Cap’t Loui is an innovative casual dining concept melding cultures and tastes. The chain has been expanding quickly, but in the absence of any brand platform, standards or guiding principles.
Cap’t Loui is an innovative casual dining concept – a seafood boil – melding cultures and tastes. The chain has been expanding quickly across the eastern seaboard of the US, and now into the west. The issue is that in addition to the growth being quick, it’s also been in the absence of any brand platform, standards or guiding principles.
Before our involvement, franchisees had little guidance on how to accurately represent the brand (other than the recipes and a few operational procedures that had been systematized). While founder Henry Kim knew deep down his company’s mission and vision, mapping it out formally never occurred. There was no way to pass it down to new franchisees, store managers and hundreds of employees annually.
As we do during all brand building assignments, we spent time getting familiar with product and the people behind it. This hands-on work was essential to understanding what makes Cap’t Loui. You see, the idea behind a seafood boil is a shared container of spicy mixed shellfish, sausage, and corn that you eat with your hands. But before you even get to eating, you and your friends choose together the type of seafood that goes in, the level of spice and other variables. You’ve “created” the meal together, and you eat it together. This brings people closer than other types of meals. Try it and you’ll understand exactly what we mean.
Once we understood the Cap’t Loui magic, we took the client team through an in-depth brand discovery to explore the fundamental pillars and to codify core values, brand ideas and a manifesto. The aha moment was helping Henry understand the foundational inspiration for the concept – to help people share love through food. This comes from him growing up in South Korea, where the idea of a fish boil creates a communal meal where everyone is welcome at the table. This was not an easy process, and was more like therapy sessions than brand discovery. We loved every minute of it.
With this insight, we brought that hidden humanity to the brand platform, giving the team a way to understand, talk internally and share the brand’s core purpose. The assignment started as developing brand platform and documents, but when we reviewed the work, our clients asked “how are we going to communicate it to the people who need to know this the most, our line cooks, dishwashers and front of house staff?” Great question, and one we had never encountered before.
As marketing professionals, we often create guidelines and documents for other marketing professionals. But in this case, the keepers of the brand – restaurant workers – likely had never seen a guidelines deck or creative brief or brand pyramid. Our solution was to create a second set of pared-down guidelines that made brand attributes actionable with instructions on how to bring Cap’t Loui to life. These two deliverables are helping Cap’t Loui maintain consistency as it expands and giving employees a greater sense of purpose in what they do.