Thursday, July 15, 2010

When your PR swerves off course . . .

By David Ayers
We've been following the action of the Tour de France lately, and while there haven't been any doping scandals yet (cross your fingers or knock on wood), it does bring back memories of all the controversies over the past few years. Floyd Landis' particular situation comes to mind.

In the wake of his recent admission that he used performance enhancing drugs to fuel his victory in the Tour de France in 2006, it is safe to say that the wheels have officially come off the public relations strategy used by disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis.

For four years, Landis spent time on the grassy knoll of conspiracy and blamed faulty drug tests for his problems. And, then, after finally admitting he had cheated, he threw away any remaining credibility he had left by accusing former teammate Lance Armstrong (and others) of doping as well.  

His admission – coming years after the apparent victory – smacks of Pete Rose (not a good thing) in that he had every opportunity to own up to what he did and made it worse by living a lie. Heck, he even went out and solicited contributions to a “defense fund” in an effort to fight the allegations.

But, in the end, it was the simple premise of just telling the truth that now leaves him in the category of disgraced former athletes, ala Marion Jones, who is now working her way back by playing women’s pro basketball following a drug scandal that led her to forfeit her Olympic medals.

And, that’s really the point – telling the truth is the noblest of PR strategies. It’s just too bad that our heroes and heroines of the sporting world forget that when it’s time to step up in a difficult situation when the game’s on the line.

A respected public relations counselor and former sportswriter, David Ayers serves as the Director of Public Relations at MZD Advertising.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MZD Looks to Revitalize Historic Hoosier Restaurant Chain

Last week, The Indianapolis Star featured Allan Zukerman, Chairman/CEO of MZD and Bill Church, Executive Director of Food Service and Retail Development for MZD in an article about the revitalization of a local brand name restaurant chain that brings back a lot of warm memories for Hoosiers: Mr. Dan’s Hamburgers.

Here's an excerpt:

Mr. Dan, the well-known restaurant chain that specializes in The Big Dan, a made-to-order burger and Nathan’s hot dogs, as well as other food items, is going to be franchised nationally through Mr. Dan’s Franchising LLC.

Church, president of Mr. Dan’s Franchising LLC., said it is an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs. 

“A lot of people have special memories of Mr. Dan’s,” Church said. “It’s a familiar name to many people who grew up in Indianapolis.”

The first Mr. Dan’s was opened in 1950 at the corner of 14th and Illinois Streets by Richard Hogshire, the founder of Mr. Dan’s, who is still active in the business. The original name, Gay Dan’s, came from the Gay 90s era and adopted the circus wagon look for a Gay 90s hot dog stand. The name was changed in the 1970s to Mr. Dan’s.

One popular location was right next to the old Bush Stadium on W. 16th Street in Indianapolis, which was home to the Indianapolis Indians for years.

The original menu was hot dogs, baked beans and a fresh cup of coffee. After the first few years of business, it became obvious that the hamburger was necessary to attract more business. Over the years, the burger process has been standardized and remains as a fresh grilled burger. Mr. Dan’s now sells The Big Dan Hamburger 10 to 1 over hot dogs.

Over the past 50 years, a total of 16 Mr. Dan’s have opened and closed. Most locations have ceased operations due to lease terminations, change in markets and a change in traffic patterns and road access.

Two Mr. Dan’s locations are currently in operation: one at 4390 N. Keystone Avenue, just north of Fall Creek Parkway, and another at 34th and Massachusetts.

“The menu and operations reflect years of success in defining the Mr. Dan’s niche,” Church said. “The entire business has sought its own level of customer needs.”

Mr. Dan’s current menu consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, tenderloins, chili, and French fries. A limited breakfast menu is available late night and early mornings.

“The Big Dan hamburger is the mainstay of the business,” Church said. “The burger is widely known in the community as the best. They are always cooked to order and served hot.”

The business is open 24 hours a day, six days a week and closed on Sundays.

“Because Mr. Dan’s is located in urban areas, it does not compete with the big boys of fast food,” Church said. “Mr. Dan’s stays within its niche and serves hamburgers cooked in sight and to order. The Coney sauce and seasoning salt are proprietary items manufactured under the Mr. Dan’s label.”

Charlie and Barney’s Award Winning Chili and Nathan’s Famous All Beef Franks are also served at Mr. Dan’s.

Zukerman noted that Mr. Dan’s Restaurants Franchisee LLC is separate from MZD Advertising.

“We have been starting to host Mr. Dan’s Franchise seminars to inform people who may be interested in opening their own franchises,” Zukerman said.  “The restaurants will have a positive impact on their communities and offer employment opportunities. We plan to begin franchising in the Midwest, starting first in Indianapolis, and then Louisville, Dayton, Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland and Detroit.”

Church said the first franchise seminar was successful. 

“We shared a lot of franchise opportunity information with influential members of the community about the concept and a lot of people are excited about it,” Church said. “What really got our attention was the return-on-investment on this concept and the low cost of entry.”

Hogshire said it’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“It’s a tried and true concept that we have had over the past 50 years,” Hogshire said. “It has done well over the past five decades. It is simple and can be duplicated very easily.”
Just in case you may not be familiar with Mr. Dan's, it's first location was built in 1950 in downtown Indianapolis. The restaurant is themed after the hot dog stands of the era. Its original menu consisted of hot dogs, baked beans and coffee. The restaurant’s popular “Big Dan” was introduced in the mid 1950s. The restaurant has evolved over time to offer breakfast and began serving 24 hours a day in the early 1970s.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Dan’s refined its menu and operations to better meet the demands of many loyal customers.

While improvements over the decades have better positioned Mr, Dan’s in the marketplace, The “Big Dan” has remained just the way it was back in the mid 1950s.

We've tried the food (always a requirement before we work with any franchiser) and have to say that it's one of the best burgers in town.

Let us know if you've been to Mr. Dan's, had any of their food and how your experience was. We'd love to know.