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Italian Restaurant Begins Review

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Italian restaurant chain Buca di Beppo is contacting agencies about its $4 million advertising ac-count, the client confirmed.

Lane Schmiesing, senior vice president of marketing for the Minneapolis-based chain, said requests for proposals had been sent to roughly 15 agencies in the Midwest, Southeast and West. The company will pare the list to "a handful" later this month before presentations are made, Schmiesing said. A decision is expected by November.

Incumbent Kerker in Minneapolis has been invited to defend. Schmiesing declined to disclose what prompted the review, though sources noted the stock of parent Buca Inc. has fallen in recent weeks.

Last month the company lowered its earnings projection for the third quarter of 2002 to 13 cents per share from 19 cents per share. The firm said same store sales were downnearly 4 percent for the quarter.

Buca chairman Joseph Micatrotto praised Kerker's campaign for the restaurant's "Buca per Due" menu. He said he expected the print, radio and outdoor media mix to continue into 2003.

The campaign parodies the overwrought prose of romance novels in an effort to lure couples to the restaurant.

Outdoor displays re-semble romance-novel covers, complete with half-naked men and shapely women in sweeping em-braces. Headlines such as "You've done it as a group. Now try it as a couple" accompany the visuals.

There are Buca di Beppo locations in Georgia, California, Texas and New Mexico.