Another Casual Restaurant Needs Creative Help. This Time It’s Golden Corral

Chain spent $55 million in media last year

The search for new agencies among casual dining restaurants is continuing.

Three months after Panera Bread and Buffalo Wild Wings found new agencies for their creative accounts, Golden Corral is mulling three finalists for its creative business. The shops are Merkley + Partners in New York, Mullen in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Via in Portland, Me., confirmed Donna Mercer, vp of advertising and consumer insights at Golden Corral.

The chain, which spent more than $55 million in media last year, according to Kantar Media, is in the midst of a changing of the guard at the top. At the same time, Golden Corral, like a lot of casual restaurants, is experiencing sales softness. Finally, the brand doesn't have a lead agency and instead uses freelancers and produces ads in-house. Those are among the factors that triggered the search, according to sources.

A recent TV ad touted the breadth of food choices that Golden Corral offers in its $11.99 dinner buffet. The tagline was, "Help Yourself to Happiness."

Beyond Mercer, other key decision-makers in the review include chief marketing officer Chris Kuehn.

Final presentations took place last week at Golden Corral's headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., sources said. A Raleigh-based consultancy, Hasan + Co., is managing the process.

The consultancy and contenders declined to comment. Mercer said that a selection could come as early as this week.

Media planning and buying are not in play and remain at Horizon Media.