Au Bon Pain, the chain of French bakery cafes, is in the process of hearing presentations from agencies, including some in the Midwest.
The client is evaluating three to five shops, said Samuel Yong, president of the Boston-based chain of 265 eateries. Yong declined to identify the contenders. No timetable for agency selection has been set and the budget has not been finalized. "We're in the very early stages," Yong said.
Several agencies, all with fast-food or retail experience, have met with Yong in recent weeks to discuss the assignment, sources said. Geographic location is not an overriding factor, but the contenders are mainly from the East Coast and Midwest, where the chain's stores are concentrated, sources said.
Initially, the work may consist of strategic positioning and brand consulting, but sources said it may grow into an agency-of- record relationship.
The goal is to relaunch Au Bon Pain early next year with a branding campaign targeting major urban centers across the U.S. where the eateries are located, sources said.
Yong said the scope of the assignment has not been defined. He may decide not to bring a shop on board.
Au Bon Pain has no agency at present and has done virtually no ads in recent years. The company has relied mainly on urban saturation marketing, with some neighborhoods hosting several storefronts, rather than media spending, to make its mark. The company spent $29,000 this year through July, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The current search is driven by the impending sale of the client's city cafes to New York investment firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., which plans to remodel and makeover the chain.