Kohnstamm Communications developed and implemented the media relations and community relations program to support the first Green Mill restaurant opening in South Dakota for the 33-restaurant franchise chain that specializes in Chicago-style pizza. Thanks to a strategic PR rollout, the Sioux Falls restaurant opening was “the most successful in our history,” said the client, based on the opening two-week volume of sales.

Despite the fact that Green Mill had plenty of experience in opening restaurants, they hadn’t developed and tested a template for PR and community relations for restaurant openings that assured blockbuster success. With the Sioux Falls Green Mill grand opening, Kohnstamm Communications developed a dynamic media/community relations program that involved a strong community partnership, extensive outreach to the local business community and creative media tactics that led to three to four weeks of compelling media coverage in virtually every print and broadcast outlet in the Sioux Falls community. 

Kohnstamm developed a four-pronged approach that made the arrival of a restaurant new to this market an immediate success: A “Pizza for Breakfast” morning rush-hour hit with radio stations and commuters; booking the world’s five-time Pizza Tossing Champion for corporate and public events; large-employer free pizza lunches with proceeds going to a non-profit organization; and the introduction of “Pheasant Pizza,” which refers to South Dakota’s signature sporting activity. This combination of media events, extensive corporate sampling, and community giving will now serve as the template for all upcoming Green Mill openings in 2002.


Green Mill Restaurant was not the first pizza restaurant in town.  In fact, when Green Mill entered the Sioux Falls market, they faced competition from a dozen or so similar restaurants.  At the same time, the Sioux Falls restaurant was the first that the company opened in South Dakota, so customers were not familiar with the award-winning taste or the restaurant’s image for being a strong supporter of community activities.  To top it off, this was the first time Green Mill was implementing a strategic media/community relations plan, which required a true partnership and coordination of activities between the corporate office, local franchisee, a community partner and HR directors at more than 20 businesses in the Sioux Falls area.


Before developing the campaign plan, Kohnstamm Communications conducted extensive research that was critical to the success of the campaign.  Specifically, the firm looked at: previous restaurant grand openings in the Sioux Falls community and what made them successful or what didn’t work; specific successful grand opening and community relations tactics used by other national restaurant chains as they opened restaurants throughout the country; demographic information about the Sioux Falls area; local community interests and events; and potential local organizations that could serve as strong partners.


Our strategic approach for the campaign was simple:  to raise awareness about the Green Mill grand opening by letting as many local residents as possible sample the award-winning pizza, passing out more than 5,000 coupons to drive traffic to the restaurant for the grand opening events and saturating the local media with Green Mill mentions to consistently remind the local community about the new dining opportunity.  We were able to do this by developing and planning creative special events,; partnering with Children’s Care Hospital & School, a strong local community organization with a large donor base and a cause that appealed to Sioux Falls families; leveraging already-scheduled popular community events to Green Mill’s advantage; and introducing hundreds of local employees to Green Mill pizza during complimentary pizza lunches at their worksite.


Research, planning and execution for the event took place over a three-month period.  Key elements of the campaign included:

Pizza for Breakfast – Local photographers, television and broadcast reporters were invited to join more local commuters to sample a specially-created breakfast pizza or more traditional selections on their way to work.  The Green Mill 40-foot Pizza Cruiser parked at the new Green Mill parking lot, located at one of the busiest intersections in town.  More than 5,000 pizza slices were served in two hours, and an additional 1,000 coupons were distributed.  Virtually every media outlet in town covered the event (See attached summary of media results.)

Business Lunches – During the two weeks prior to the restaurant opening, the Green Mill Pizza Cruiser visited 20 local businesses with complimentary, hot, noontime pizza and coupons for all employees.   Green Mill’s six-foot tall pizza slice mascot, Slice, attended all events.  For every slice of pizza consumed at a business lunch, Green Mill donated 50 cents to its community partner, Children’s Care Hospital and School.  More than 2,000 coupons were distributed at these events.

World Champion PizzaTosser—Five-time world champion pizza tosser, Tony Gemignani, was a key media draw and brought much excitement to the Green Mill grand opening events.  He participated in a wide variety of community and partner events in Sioux Falls during the weeks leading up to the grand opening, including pizza tossing for the Sioux Falls’ Children’s Hospital & School; television morning cooking shows; a Sioux Falls Canaries minor-league baseball game; several morning radio drive-time shows; community water ski show, among many more.  He received strong media coverage. (See media summary report)

The Introduction of Green Mill’s Signature Pheasant Pizza—Pheasant and traditional pizza slices were offered to hunters during pheasant season opening weekend in Sioux Falls for a successful donation of over $800 to the Red Cross New York Relief Fund.  Again, media coverage was strong, and more than 300 coupons were distributed. (See media summary report)


The Sioux Falls Green Mill’s opening two-week sales volume was the most successful in Green Mill Restaurant, Inc. history. First month sales for the Sioux Falls location put them in third position as compared to other restaurants in the franchise during that time frame– just behind more established stores with established client bases. Ongoing business continues to be strong.  The Sioux Falls Green Mill has a delivery/take-out volume that equals more mature restaurant locations.  They also boast more “house charge” accounts than most other locations in the chain.  Due to these strong results, Green Mill has decided to use this PR/community relations template as the foundation for grand opening activities for all new restaurants in 2002.  More specific results include:
· Approximately 50 media hits, or estimated 777,568 media impressions (not including national media), were generated during the Sioux Falls Green Mill grand opening events.  Virtually all media outlets in the market did at least one story, if not more, about the Green Mill opening events.
· At least 5,000 coupons were given away during the campaign; half of these have been redeemed since opening and many are still coming in.
· A record-breaking estimated 800 people attended the grand opening VIP event.  All monies raised through ticket and beverage sales benefited the Children’s Care Hospital & School.
· Green Mill raised nearly $6,000 through community event donations and presented an oversized check to the community partner, Children’s Care Hospital & School.
· Green Mill raised an additional $1,000 at select community events to benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Fund for victims of the 9/11 incident.