Estelle Ferrara

Oggi’s Sports | Brewhouse | Pizza is an award-winning sports-themed microbrewery. We brew our own beer in southern California, where all but one of our 15 restaurants is located, and we self-distribute. That means all of our restaurants are serving beer that is only days old, so it’s very fresh.

Staying fresh has always been a part of our business plan. We rebrand ourselves every 10 years. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing our name. Although, because we’ve been around for 27 years, our name has evolved to narrow in our niche and highlight our beer offerings. But every 10 years as a company, as a franchise, we meet with designers and look at our concept. We study it, we study the competition, we study the trends, and we put new updates together to guide our franchisees so they remain relevant.

Many restaurants, even if they’re staples in the area, get older and older and older, and eventually new competition comes in that’s prettier and newer. Perception is that they’re better, even if they’re not. And slowly, the older restaurant’s sales start to go down, and the brand dies.

That’s not something we want for Oggi’s. We’re a family business and we plan to pass this down to the next generation.

Oggi's
Oggi’s

My parents and my uncle started Oggi’s Pizza and Brewing Company back in 1991 with a full-service restaurant in Del Mar, San Diego. My dad had just graduated with his MBA, and he wanted to break in to the restaurant industry. We had a pretty good-sized menu for the 3,200-square-foot spot, but we knew there was a better profit margin on beer than sodas with free refills. To get people drinking more of it, we decided to brew our own. This was in 1995, making us the sixth brewery to open in San Diego, a city now populated by hundreds. We gutted the center of the restaurant and airlifted a little microbrewery system into the middle of the space through the roof. It was crazy.

At first, we sent my uncle and another manager to brew school, and we were chugging along for about five years. But, wow, did we take off.

In 2000, we won a gold medal for our California gold blond ale at the Great American Beer Festivals, one of the biggest of its kind. Especially at the time that the craft beer movement was just beginning, this was the absolute most popular category that existed. We knew we really had something special, so we started putting a lot of focus and emphasis on beer and developing the sports theme. Then in 2004, we were named Champion Small Brewing Company at the World Beer Cup. That really catapulted us on the beer scene.

We’ve since won over 60 medals in regional, national and international competitions, while still supplying a consistent product across all of our franchises.

Shawn Hadjis, Oggi’s director of operations; Tommy Hadjis, Left Coast Brewing Co. general manager; George Hadjis, Oggi’s founder/president; Dora Hadjis, Oggi’s CFO; Estella Ferrera, Oggi’s vice president; John Hadjis, Oggi’s founder/vice president
Shawn Hadjis, Oggi’s director of operations; Tommy Hadjis, Left Coast Brewing Co. general manager; George Hadjis, Oggi’s founder/president; Dora Hadjis, Oggi’s CFO; Estella Ferrera, Oggi’s vice president; John Hadjis, Oggi’s founder/vice president

It’s all part of the way that we make sure our brand is relevant in the marketplace. There’s so much competition–stiff competition–but we’re not going anywhere. By rebranding regularly, we’re always able to guide our franchisees to success. Four years ago, we launched a new look and modified our name to Oggi’s Sports | Brewhouse | Pizza. Each restaurant has a stadium room, a whole wall that’s stadium artwork, a scoreboard, and a silo tap system. In the brewing business, a silo holds all the grains, so we built one behind each bar to house taps for our 10 proprietary beers and the 16 to 20 local guest beers.

Other changes included replacing carpet flooring with hardwood–carpet is so old now, you do not want carpet in restaurants. We wanted textured walls. And in about four or five years, we’re going to look at all of these changes with a critical eye and assess. It might not be as large a transition as we had this time, but there will be some sorts of updates.

The biggest challenge with these updates is managing the franchisees. Change costs money, so we’re sensitive. Our franchise agreements include a requirement to upgrade every seven years, so we try to be reasonable. When someone has to remodel, we have a certain set of requirements that will update the look without taking it 100 percent of the way to what a brand new restaurant looks like. Then there are extras that they are welcome to take on if they have the funds.

Another challenge has been executing our vision of exterior branding, so making sure that each Oggi’s looks the same to guests driving by. It’s easy when you have a new build and you’re a national chain, like Chili’s, for example, but we’re a regional chain. But once we were able to get one approved, landlords were able to see how great it looks. Almost all will be accepting it from this point forward.

“When you invest in your business–and the future of the business–you stand a fighting chance of sticking around for years to come.” -Estella Ferrera

 

Oggi's
Oggi’s

But the hard work and spending is worth it because these changes are beneficial on so many different levels. I believe in these remodels more than most things. When you go to a restaurant and you’re spending good money, you want to be in an environment that you feel warrants what you’re spending. No matter where you go these days, a family of four is spending quite a bit of money.

With loyal customers, a remodel means they’re getting a refresh of the place they already love, which can make them visit more often. And for new customers, our hope is they begin to skew younger. We’ve been around for 27 years, but your market can’t be a bunch of baby boomers because they just can’t eat as much pizza and beer. We want their kids, like me, who grew up on Oggi’s and are now coming in with their own families. They’re our target customer. This new look really went after that to make sure we’re relevant and a place that people in their 30s and 40s want to go.

With my husband and two young children, we enjoy spending time as a family in a place where the kids are entertained by game rooms and TVs, and the adults can enjoy everything from pizza to quinoa salad, pitchers of beer to craft cocktails. We’ve transitioned the menu to gourmet comfort food, and we have a featured limited time offer menu every four months to keep everything fresh, trendy and seasonal.

Oggi's
Oggi’s

Many restaurants are so resistant to change, especially if their sales are more or less steady. But it creeps up on you, so you can’t rest on your laurels. All of a sudden, there’s going to be a competitor that’s better than you because they developed a concept more recently with all the new trends in mind. They put it together with a brand new shiny bow on top, and they open really close to you. After that, it’s hard to get your customers back. We’ve had franchises wait too long to remodel, and by the time they did, it wasn’t enough. They definitely suffered.

We know it’s a lot of money out of pocket, but we also know that when you invest in your business–and the future of the business–you stand a fighting chance of sticking around for years to come.

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Estella Ferrera is vice president of Oggi’s Sports | Brewhouse | Pizza, an award-winning sports-themed microbrewery with locations throughout southern California and Arizona.