Every week, it seems, Eagle Boys pizza, the second largest pizza chain in Australia with 300-plus units, announces something new about its executive lineup. Most recently, they appointed a new marketing head, Christine Hooper, to help drive branding. Hooper's initial focus is to develop Eagle Boys' largest marketing campaign in its 23-year history – the recent launch of 31 new menu items, many of them healthy, all of them dictated by the fast-changing tastes of the local market.
Hooper will also help spearhead the company's most immediate expansion plans in the premium Australian markets of Adelaide and Sydney. But CEO Todd Clayton didn't rule out the United States.
"We definitely have the systems and the infrastructure to expand (internationally)," he said. "With the success we have had here in Australia competing against the world's top two chains, we know also we have the offering."
Clayton led 12 months of extensive research on taste tests and the preferences of his local market for this recent momentum-maker. Clayton said the people of Australia have reached a sort of critical mass with their preferences, due to access to a wider variety of cuisines, lifestyle food shows and Internet access to thousands of recipes.
"Research showed about a third of people were more interested in trying new food flavors than they were a year ago and would combine this with normal purchasing behavior as an â€˜add on' or treat," he said.
The exhaustive rollout has included 22 gluten-friendly options; healthier pizza offerings, including the lowest-fat vegetarian item in the nation; sides like loaded potato skins; new premium pastas and pizzas; healthy kids items; three new desserts, including the newest, a chocolate fudge mousse; and a range of drinks.
The new menu items were launched March 28 of this year. Clayton said sales spiked by 15 percent in the following three weeks, and online ordering traffic increased beyond expectation.
But Clayton also said the occasion for pizza is different in the United States than in Australia, where pizza is primarily a "home meal replacement." The country does not have a large grab-and-go slice market, he said.
"Remember, McDonald's only came to Australia in the early â€˜70s on a large scale," Clayton said. "Delivery pizza started in the â€˜80s, so dining out in the QSR sector here in Australia is relatively new. BIS Shrapnel research (indicates) Australians are only just make eating out a way of life in the past few years."
Now with a reworked product, Clayton said the company's focus will shift to building brand equity across all facets of the business. The company recently brought business technology in-house, and Clayton said his team is poised to bring new service innovations to its customers throughout the year.