Red, Hot & Blue, an Arlington, Va.-based restaurant chain, has narrowed its agency search to three shops: The Baker Group of Dallas, AbramsonEhrlichManes of Washington, D.C., and The Reeves Agency of Baltimore.
The budget is undisclosed; the client historically has not spent much on advertising. At the outset, the new agency will be following an existing strategy to retain current customers.
"We're doing a grassroots, four-walls marketing plan," said client marketing director Diane Trepper. She said there would be no media buys this year, and that the marketing plan would focus on in-store promotions and direct marketing.
Trepper also said that RH&B, with its pit barbecue menu and blues-style music, would be opening 100 new restaurants in the next four years. The chain currently has 32 franchises stretching from Virginia to Texas.
The three contenders will present their strategic assignments this Friday, March 20. A decision is expected by April 1.
Trepper said that The Baker Group became involved in the search because the shop "has been soliciting me for years, wherever I go. This time, I happened to get a chance to take a look at them."
The popular barbecue chain was founded 10 years ago by Memphis, Tenn., expatriates in Washington, D.C., including a TV reporter, a congressman and two of his aides. Erstwhile journalist Robert Friedman, who ultimately became president of the company, was interviewing then Rep. Donald Sundquist (R-Tenn.), who later became governor of the state. The two talked about barbecue in Memphis, according to The Washington Post, and decided to export the taste to the Beltway. Lee Atwater, the late chairman of the Republican National Committee, was among the 50 initial investors in RH&B.
--with Sloane Lucas