Romano’s Is High on Low-Carb Offerings

NEW YORK Romano’s Macaroni Grill will address the growing legion of low-carb dieters and try to distance itself from the competition with a campaign that stresses the grilled part of its menu versus its carbohydrate-loaded pastas.

Television commercials, via GSD&M in Austin, Texas, will run on national cable and spot TV in six-week cycles. Radio and point-of-purchase support. “Everything you love about Italian” is the tagline of the estimated at $20 million campaign.

The first 30-second spot is a high-energy collage of chefs flipping meats on the grill and smiling patrons enjoying themselves, set to what can best be described as a techno-opera soundtrack. Onscreen text states, “Pour the wine . . . Fire up the grill . . . Watch the sparks fly.” Different 15-second cuts will be fashioned from the inaugural spot. New creative will retain the same look and feel while spotlighting certain menu options.

“It’s a celebration of who we are and what we’re good at: our food, our environment, our service,” said Chris Dahlander, director of marketing. “We also wanted to remind people we could accommodate any kind of diet. We don’t need to create a new menu. We were founded with grilled items. We’ve always had steaks, chops and fish. At the same time, we’re not apologizing for having pasta.”

Romano’s Macaroni Grill, owned by Dallas-based Brinker International, has 200-plus locations nationwide and competes against casual dining chains such as Darden-owned Olive Garden, Fazoli’s, Bertucci’s and Bucca di Beppo.

Brinker has put increased media support behind Romano’s and will continue to do so this year. It spent $24 million through October 2003 versus $16 million for all of 2002, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.