Blue Ribbon and the steady build

April 02 2010

It's taken twenty years of steady growth, and finally Bruce and Eric Bromberg of the mini Blue Ribbon empire in NYC (and Brooklyn) were nominated for a James Beard award (the big banana award in the restaurant world) and published a cookbook. Whew. For those of you who get frustrated after a few years of brand-building, these guys are an interesting case study. Their business began with Blue Ribbon Brasserie in the heart of Soho, which was always well-reviewed and chock full of hungry people. They moved on to Blue Ribbon Sushi (ditto), Blue Ribbon Bakery (physically uncomfortable but ditto), 'ino, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn and quickly thereafter Blue Ribbon Sushi Brooklyn (a smart move, as Brooklyn the restaurant scene was exploding, and was full of -- you guessed it -- hungry people), Blue Ribbon Bakery Market and then....they started developing their own products.

 2005 saw the introduction of Raw Mexican Honey, and then the really big deal: Blue Ribbon Naked Nuggets, a healthy snack for kids, which debuted at Chicago Costco and is now sold nationwide. What can we learn from this? Building a brand takes time and implementation of a vision that always cleaves to a central idea. The Brombergs defined the food, consistently built on the food concept, delivered delicious, fresh food in all of their venues, understood their core audiences, stayed within NYC -- a city that they know well -- and just now are winning awards. Then there is their widespread, affordable product introduction, one which takes the brand national and brings a major source of income that is not dependent on the restaurants. This is smart, smart and very controlled brand building, and requires patience, diligence and taking the long view.

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