Longitude LLC’s Dustin Myers recently dug into a bacon cheeseburger and a basket of french fries as part of his job.
The CEO of the Springfield branding agency joined colleagues Jeremy Wells and Tyler Barnes for a late lunch earlier this month to sample food at Springfield Diner LLC. The meal was part of the education process Longitude is diving into as part of its rebranding project with the 1-year-old restaurant.
Owner Omer Onder takes particular pride in his lineup of hamburgers on the menu. The cheeseburger is his top seller – “because it’s basic, not expensive,” Onder said.
Next most popular is the Diner Burger, which has bacon, egg, onion, jalapenos and ranch dressing.
The menu also features a large assortment of breakfast and sandwich options, along with a small sampling of Mediterranean dishes popular in Onder’s native country of Turkey.
Myers, who lives near the restaurant’s southeast location on East Republic Road, said he had never heard of the establishment before a few weeks ago and was making his first-ever visit. The trio from Longitude dropped by to sample the food and learn more about the owner, while analyzing the diner and its operation.
Even before the trio finished their meals, they began peppering Onder with questions about the diner.
“Based on what’s been successful so far, what are your opportunities for growth?” Myers asked. “Where would you want your target to grow?”
Onder said he’d like to see more customers on weekday mornings.
“Weekday lunches are good,” he said. “We are usually busy. But mornings, not that much.”
Myers said the agency would like to get access to Onder’s point of sale numbers to study customers counts – a request the owner said he can provide.
“We can run almost any kind of reports, daytime, which day, which time of month,” Onder said.
Springfield Diner is open daily 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m., but Wells was curious if Onder had considered extending hours. Onder said he has thought about opening till 9 p.m.
“That would be a lot for one cook,” Myers said.
Onder agreed: “Almost impossible.”
Additional staff would be required to make dinner service a reality, he said.
Wells was impressed by the food photographs featured in the menu, which were taken by Onder. But as Myers studied the menu, he wondered if its size, filled with dozens of options across six pages, was too much for the back of house – namely, Onder, to handle.
“At first, it was a problem,” Onder said. “With the combinations, we have almost 300 different items I can serve.”
He said Wells’ selection of menemen is the most popular dish among the four Mediterranean choices.
“People like menemen, but I don’t know if it’s because of the picture or because it’s the second item or it just looks interesting,” Onder said.
Myers inquired if Onder had the ability to expand his menu items with Turkish flavor influences. Onder said yes, but noted his diner concept was started in Springfield as he questioned if he could get enough customers with a purely Mediterranean menu.
“Do you think it would be scary to go all in on something like that?” Wells asked.
“In Springfield, that is a hard decision,” Onder said, adding he’d certainly consider it if Longitude suggested a menu shift.
“That’s something I would like to ask from your customers,” Wells said. “If this was more heavy Mediterranean, how would that affect their desire to come back and continue to support it? Maybe even talk to people who have never been here and try to get some insights.”
Interviews and surveys with customers are part of the process for Longitude, which Myers said are planned to be complete in May. Wells said results would provide insight on how the restaurant is received – something he said can be especially helpful within a mile or two radius of the business to determine why people do or don’t visit. A customer survey also can help the agency determine during the branding process what Springfield Diner represents.
“There’s a lot going on, like there’s some American diner food, there’s signs of burgers for breakfast. There’s Turkish food on the menu,” Wells said. “Things that kind of send mixed signals.”
To help with brand identity, Wells suggested they work on selling Onder and his story to current and potential customers.
“I think that would lend much better to a concept that is centered around your culture, your background, your history,” Wells said. “People are drawn to that.”
The research and gathering information stage has started. That includes understanding the current landscape and audience Onder is now attracting at the diner, along with identifying missed opportunities for improvement.
A roadmap over the next several months will be determined, with the research and strategy phase to roll out over the next 60 days. That will include accumulating sales data to determine high-selling and profitable menu items, return customer frequency and busy periods of operation.
Longitude executives say they’ll solicit customer input to determine their first impressions, any negative associations and suggested areas of improvement.
Myers said the agency has connections with kitchen consultants and interior designers – relationships they’ll try to leverage as the process rolls on.
“This location, geographically, is really good,” he said of the diner’s home in the Southgate Center. “It’s kind of hard to see right now, but I feel like there are changes we can make over the next little while that’s going to help a lot.”
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