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Bennigan's Tires of Togetherness

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Seeks New Creative Partner; Houlihan's Also Initiates a Search
DALLAS--Two restaurant chains are serving up portions of their advertising accounts in reviews valued together at $7 million.
Bennigan's Restaurants, part of the Metromedia Restaurant Group, is looking for two agencies to separately handle creative duties and sales promotions, according to industry sources.
Bennigan's spokesperson Chris Barnes said about 10 agencies, predominately in the Southwest, are being considered in the review process which began in October. A decision is expected in early 2000. John Beck, vice president of marketing for Bennigan's, is supervising the review.
The incumbent agency, Doner in Southfield, Mich., handles other Metromedia brands Steak & Ale, Ponderosa and Bonanza, which remain unaffected by the review.
Doner, Bennigan's sixth agency in 10 years, is currently finishing a television campaign and collateral materials scheduled to break in the first quarter of 2000.
"Bennigan's wants to diversify [its] creative resources and is looking for a new creative approach to the 'Let's get together' theme," Barnes said, in explaining the reason for the review.
The selected agency will handle creative work, strategic positioning and broadcast media, as well as print production. The exception will be point-of-purchase materials, which will be produced by a new sales promotion agency.
A third shop, Dallas-based BrannForbes, will continue to supply the restaurant's freestanding inserts, such as coupons.
Doner is expected to retain Bennigan's media planning and buying due to economies of scale with the rest of its Metromedia Restaurant Group business.
Bennigan's operates more than 200 international and domestic franchised restaurants.
Another casual dining chain, Houlihan's Restaurant Group, Kansas City, is shopping its $2 million advertising account after parting with MMG Worldwide, also located in Kansas City, earlier this year. Muller + Co. in Kansas City has been working on the account since that time. The agency is involved in the review.
The Houlihan's review was spurred by new management, which apparently wanted to involve restaurant franchisees in the search, said sources.
--with Aaron Baar, Tanya Irwin and T.W. Siebert