Mother’s Pizza: Going gingham style for a throwback

The restaurant chain returns to its checkered past

This story originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Marketing

The restaurant chain returns to its checkered past

After successfully re-introducing the Pop Shoppe soda brand in 2004, Brian Alger has set his sights on the main course with Mother’s Pizza.

Once famous for its root beer floats, 1920s-style décor and parlour-style pizza, the Mother’s chain of family-friendly restaurants reached its height of popularity in the mid ’80s, with more than 120 stores across Canada, plus locations in the U.S. and U.K. By the early ’90s, after an acquisition by Little Caesars, all the locations were closed.

Enter Alger, who picked up the expired trademark in 2008 and, with his business partner Geeve Sandhu, opened the doors to the first new location in Hamilton, Ont. last year. They plan to open another location in Kitchener, Ont. soon. The pair is looking for spaces around the 5,000-square-foot mark that can accommodate 160 diners. The Hamilton location, which sees anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 guests a week, is slightly larger with a little over 200 seats. A third restaurant is planned by the end of 2014 and they hope to hit 15 locations within five years.

When re-launching a brand, some built-in nostalgia with the target market helps, Alger says. “They have an instant connection with the brand [and] from a marketing standpoint that’s a very powerful asset to have.” But it’s a delicate balance because Canadians are sentimental about their iconic, homegrown brands.

In focus groups, diners showed a clear idea of how the restaurant should look and feel: Tiffany lamps, antiques, red-and-white gingham tablecloths, and black-and-white movies playing in the background. Customers weren’t satisfied when Mother’s reopened without the checkered tablecloths (so much for the carefully picked out expensive oak tables), so Alger had the booth backs covered in the gingham print. Diners still weren’t satisfied. Moving forward, Mother’s Pizza locations will have checkered tablecloths.

This story originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Marketing

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