Darden Restaurants Picks The Tombras Group as Media Agency of Record for 5 Chains After a Review

16 agencies competed for the business

Marketing for the five chains is generally handled by a single agency partner.
Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants, one of America’s most popular multibrand restaurant operators, has picked The Tombras Group as media agency of record for five of its brands after a competitive review.

Starting immediately, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based agency will handle media planning, buying and optimization for Bahama Breeze, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood Restaurant, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill and Yard House. U.S. marketing for these five brands, which encompass the parent company’s “specialty” division and include dozens of locations, is handled separately from that of Darden’s two biggest properties, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse.

Neo@Ogilvy served as media agency of record for the five brands prior to the review, which included 16 agencies. Six of the competing shops traveled to Darden Restaurants’ Orlando headquarters for the semifinal round of the review, with the client’s team subsequently visiting the offices of three finalists. Darden managed the process internally, and it in not yet clear whether Neo@Ogilvy defended its business.

“Darden is home to the country’s most popular restaurant brands,” said Dooley Tombras, executive vice president at The Tombras Group, in a statement. “We’re looking forward to applying our world class media and analytics capabilities to their specialty brands business.”

More than five years ago, Tombras—which also has offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.—pivoted to focus more on first-party data. Since then, the 70-year-old family-owned agency has grown to more than 200 employees thanks to a series of new business wins.

According to Kantar Media, Darden spent approximately $3.5 million on paid media supporting the five chains in 2015 and $4.2 million from January to November 2016. The group’s investment was considerably higher for Yard House and Seasons 52 last year than for the other three brands in the portfolio.