What I Learned About Good Marketing From Scotty's Brewhouse Founder Scott Wise


Most semesters I try to find a few guest speakers to share their hands-on insights with are marketing degree students. This semester, I invited Scott Wise (founder of Pots and Productions) to share his insights from starting a successful chain of restaurants including 6 Scotty’s Brewhouse locations, Scotty’s Lakehouse in Geist, Scotty’s Burger Joint in Columbus and Thr3e Wise Men in Broad Ripple, so far. I should point out that prior to this guest appearance, Scotty and I had only met via Twitter. In fact, I invited him to speak via Twitter. That’s one of the reasons I thought our marketing MBA students would appreciate his ideas – his success using social media to support his restaurants’ goals. And, let me tell you that we were not disappointed.

Over the course of two hours, Scott shared a lot of ideas about why his restaurants are successful. So, here’s a collection of his ideas:

  1. Pay attention to the details. Find the right people to help implement your ideas. But, you still have to be the advocate of what you want done: how it should look, how it should taste, where it goes on the table, and all of the other details. Recently, he got an idea for a version of chicken & waffles. He told his food technologist what he wanted and they worked at it until they had exactly the dish he wanted – tastes and looks good, fits with the restuarant format and can be carried out by the kitchen. Personally, I can't wait to try it.
  2. Experiment and test your ideas. Scotty’s uses temporary menus, email marketing and social media to try new food concepts and sales approaches. Then, watch the numbers to see what’s working and what’s not. Listen to customer feedback. Then, move forward with the winners. Added fish tacos a couple of years ago and then decided it was done. Took it off the menu, but customer requests will be bringing it back soon.
  3. Look at what competitors are doing, especially in other markets, then figure out how to do something similar but better. Many, many ideas implemented at Scotty’s have come from other restaurant.
  4. Don’t be afraid of failure. Try a bunch of ideas and keep the ones that work. Walk away from the ones that don't.
  5. Measure everything. Use the data to help make choices. For example, past menus were set up to put high profit items in the right visual periphery and those items had the highest sales. Now, the menus have been more traditionally set up as lists with fewer pictures. Different items are selling better. Small changes can be detected in measures.
  6. Know what you do well and stick with it. Scott knows the target market his restaurants serve. He has a strong sense of what they are looking for. This is basically a premium college burger format. Don’t try to be more upscale than that. Make sure you know what people want from this type of format and keep delivering it, better than others.
  7. Internal marketing is key too. Each month, they plan what they want customers to buy. Then, they invest in making sure hostesses, servers and even the kitchen knows what each restaurant is trying to accomplish. They do “Four Walls Marketing” making sure that employees and customers can see current messages – on doors, via window clings, in restrooms, on the menu, and even on the flower vases in the center of the table. Employees following the plan are also incentivized and rewarded. It takes an integrated approach to accomplish their goals.
  8. Give Back to the Community. Scott was told when he was young that when you are successful, you need to reach back and pull someone up with you. So, his organization does some type of community sponsorship every other month or so. These activities are a way to bring employees together, do something for someone else and feel good about the community where the restaurants are located.

Scott noted that in some ways he felt he was lucky to get into social media early. It just seemed interesting to him. But, it gave Scotty’s a way to keep promotions going during the recession when traditional advertising became unaffordable. He sees social media as a multifaceted channel:

  • Lets him talk to customers in a personalized way
  • Can convert customer complaints to customer advocates by immediate attention
  • Throw articles out that customer might enjoy
  • Share personal details about himself
  • Place to see the next big thing

Bottom-line though, Scott has created exactly the kind of restaurant he likes to go to. He looks at each restaurant through his customers’ eyes. He has an intuitive feel (that he backs up with data) for what people want from his restaurants. So far, it looks like it’s working, very well. Thanks for sharing with us, Scott.