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National Restaurant Association - How an NRA Show meeting helped Krystal gain $1M in earned media

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How an NRA Show meeting helped Krystal gain $1M in earned media

Healther Schlesinger is headed to NRA Show 2017 with a list of potential partners. Seek out vendors and suppliers that resonate well with your guests, says The Krystal Company's marketing  executive. "Make them your collaborative partners. Use their R&D teams."

That's what Schlesinger did in 2015 when the Atlanta-based burger company wanted to spice up its menu with a Tabasco-flavored limited-time offer. When she called the McIlhenny Company's toll-free number, she was directed to a representative who asked whether she was going to the NRA Show. He told her to show up at the booth. "So I did."

"I had one person’s name, so I introduced myself and said I was interested in creating something really special. They were over the moon."  At the booth, the Krystal team met McIlhenny's marketing leader and executive chef and "celebrated this product development kick-off, right at NRA, right at the booth."

That meeting ultimately led to increased sales and more than $1 million in earned media. Over six months, Krystal worked with McIlheny's R&D chefs to create "Fired-Up” cheese sauce spiced with Tabasco's signature red sauce. After extensive research and testing, Krystal rolled out the product in June 2016. In addition to using the Fired-Up sauce in core and value menu items, Krystal also created a Fired-Up loaded fry option, which inlcuded the spicy cheese sauce, jalapens, chil and shredded cheddar.

 The fries turned out to be a huge seller, and guests ordered the sauce with burgers, chicken sandwiches, grits, chili and breakfast items. Sales of the Krystal Scrambler breakfast items rose 5 percent during the promotion, and more than 10 percent of French fry orders included the cheese sauce.

With a limited marketing budget, the Krystal team brainstormed with McIlhenny to introduce the new menu items to Tabasco retail customers. McIlhenny provided swag and Tabasco gift sets that Krystal sent to bloggers and media, encouraging them to try the Krystal sandwiches with the Fired-Up cheese sauce.

"We were able to garner amaing social and traditional media coverage just from a swag platform," Schlesinger says.

Appearance on cooking shows and more media coverage followed the creation of "Pinterest-worthy" recipes, such as the Krystal Spicy Strata.   

Around the time Krystal was launching the LTO, McIlhenny drawing guests to its newly opened museum at Avery island, Louisiana, where it was founded. Krystal decided to donate artwork to the museum filled with Tabasco history. Krystal invited the media to the unveiling of "Southern Squared" portrait, which celebrated the partnership of the two Southern brands. That led to more coverage just as the LTO was underway.

Looking for your own connections to boost sales and satisfy guest cravings? Find all exhibitors here, or download the NRA Show mobile app in your app store.

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