Old Country Seeks Wider Image

Buffets Inc. tries to broaden the perception of its restaurants to something more than all-you-can-eat emporiums of mass-produced food in its latest work from BBDO Minneapolis.

One spot in the $25 million campaign shows a man forgoing lunch with a co-worker because he’s on a “green diet,” requiring him to only eat food such as candied kelp. The spot, which suggests the man could have done better joining his cohorts at Old Country, concludes with a voiceover against images of salad bars and other offerings that suggest the chain can accommodate all kinds of diets.

“It’s somewhat contrary to the old impression of what a buffet is,” said Glen Drascher, executive vice president of marketing. “There are a lot of people who associate overeating with buffets.”

Focus groups said the strategy broadened their perception of the Eagan, Minn., company’s restaurants, according to Drascher.

“We are continually trying to elevate the perception of buffet restaurants,” Drascher said.

Another spot in the campaign stages a debate between a customer and a waitress about an order that’s been delivered to his table. The spot is intended to showcase the control a consumer has at Old Country, said Tim Buggy, vice president and account director at BBDO.

Past campaigns have focused on specific restaurant elements, Buggy said. “This spot addresses the whole experience of the restaurants,” he said.

Two other spots in the campaign target the company’s core family audience, showing how the restaurant appeals to children. The campaign continues the company’s tagline, “Great choice.”

The spots break today in 62 spot markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Detroit.

Buffets Inc. spent $20 million on advertising over the first 11 months of last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The company’s brands are Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet and Country Buffet.