Ensemble Creative Featured in Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal

Ensemble Creative Featured in Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal

Restaurant makes a marketing windfall count.

By Branden Largent, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, February 7, 2014

Running The Coop Restaurant in South St. Paul keeps the Hanson family very busy. So busy, in fact, that they struggle to find the time or resources to improve the eatery’s marketing, branding and Web strategies.

“It’s really a fine line, because you want to advertise more, you want to market more, but you don’t want to spend the money to do it,” said Karen Hanson, co-owner of The Coop Restaurant, a take-out, dine-in and catering eatery that specializes in fried chicken, barbecue ribs, burgers and coneys.

But now the Hansons finally have the marketing resources they needed.

After winning the River Heights Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever small business makeover contest, the restaurant’s owners hope to use the prize to expand their customer base and grow the restaurant’s catering services.

The Coop won more than $22,000 worth of local business services to improve its marketing, branding, public relations and online presence. The prize package also includes accounting, financial, carpeting, signage and remodeling services, as well as a new advertising jingle written for the restaurant.

Karen bought the restaurant with her husband, Bob Hanson, in 2001, but The Coop originally opened in 1964. The family usually invests some money on advertising, but most marketing resources go toward sponsoring local school events and donating to fund raisers and charities.

One of the contest sponsors, Ensemble Creative & Marketing, will work with The Coop to create a cohesive marketing and branding strategy, as well as a new company logo, that will stir more customer recognition and, hopefully, boost the business to the next level. The Coop also will work closely with website developers to redesign The Coop’s website, which needs updating and optimization for mobile devices, said Ensemble Creative Partner Kristina Murto.

In January, Murto met with the Hansons to discuss how to advertise effectively on a small budget, how to use social media to grow their fanbase and how to grow the restaurant’s catering services through marketing. The restaurant caters several dozen events every year, including birthday parties, weddings, funerals and company events, but the Hansons want to reach more corporate customers in areas outside of South St. Paul, such as Woodbury and Eagan.

When marketing a small business, Murto said it’s important to maintain the company’s strengths. For The Coop Restaurant, that means playing up the business’s long history, community involvement and family-owned charm.

Joel Hanson, The Coop Restaurant’s general manager and Karen and Bob’s son, said most customers appreciate that the restaurant is family-owned and eat at the restaurant as a way to “shop locally.” He added that many customers come from all over just to eat The Coop’s coneys.

If the restaurant’s catering becomes a bigger success, Karen said she’d like to replace the apartment on the back side of the restaurant with more kitchen space to handle larger catering orders.

But the Hansons aren’t the only ones excited about their makeover prize. Customer support has poured in since The Coop was named the winner.

“We have a really good, loyal-customer experience,” Karen said. “They’re happy that we’ve stuck through good times and bad.”