Legal Seafoods: A Chain or Not a Chain? That is the Question

2 min read
Aug 7, 2014 12:43:00 PM

Starting tomorrow, you may see some new ads from an old Boston favorite, Legal Seafoods. But as is increasingly the case, this campaign is not about the restaurants' great food, service, or atmosphere. In fact, nowhere will these pillars of a standout dining experience appear. Instead, Legal's is focusing on its brand (that elusive beast), and correcting a misconception at which it takes great offense: that it is a chain restaurant.

Says Chief Executive Roger Berkowitz in one such television ad: "Each of our restaurants is unique, not cookie cutter, so you can call me stupid, an egomaniac, or even an -----. Just don't call me a chain."With the growing popularity of unique food trucks, local food, and hole-in-the-wall gems, chain restaurants are sometimes viewed in a negative light by "foodies." Started in 1950 by Berkowitz's father, Legal Seafoods values its family history and wants to avoid the inherent prejudice many hold against chains. A company's brand is all about the public's visceral reaction to the idea of that company, which is shaped by the experience the company creates over time. But even if a place like Legal Seafoods establishes positive brand associations via great service and delicious fare, it has less control over the societally-held connotations of a "chain restaurant." 

And the idea of an institutionalized, impersonal dining experience is exactly what Berkowitz so desperately wants to distance his restaurants from. "People never associate chains with the kind of passion or quality that we put into our food," he says, "So if we're referred to... and 'chain' is used, whether inadvertent or not, there's almost just a dismissive aspect to it that I find objectionable."

With 35 locations, however, Legal's is considered by some to be a chain by that right alone. That the company has allocated a large chunk of its advertising budget to convince us otherwise is actually somewhat ironic, as any genuine "mom-and-pop" restaurant would not have the funds to sponsor such a campaign. 

While we can all agree that their fennel seared tuna is awesome, people's perception of Legal's chain status (to be or not to be? Berkowitz certainly has an opinion) could have a lasting impact on its brand. 

And just as Hamlet's Third Act soliloquy, this only leaves us with more questions. Despite Berkowitz's protestations, is Legal Seafoods a chain? And if so, do we really care? A brand is defined by its consumers, so if Legal's keeps serving up the high-quality food we love, maybe chain isn't spelled "d-e-a-t-h" after all.

Interested in building or changing your own company's brand? Contact Responsive Inbound for consultation regarding the next steps for marketing your business!
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