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After an unsuccessful flirtation with a lighter, Mediterranean menu, Romano’s Macaroni Grill has returned to offering fresh interpretations of classic Italian fare, and an emphasis on the Italian experience in its casual restaurants. The revamped menu includes customer favorites harking back to the chain’s founding in 1988 by Philip J. Romano, plus 25 new items. Macaroni Grill has also reinstated occasional serenades by opera singers and letting customers pour their own house wine (on an honor system) from a large bottle provided to each table—unique brand touches that had become inconsistent in recent years (some locations had continued these traditions; others hadn’t).
To spread the news about the changes, spearheaded by a new (as of 2010) CEO, Norman Abdallah, Macaroni Grill has launched a new, national campaign taglined, “Something New. Something Classic.” Spanning television, radio, out-of-home, online advertising and social media, the campaign, from the VIA agency, introduces a suave brand-ambassador character with a Rat-Pack-reminiscent fashion style.
Over a number of years, the chain had “kind of lost its path” in terms of hewing to the brand’s “soul” -- “great Italian food and an experience that differentiates it from the standard, monotonous chain-restaurant experience,” says its CMO, Brandon Coleman. Rather than take the predictable casual-chain creative approach, consisting almost entirely of close-up shots of food, Macaroni Grill asked VIA to focus as much on the experience as the food, he says. During the year that the menu and marketing were being revamped, the chain did no television advertising.