July 7, 2015

Davanni’s: How to refresh an institution

I walked into the Minnetonka Davanni’s location, and had to admit I hadn’t been in an actual Davanni’s since college (University of St. Thomas). Sure, there were plenty of delivery orders (too many to mention), but I hadn’t been in one in years.

My first impression?

Where is the cool, neighborhood pizza joint I remember? It was replaced with faceless decor, a hard to read menu and a big ass front counter.

The next week, I met with the Davanni’s team for the first time. They asked for my impression of them and what I believed the opportunity to be. I responded candidly about much more than the above. The product is great, the ingredients top notch. Everything else is an opportunity. Especially if they want to be better positioned against the competition, and expand their customer base.

So, they hired Shea to help bring back the personality that was still there, although hidden. Here’s the story of how Shea partnered with Davanni’s to refresh an institution that started as a local pizza place in the 1970s.

First, the audits.

We start with a series of audits sending Shea-ites out into the market to see, touch, smell and taste at a variety of locations. We take pictures and notes, but more importantly we put ourselves in consumer mode. What works and what doesn’t? What is our first impression? What is the customer process like?

Then our team compiles all of our comments and has a strategic discussion. What are they doing well that we can’t screw up? And, what needs to change to keep the essence of Davanni’s, but change enough to make a perception and business impact moving forward?

Next, the meeting.

Candid is the word to describe our audit presentation. They didn’t hire us to blow smoke, they hired us to impact their business. So, we had a great, animated, honest conversation. The result? They agreed that a repositioning (not just a remodel) was the right path. So, we began.

Now, the creative process.

Here’s where we put our money where our mouth is, and put pencil to paper (yes, we still start with paper and sketches before technology takes over).

We started with the positioning opportunity. Plain and simple, Davanni’s needed to return to the local, neighborhood pizza place, and not look like a chain. They needed a compelling reason for people to return, actually walk in and stay and spend more money.

The key words became local and legendary. The key positioning was to create more authenticity, local warmth and to sell more beer and wine. We created a strategic brief and a design foundation using these key tenets.

From there, we worked on a variety of logo iterations. The goal? Transition it to a stronger brand presence, but keep it recognizable.

We created a spectrum of options ranging from minor change to drastic change, but all of them had a tie to the current logo to ensure we didn’t push the familiar brand in the wrong direction.

After logo came menu boards, promotions, pizza boxes and merchandising graphics.

And, of course the space itself.

Our goal and direction with the restaurants themselves were a few key items –
First impression:
  • Don’t bombard guests with an immediate, and large presence of a front counter. Move it back, make it smaller, invite and welcome, and create interaction. Give guests time to take a breath, look around, understand the options and engage.
  • Re-design the menu boards so guests heads don’t spin

The rest of the space needed a first and second focal point, and a compelling reason to stay. We developed bar seating. Not radical for restaurants, but never been tried in a Davanni’s. The bar and bar seats are an immediately engaging focal point, and it helps sell beer and wine and more of a pizza place experience. Secondary focal points became brand walls, and a variety of seating at a variety of heights from community tables to booths. It breaks up the space and creates interesting zones. nuff said.

The new materials palette almost became the easy part. We needed more warmth and authenticity, but supreme durability. All within a budget.

In conjunction with all the above, we reviewed and created impact at several other touchpoints, including improvements in display and merchandising, presentation of their branded products (sold in grocery stores), messaging that supporting their premise of local ingredients and baking their own bread. And, bathrooms. The mark of a good restaurant is a good bathroom.

The Result?

Edina, Minnesota is our first foray into testing the new Davanni’s. The merchandising recommendations we made for beer and wine have already had a significant impact on sales. To sell it, you must show it. Yes, it worked. Really well.

Local, legendary, and delicious. Welcome back Davanni’s.

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