Grand opening of the new Dave & Buster’s at Galleria brings back memories of Krispy Kreme publicity.
Those of you old enough to remember The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show or familiar with it through reruns on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network or Boomerang will undoubtedly recall the Wayback Machine, a device used to transport the characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman back in time to visit important events in history.
I recently experienced my own version of the Wayback Machine as the team at Martin Davison Public Relations prepared for the grand opening of the new Dave & Buster’s – which relocated to the Galleria from the Eastern Hills Mall.
In helping with the proposal and planning process for Dave & Buster’s, I went back into my archives and memory bank to the grand opening of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut store in Western New York 15 years ago this fall.
After several years of trying, Dynamic Doughnuts, a new division of Buffalo-based Dynamic Enterprises, was named franchisee for Krispy Kreme in Western and Central New York in 2000. Travers Collins was contacted to handle public relations locally.
At our initial meeting, company officials outlined an aggressive timetable for the store opening on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda in early October of that year, giving us one week to put together a detailed PR plan.
Our overall goal was clearly articulated by the client — to help Dynamic Doughnuts achieve a very ambitious opening-week sales goal, based on a projected new business formula developed by Krispy Kreme as the result of opening more than 150 stores in 27 states. It was critical that we get as many customers as possible in and out the doors and through the drive-in during the first weeks of operation.
Phase one of our plan included a groundbreaking event. This was something very few new stores did and we had to exert a great deal of pressure on both Dynamic Doughnuts and Krispy Kreme to get them to agree to such an event. There was concern if we garnered “too much” media attention for the groundbreaking, we might not receive as much for the grand opening.
Our groundbreaking goal was to create theater out of your basic hole in the ground, which we achieved with Fellini-like flair by utilizing two squads of high school cheerleaders, a Dixieland band, a police escort and a Krispy Kreme PT Cruiser, loaded with doughnuts (from the closest store in Cleveland) and hot coffee. When the event was over, Krispy Kreme was the talk of the town and the stage was set for a successful grand opening.
During phase two we continuously communicated with the media, sending news releases and advisories announcing the store’s management team, employment opportunities, construction progress, installation of doughnut-making equipment and the delivery of Krispy Kreme signage, including the famous “hot light.”
We also initiated an ambassador program, enlisting Krispy Kreme fans – an almost cult-like following in the area who had sampled Krispy Kreme doughnuts elsewhere in the U.S. – to help spread the word about the signature hot, glazed doughnuts throughout the local community. We kept in regular contact with these folks, letting them in on the construction progress, groundbreaking promotion and opening-day events, while providing them with t-shirts, coffee mugs and other swag.
Another tactic used was an invitation-only, sneak-preview party for guests and VIPs that allowed them to sample the tasty treats and see the doughnut-making process for themselves. Guests included elected officials, key local business contacts, local media personalities and their families. Plenty of glazed and assorted doughnuts were served and each guest left with at least one dozen. The party was held at the store four days before the grand opening. Off-duty police officers were brought in to direct traffic and guests stayed well beyond “closing time.”
We established a number of pre-opening, targeted doughnut deliveries to the largest employers in the area — as well as universities, hospitals and so forth — beginning two weeks prior to the opening. We also delivered doughnuts to companies within a five-mile radius one week prior, and to the entire area media delegation the day the store opened, resulting in incredible coverage.
Opening-day/week events included live music, decorations, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, clowns, magicians, a caricaturist and live radio remotes.
Dynamic Doughnuts had established a very ambitious sales goal for opening week. Even they were flabbergasted with the results. When we arrived at the store at 4:00 a.m. on opening day, people were already lined up outside. When the doors opened at 5:30 and the “Hot Original Glazed Now” sign was officially lit, television crews were on hand for interviews. Several radio stations also showed up, as well as a number of print publications.
By sunrise, media traffic reporters had reason to tell people to avoid the Boulevard unless they were headed to buy doughnuts. Lines of traffic stretched for nearly a mile and the local police were called in to control the crowds and prevent accidents.
The CEO of Krispy Kreme flew in along with other corporate honchos to preside over the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Customers lingered long after being served, even after waiting an hour before getting into the store.
The results spoke for themselves:
In terms of actual doughnuts sold, this was the most successful store opening in Krispy Kreme history at that time. Three months after the opening, sales were still running at approximately 70 percent of opening-week sales (compared to a norm of 50-60 percent), unheard of throughout the Krispy Kreme chain.
Krispy Kreme enjoyed coverage in nearly every section of The Buffalo News. Even the News’ nationally syndicated, Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist Tom Toles couldn’t resist a doughnut cartoon. The publication’s food critic held a taste test confirming Krispy Kreme’s superiority which the editor later had to defend in a Sunday column on “honest journalism.”
When U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer came to town later that week to welcome Southwest Airlines to the Buffalo Niagara Airport, his comments to the media included the fact that Krispy Kreme had also landed locally and his newspaper photo showed him holding a toy Southwest airplane in one hand — and a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the other.
Local and regional publications, radio and television all gave Krispy Kreme prominent coverage for weeks. Then-First-Lady and Senate Candidate Hillary Clinton couldn’t resist a visit to the new Krispy Kreme store with daughter Chelsea during her upstate campaigning. Her stop made the pages of the New York Times.
For weeks, the lines never let up, traffic continued to be outrageous — causing even more media coverage — thanks in part, to the complaints of some neighboring businesses.
In 2003 we helped open a second Krispy Kreme store on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, not far from the Galleria, again with great fanfare and outstanding results. One of the highlights was a “Digging for Dollars” event featuring youngsters from 12 local community organizations digging in sand for Krispy Kreme fundraising dollars.
Over time, sales lagged and Dynamic Doughnuts pulled the plug on its Niagara Falls Boulevard store in August 2006. The region’s love affair with Krispy Kreme came to an end in September 2008 with the closing of the Walden Avenue store.
Observers blamed the closings on a variety of factors, in particular increased competition from Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts, along with local supermarket chains replacing Krispy Kreme doughnuts with their own in-house bakery items.