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How to Create and Launch New ImpossibleTM Menu Items: Tips from Rubio's Coastal Grill

Rubio’s Impossible™ Taco Salad in a bowl using Impossible™ Burger, shredded cheese, veggies and a small cup of Ranch dressing

Introducing a new dish to your restaurant’s menu is a great way to attract new customers, re-engage current fans, and keep your offerings fresh. However, launching a new menu item during COVID-19 is a uniquely challenging task given the increasing difficulty in how, when & where you communicate your exciting news. 

If you’re thinking about updating your menu, Impossible™ Burger and Impossible™ Sausage Made from Plants present an incredible opportunity to make a big splash that generates buzz with diverse audiences, increases your restaurant’s brand perception and grows your revenues.

So how do you launch a new Impossible™ menu item? 

We chatted with the team from Rubio’s Coastal Grill who recently debuted multiple Impossible™ dishes to kickstart the year. In our session, we discussed Rubio’s strategy for creating culturally relevant menu items, building buzz on multiple marketing channels and identifying strategic partnerships that drove demand and awareness across 300,000 customers.

Rubio’s Coastal Grill(opens in a new tab) is a fast casual restaurant chain based in San Diego specializing in sustainable seafood served in tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads. They have 160 locations between California, Arizona and Nevada and are known for their versatile approach to building a brand and menu that best serves the needs of their guests. 

Let’s take a look at each phase of Rubio’s Impossible menu launch:

  • Culinary ideation and experimentation to develop the new dishes

  • Paid and Organic Social Promotions (pre-launch, day-of and post-launch)

  • Limited Time Offer with Grubhub

  • In-store marketing

  • Direct mail

Culinary ideation and dish development

Before Rubio’s started building a single dish, they did their research with consumers. Jen Scheer, Director of Marketing at Rubio’s, said the team surveyed guests to find out what their preferences were, as well as the perception of Impossible™ products versus other brands. The results? “Impossible [products] rose to the top for purchase interest.”

Justin Mosel, the Director of Culinary then started experimenting with the product: “It was just a matter of finding the right menu item for our brand,” he explains. Operationally, Justin saw a huge benefit to using Impossible Burger because of its versatility, taste, high yield, and long shelf life. 

The team decided to add Impossible products to familiar menu items in order to provide existing customers an exciting new option and introduce them to plant-based meats, beginning with best-selling dishes like the Impossible™ California Bowl,(opens in a new tab) Impossible™ Taco Salad(opens in a new tab) and Impossible™ Burrito Especial.(opens in a new tab)

New and familiar options

In order to attract new customers between the ages of 18 and 34, the team decided to launch a brand new item, the Impossible™ Taco Salad. The winning build? Mouthwatering picadillo-seasoned Impossible Burger, fire roasted corn, and a pickled jalapeño ranch dressing. This menu item was so successful that it drove incremental sales and business growth.

Key takeaway: Rubio’s intentionally leveraged a ‘new and familiar’ approach to introduce their existing clientele to Impossible products while attracting new customers who care about sustainability, health and plant-based food, which was a crucial element of success in building a lasting engagement strategy. 

Paid and Organic Social Media (pre-launch, day-of and post-launch)

Once the team built their gold star menu, they moved on to promotion. Our National Account team worked with Rubio’s to provide marketing support & campaign insights, including branding, positioning and audience insights to amplify their efforts and drive the maximum impact.

Since Rubio’s was targeting a younger consumer, a core component of their promotional strategy included leveraging their social channels and strategic influencers.

Teaser Pre-launch: Organic, Paid & Influencer Social Channels

One week before the new Impossible dishes launched on the menu, Rubio’s teased the announcement on Facebook and Instagram, in addition to sending an announcement to their list of email subscribers.

They also partnered with Avocados from Mexico, Impossible Foods and influencers on social media to launch paid & organic campaigns to build excitement and amplify their reach on Facebook and Instagram. 

  

Here are some images from their social presence leading up to launch day:

Rubio’s launched paid campaigns with their partner Avocados From Mexico on Facebook and Instagram promoting avocados in the Impossible Taco Salad.

They also used a mix of creative assets, from posts with static images to videos, GIFs and Stories that engaged their audience while driving awareness of the launch. Each post featured enticing images of the new dishes front and center on social to capture attention & build excitement.

We collaborated with Rubio’s & shared images of their dishes on our Instagram account to amplify their reach and introduce new audiences to their menu

Posts from their social influencer campaigns reached 300,000 people with a 3.2% engagement rate, which is higher than the average 2% engagement rate most fast casual restaurants see with influencers and a major win for Rubio’s.

Limited Time Offers 

Rubio’s also ran a Limited Time Offer to celebrate their new menu additions upon launching. They worked with Grubhub, a delivery partner, to offer free delivery for all orders over $20 that included an Impossible menu item.

Through this successful promotion, they saw massive increases across the board in incremental orders, incremental revenue and new diners.

In - store Marketing

To capture guests’ attention in their restaurants at launch, Rubio’s created branded assets in house, as well as leveraging assets from our foodservice partner hub(opens in a new tab).

  

Branded door clings, counter cards & menu boards featuring bold co-branding and colorful imagery were displayed prominently in-store

Direct Mail

Lastly, Rubio’s created direct mailers with coupons for discounts and free entrees that  received 450,000 impressions. Based on historical data, Rubio’s expects a 10% redemption rate.

Roll out the red carpet for your Impossible™ menu launch

So as you can see, rolling out a new menu item doesn’t have to be daunting. By incorporating a 360 degree approach to their menu rollout, Rubio’s was able to vastly exceed their launch goals and revenue projections. From pre launch discovery and menu ideation, to a well planned integrated marketing strategy, Rubio’s ensured every aspect of their launch was thought out.

We love to support innovative partners like Rubio’s, from guidance on recipe creation to audience insights and social media support, because we believe that when our partners are successful, we are able to accomplish our mission of providing delicious, healthy and exciting new/plant-based options for diners of all ages.

Want to learn how to be successful in your next menu refresh and use Impossible products to drive awareness, sales and loyalty? Then check out the full conversation here, and head over to our partner hub(opens in a new tab) to see all of the materials we provide our partners to make their launches more successful.

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