In 1986, Charleys Philly Steaks founder and CEO Charley Shin was a young undergrad who turned his entrepreneurial dreams into reality when he opened his first restaurant in a 450-square foot space near The Ohio State University campus. His restaurant became an instant hit with college students. Now, more than 30 years later, the beloved local sandwich shop has grown to 600 locations in 46 states and in 17 countries.



How a global franchise launched a hometown grand opening to introduce an entirely new menu concept to its loyal fan base.


The opportunity

When longtime Approach Marketing client, Charleys Philly Steaks, needed support in opening two new locations around their hometown of Columbus, Ohio, featuring an entirely new menu concept, we gladly accepted the (delicious) challenge!

In order to successfully launch the new concept, the company needed to: drive traffic to the new Charleys Philly Steaks locations to generate early sales and adopters; increase awareness and build excitement around Charleys new menu concept, featuring Chicken Fingers alongside their famous Philly Cheesesteaks; and engage the local community to rally around the evolving Charleys Philly Steaks brand and two new locations.

The approach

Our team developed a strategic communications plan which included a mix of traditional and social media activities, complimented by community and influencer engagement and paid advertising, to ensure the Columbus market was ready and waiting for the doors to open on Grand Opening day.

Our three-pronged approach included:

Media Outreach
We distributed a media alert announcing the new locations and Chicken Finger menu, with a focus on food, business and event/lifestyle writers in the Columbus market. And, we invited media and influencers to attend a VIP Event and ribbon cutting ceremony to preview the new Charleys Philly Steaks space and menu items, speak to Charleys Philly Steaks founder & CEO, Charley Shin, and capture compelling visuals during the experience.

Social Media Support
Our social media team created mouthwatering new content to be shared across Charleys social channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) with geo-targeted posts and ads promoting the new locations. We also generated additional fan excitement by awarding five followers the chance to attend the preview event and score some Charleys Cash, and shared the love even further with a special social offer for free food during Grand Opening week.

Community Engagement
We extended personal invitations to city representatives, local organizations and neighboring businesses to attend a VIP Event to get a sneak peak of the space and try the new menu offerings before the doors officially open. We further established those personal connections by offering coupons exclusively for members and catering local meetings.

The impact

As a result of our diverse communications strategy, Charleys Philly Steaks welcomed hundreds of media, community organizations, local businesses and social fans to the grand opening events.

We secured nearly 60 stories and posts for the company, resulting in 9.2 million media impressions, all positive in tone and highlighting the new locations and unique qualities of Charleys new Chicken Fingers—with the top coverage appearing in The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Business First, Columbus Underground, ThisWeek, Daytime Columbus and WNCI-FM. As a direct result of the community engagement efforts, Charleys Philly Steaks established relationships with nearly 20 local organizations and community representatives through in-person event attendance and catering drops for key meetings. In addition, the social media fan giveaways were a huge success, driving traffic to the restaurant and resulting in long lines of excited crowds waiting for the doors to officially open at both new locations.


Services provided