Established in 1986, Moxie’s Bar and Grill quickly became a well-established chain throughout Canada. With over 55 locations across eight provinces (as well as in the American states of Texas and Florida), there is no doubt that the restaurant name was known in many North American households.
However, in 2022, brand recognition alone is no longer enough to get people through doors and filling tables. When business began to struggle, it was clear the reason was due to the chain’s reputation as not moving with the times - with the perception being that the brand served sub-par dishes with anything but fresh ingredients. It’s for this reason that Moxies partnered with Full Punch, seeking to relaunch the brand with new growth plans, a more modern appearance, and an all-new campaign emphasising handcrafted food and drinks made with fresh ingredients.
Named ‘Delicious is in the Details’, Moxies is seeking to inform North Americans of the high-quality experience guests can expect, via nationally televised commercial spots, billboards and digital ads. Additionally, this brand refresh has seen Moxies drop the apostrophe and ‘Bar and Grill’ from its name, a new logo and website, and the renovation of many locations to embody a refined and contemporary look. Partnered with an ever-evolving seasonal menu, as well as plans to open six new locations (including in Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and Scottsdale), the chain is working hard to reestablish itself as a top tier option for any enjoyer of fine food who seeks a quality dining experience.
For this reason, LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Full Punch partner and head of creative Chris Zawada, as well as Moxies director brand & marketing Cydney Shapiro to find out what it takes to refresh an iconic name.
LBB> What was the brief for this campaign like? Did you have immediate ideas about what the best course of action for the future of Moxies would be?
Chris> As we dug into the brand, it was apparent that Moxies faced significant perception challenges. Over the years, they have lost their way, falling behind in the upscale casual dining space while their competition has grown. Guests thought of Moxies as having sub-par dishes made with anything but fresh ingredients. The reality is that this perception is far from the truth. Moxies makes all their food in-house, from the freshest ingredients available. Their executive chef Brandon Thordarson is classically trained, with a passion for crafting handmade dishes using unique ingredients. Fresh ingredients and chef Brandon’s attention to detail are what led us to the idea that ‘Delicious is in the Details’, laddering up to Moxies’ new brand positioning of ‘expect the exceptional’. Combined, the new campaign and brand positioning rewrite legacy perceptions of Moxies and entice guests to come and see - or better yet, taste - it for themselves.
Cydney> The brief was comprehensive, including requirements for a full brand strategy, development of a multi-platform creative campaign, integrated national media plan, new website build, and social media support. The goal of this was to differentiate, elevate and modernise the Moxies brand, in order to drive awareness and have new and returning guests back through the door, more often.
We conducted research that indicated we are a well-known brand, however, the intent to visit was low, and our guests/demographic audience sets didn’t associate Moxies with unique menu items or high quality ingredients. Consequently, we knew going into the brief that the focus of the campaign creative had to be sharing our brand story on how our dishes are handcrafted and made in-house with high quality ingredients.
LBB> What made Full Punch the right agency for this undertaking?
Cydney> We liked Full Punch’s approach and experience in developing brand strategies for other hospitality brands. We also favoured their ‘Partners+’ model, which brought in other specialised agencies; Thinkingbox, to support the rebrand efforts with a new fresh website; Mediacom, for integrated media buying; and Antisocial, for social media support.
Separately from the Full Punch engagement, it’s worth mentioning that Moxies also engaged PR firm Pomp and Circumstance, who supported earned media and influencer marketing to assist the rebrand.
LBB> You mentioned the need to appeal to guests seeking a more contemporary, upscale dining experience. What was the research process like, and how did it influence the way you approached the campaign?
Chris> Our strategic approach included several steps for reviewing existing internal research, in order to identify gaps and eliminate redundancies. From there, we hit the road and visited multiple Moxies locations across Canada and the US, to experience the brand as guests, observe, and speak with a cross-section of staff members and other guests. All in all, we conducted over 30 one-on-one interviews. We supplemented our research by tapping into the cultural context of dining out and the millennial ‘foodie’ mindset. Our research revealed brand confusion and perceptual challenges that we directly addressed in our brand strategy, ‘expect the exceptional’, which later fed into our campaign direction of ‘Delicious is in the Details’.
> We conducted demographic research with Hotspex
to understand how our target audiences perceived Moxies and how our target audiences behaved, as it related to choosing restaurants to dine at. The information we gained from this told us that we needed to appeal more to the ‘foodie’ millennial generations who go out often (and give other people FOMO), as well as target the younger audience of 18 to 24-year-olds, with whom we under indexed.
In order to do this, we created a differentiated visual identity, rooted in creating a vibrant and more of a ‘lived in’, photographic look for dining at Moxies. We really wanted to emphasise the creative through our food, drinks and high quality ingredients.
We also made major changes to our social content to align our presence with our new brand identity. We began developing more engaging fresh food and drink content while building on trends like reels on Instagram. We also launched our TikTok channel which is focused on sharing raw, authentic, and fun content created by our own chefs, servers, and bartenders across our locations.
LBB> Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the rebrand is the adjusted name, going from ‘Moxie’s Bar and Grill’ to just ‘Moxies’. What led to this decision, and why was it the right choice for the brand?
Cydney> ‘Moxies’ is clean, modern, and reflects a new, pivotal chapter for our restaurant (which is nearing 40 years). All great brands grow and evolve, and this makes a stand that while we are the same at our core, we have made a lot of changes to meet the demands of our new guests.
LBB> The logo and the new emphasis on handcrafted food and drinks have also been key aspects of this relaunch. In the case of the former, what was the design process like, and in the case of the latter, how did you approach this?
Cydney> The design process for the logo and visual identity was focused on ensuring the font and brand colours are sleek, elevated, differentiated, and timeless.
The focus on handcrafted food and drinks was centred around making our product the hero, and highlighting the effort that goes into ensuring each dish is crafted in-house, made with high quality ingredients, including our desserts. Made in-house is especially important, as it serves as a differentiator and is a pivotal focus in order for guests to associate Moxies with high quality food and ingredients. As such, we really wanted to (over)emphasise ‘made in-house with fresh, quality ingredients’ throughout our campaign by literally showing the ingredients and creation process behind each menu item.
LBB> Showcasing fresh ingredients and original recipes in a campaign is easier said than done. Where did you start when developing the spots, and how did the ideas grow over time?
Chris> We were inspired by the plethora of social ASMR food videos created by amateur chefs with little to no budget. These simple videos are authentic, mesmerising, and mouth-watering. They showcase fresh ingredients and the detail that goes into crafting a delicious dish you’re just dying to eat. In many ways, this is exactly what was happening in Moxies’ kitchens, albeit on a larger scale. We realised this was a perfect way to rewrite Moxies’ food story and highlight the fresh ingredients that go into each dish - whether that’s whipped feta, grilled Canadian chicken, or hand-diced ahi tuna.
LBB> Tell us more about the writing! How did this process reflect the goal of appealing to a younger demographic?
Chris> Of all generations, millennials are the most likely to dine out, and have the most significant average guest cheque. But capturing this elusive segment isn’t easy. They are the originators of the ‘foodie’ movement and created trends like avocado toast, power bowls, and fancy doughnuts. They aren’t only passionate about eating food, they want to know where it comes from, how ingredients are sourced, and every other detail (with which they can feed their social-channel machine). They’re driven by eye-candy dishes that look as good on Instagram as they do on the table. Moxies has it all: storied dishes made in-house, with attention to detail from sourcing to plating. Our tone reflects the millennial mindset delivered through Moxies’ brand voice. The campaign extended well beyond TV and out of home into social, online video, in-store, display ads and more.
LBB> What made Etienne Proulx the right director to bring the spots to life?
Chris> Etienne is (hands down) a master when it comes to beautifully showcasing food. Early in our campaign development, we knew that if our goal was to visually communicate that ‘Delicious is in the Details’, we had to highlight all the individual ingredients that make up each Moxies dish, while it’s being made. With that said, anyone who has worked with food knows that it’s tough to make something like cherry tomatoes sexy, that is, unless you dump them in slow motion into a bowl of water. It was this type of vision and creativity from Etienne that really brought the concept to life.
LBB> The spot where the narrator describes the avocado ripeness as having a ‘window of like 10 minutes’ is super creative… and true. Who did you work with for the voiceovers, and how did you come up with this idea specifically?
Chris> For the VO, we worked with the talented team at GGRP. They helped us absolutely nail the brand's tone.
Regarding ideas, we knew that just showing what delicious looks like wasn’t going to be enough to carry the campaign. We also needed to create a fresh food narrative that would complement the visuals, while also working across static touchpoints. The avocado line was a way to further lean into our fresh story in the form of an exaggerated food fact. If you look closely at some of the other campaign executions, you’ll discover that rice can be ‘so fluffy you could curl up and take a nice nap on it’.
LBB> The relaunch also saw the Moxies announced as the official Canadian restaurant launch partner of Kendall Jenner's ‘818 Tequila’. How did this relationship come to pass, and what does it mean for the brand?
Cydney> 818 was a natural partnership for Moxies. They have a great brand story that appeals to our target demographic, and they positioned themselves as a handcrafted tequila brand just as we were beginning to position Moxies as ‘handcrafted, made in-house’.
Beyond that, I have always been a believer in the power of building collaborative, like-minded brand partnerships. A more formal pitch of the partnership was presented to 818 via one of our liquor suppliers, Glazers. The partnership pitch was focused on our like-minded brand values and how we seek to appeal to the same audiences. Tactically, the partnership program was focused on driving awareness for 818 across Canada, as well as featuring Moxies’ new cocktails and summer menu items. We had a National Tequila Day Brunch party where we invited more than 80 top tier media influencers from the Greater Toronto Area to come and experience handcrafted menu items and cocktails - featuring 818 handcrafted tequila. We also had satellite National Tequila Day brunch parties across Canada, and sent out over 30 DIY cocktail boxes for key influencers and media (all of which included ingredients to make a Cocorita cocktail at home, a bottle of 818, and some coveted 818 swag).
LBB> The partnerships didn’t stop at tequila - Moxies also announced a collaboration with fashion house, Aritzia, to obtain all-new uniforms. What went into designing the new uniforms, and why were they an important aspect of the relaunch?
Cydney> One of the goals of the partnership with Aritzia
was to ensure that all our she/her servers have options to select from, they feel and look their best, and that they are comfortable while working - all while elevating the brand.
We worked with various members of the Aritzia team, including designers and buyers, to ensure we were selecting items that would achieve our aforementioned goals. We also tested items in various colours to allow for options other than black. Finally, we worked with their design teams to make a series of adjustments on items selected - based on feedback from our team - while testing the items over a four to five month period.
Currently, we are testing three different dresses, two different tops, pants, shorts, and a skirt. We’re excited for our next phase of testing these items, and hope to roll it out across all our locations next fall. Our teams are very excited about this partnership and being able to wear Aritzia to work!
LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?
Chris> Staying genuine to the food and resisting the temptation to over-stylise the dishes was a real challenge. The campaign is really about authenticity and the simplicity of fresh, handcrafted food, so we knew we couldn’t rely on the visual tricks you typically see in other food advertising.
We also wanted to shoot on-location in a Moxies kitchen, but shutting down a restaurant for a few days and shoehorning the Bolt camera rig into that tight of a space wasn’t an option. Free Society did a fantastic job of building out a set that allowed us the freedom and flexibility to capture the creative shots that we envisioned.
Cydney> One of the biggest challenges was hitting quick timelines while working to get stakeholder feedback and alignment during key milestones throughout the project.
LBB> What has the response to the campaign been like? And how has business been since the branding relaunch?
Chris> In the short time since launching the campaign, we’ve seen a positive shift in elevating the brand’s perception. Guest count is up, social engagement has increased, and the buzz that Moxies has changed is out there. However, we realise that brand transformation doesn’t happen overnight and that to continue moving the needle, we need to keep our foot on the gas. The marketing team at Moxies is fantastic; they’re a very enthusiastic and motivated group, and they’re doing an excellent job of keeping the momentum going with always-on social engagement and fresh in-store experiences.
Cydney> The response has been overwhelmingly positive across all our operations, including the US locations, our guests, our employees, and our suppliers. We have seen a lot of pick up from media and influencers, and great feedback from guests and media who attended brand launch party media events across the country (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa). Perhaps more concretely, we have seen an increase in sales and believe the brand campaign is working.
LBB> Since the refresh, do you have a menu item at Moxies you’re particularly proud of?
Chris> It's tough to pick just one dish, because their entire menu is fantastic. As you can expect, we tried everything at least once, but I keep returning for their roasted tomatoes and whipped feta. Featuring hand-whipped feta (yeah, that’s a thing), slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, and house-made artisan bread, it really encapsulates everything ‘Delicious is in the Details’ is about.
Cydney> I am most proud of how much our cocktail and drink program has evolved in a short period of time. Six months ago, we didn’t have many ‘unique to Moxies’ cocktails, but now we have many that are unique (and that our guests love), as well as an ever-evolving wine list.
When it comes to food, I actually think our offerings have been really good for quite some time, and that we just needed to do a better job talking about it. My personal favourite is the tomatoes and feta dish - it’s simple, delicious, and unique to Moxies. I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t love it!