the under 25 workers is the economic downturn hitting hard.

The trend most likely to impact the Assemblage is the macroeconomic environment. There is risk that fiscal tightening without inflation to support it -- the direction of current public policy -- could lead to a double dip recession. This could have negative impacts on either the disposable income of the target market or on the target market's willingness to spend on a higher-end version of casual dining. if, however, the economic environment is in recovery, then that could mean strong growth in disposable income not only for the target market but for spinoff markets as well. The Assemblage would be well-positioned to capture customers returning to the segment after the downturn because of its new, fresh approach to casual dining and to the marketing of casual dining.

The Assemblage intends to capitalize on this trend with its concept. The Assemblage is in a position to capture consumers trading down from fine dining as well as those trading up from fast food or low-end casual dining. For example, the emphasis on microbrews, which have seen strong growth for several years including 10.3% growth during the 2009 economic downturn and 10.1% during 2008, indicates that affordable luxury is a market that performs well under all economic conditions (Brewer's Association, 2010). By positioning as affordable luxury, the Assemblage is expected to draw from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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