Taco Cabana Initiates Small Talk

Large Agencies Will Not Be Heard In Tex-Mex Restaurant’s Review
DALLAS–Taco Cabana is putting its estimated $2 million-plus account, currently at The Richards Group here, into review. The San Antonio-based Tex-Mex eatery is considering splitting up the business among smaller shops.
Senior vice president of marketing Dennis Greenia confirmed last week the restaurant chain has begun contacting agencies, including some undisclosed Southwest shops. Only agencies on Taco Cabana’s list will likely be invited to pitch, Greenia said. Richards will not defend.
“We want to look for a smaller agency partner, rather than a large agency,” said Greenia, who arrived at Taco Cabana last month from The Merrill Group, a consultancy in Atlanta. “We’re also going to talk to a couple of promotions agencies.”
Richards principal Brad Todd said the agency was told that the company wants to “freelance the [advertising] activity, perhaps using some different kinds of resources for promotions and media.”
Greenia said specific assignment plans have not been determined. The review will not affect its relationship with Hispanic agency Montemayor y Asociados in San Antonio, he said.
The client executive would not reveal the budget, but said spending would be “significantly above” the $2.2 million reported by Competitive Media Reporting in 1997.
Greenia praised Richards’ work of the past two years. This year the media emphasis has shifted to mostly radio and billboard executions for the publicly held company.
Greenia, a former marketing executive with Burger King and Coca-Cola as well as J. Walter Thompson in Atlanta, is filling a new position at the company. Marketing at Taco Cabana was previously overseen in a lower-level executive post by former vice president of marketing Alison Glenn.
The restaurant chain has increased sales in 1998 by closing underperforming locations and utilizing a more “consistent marketing program” that includes added-value meal selections, according to the company. In this year’s second quarter, Taco Cabana experienced a 6 percent sales increase to $36 million, with a net income of $3.3 million.
The company is also remodeling, changing the familiar neon pink exterior of many of its units.