Can Galardi rev up a new generation of Wienerschnitzel fans?
When I wrote about millennials taking wheel in 2015, I had J.R. Galardi in mind. I just didn’t realize how literal that phrase “taking the wheel” would prove to be.
J.R. GalardiSince hopping in the driver’s seat as leader of Wienerschnitzel’s Visionary Department late last year, Galardi has rolled out partnerships with Joe Gibbs Racing Motocross, Toyota, 4 Wheel Parts and Smittybilt, all brands with ties to motocross and automotive racing.
“Sixty-six percent of all motocross fans eat fast food more than three times a week. That’s our demographic right there. It would be crazy not to tap into that,” said Galardi.
Finding new, young audiences and introducing them to the 53-year-old hot dog brand is Galardi’s mission, and it’s one he’s been preparing for his whole life. The 25-year-old is the son of the late founder, John Galardi. His mother, Cindy Galardi Culpepper, is now the CEO.
Making new memories
Wienerschnitzel’s current core customers are in their mid-40s and grew up with the brand, according to Galardi.
“It’s a very nostalgic brand,” he explains. “People always have stories about ‘my dad took me there after little league’ or ‘my mom used to work there.’ They keep going back because it brings back good memories.”
Galardi is hoping to grow that core audience to include new, younger demographics. He hopes to reignite brand awareness among a new set of consumers and get them to make their own memories with Wienerschnitzel.
Millennials have an estimated $600 billion in spending power, and Galardi would like to see some of those dollars spent at Wienerschnitzel.
But he’s not narrowly focused on millennials. There’s a heavy millennial demographic following motocross, but there’s a lot of families there, too, says Galardi, and he wants to introduce them to Wienerschnitzel.
Hot dogs are a fun food often associated with celebrations, says Galardi. “It’s an indulgence, it’s a celebratory product. It’s fun for us to try to make the brand enjoyable to a younger demographic.”
Stick to your lane
Galardi’s approach of partnering with motocross and auto racing brands is organic. The first partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing Motocross rose out of the relationship between the Galardi and Gibbs families, who have been friends for a long time.
“Relationships are a huge tool in building my vision for this brand in a future. Using those relationships is a no-brainer,” says Galardi.
Wienerschnitzel is trying to grow organically, from the inside out, he explains. That means investing in a particular community – in this case, the racing community – and developing loyalty. Motocross fans are very loyal, and he wants to build a brand they trust.
“They can smell you out from a million miles away if you are not authentic,” says Galardi.
Some brands make the mistake of throwing a lot of money at a promotion or partnership, but don’t necessarily have an investment in the community or target audience.
“Stick to your lane,” advises Galardi. “Don’t try to be something you are not.”
Doing well by doing good
In true millennial fashion, Galardi is also using his personal connections to extend Wienerschnitzel’s reach into social causes, too.
Through a mutual friend, he connected with Mike Smith of Skate for Change. Smith was distributing food and drinks to homeless people on foot before he realized he could deliver more efficiently riding a skateboard. He’s now launched more than 80 chapters of Skate for Change globally and speaks to thousands of school kids each year.
Galardi will join Smith for a tour of the southwestern United States later this year, distributing hotdogs to hungry people and encouraging the establishment of more Skate for Change chapters. They will be touring in a special bus wrapped in Wienerschnitzel graphics.
“I’m not doing it just for the brand, it’s just a way to give back,” says Galardi. The attitude fits with the ethos of this generation, he explains, whose members have a desire to be part of something good that is bigger than themselves.
Gaging the effectiveness of his efforts will be tricky, Galardi acknowledges.
Unlike Wienerschnitzel’s monthly coupon drop, which produces a noticeable spike in sales, it will be difficult to draw a direct line from his brand building activities to increased traffic, at least for now. Brand building is a long game, and its impact will be measured year over year rather than month over month.
“I think if we are patient and take our time, we’ll see it build and build and build,” says Galardi.