The Evolution of Kelly's Roast Beef: From Tradition to Transformation
Before 1951, no one thought to eat thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth roast beef in sandwich form… that is, until the birth of Kelly’s Roast Beef. Roast beef sandwiches were often made from leftover roast beef from Sunday dinners that was sliced thin and served on a bun. However, it was Kelly’s that revolutionized the sandwich by slow roasting the beef to perfection and serving it with their signature gravy, which elevated the sandwich to a whole new level.
As the originator of this sandwich, the brand grew a loyal following with a rich history that now spans more than seven decades. Kelly’s Roast Beef became a staple in Boston’s North Shore area and was even mentioned in the movie Good Will Hunting. Today, Kelly’s has grown to several locations across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Florida, each serving up the same delicious roast beef sandwiches that have made the brand a household name.
In the fast-casual food world, branding is everything. A strong brand can make or break a franchise, and it is crucial for any company to constantly think of new ways to improve or evolve its brand. At Kelly’s, we recently went through the process of rebranding. With such a strong history and loyal fan base, we knew that it could be difficult to accomplish. However, rebranding has helped us find new ways to expand and reach a new audience. I would like to provide insights I have found during the process—and advice I wish I had known before embarking on our rebrand.
This year, we introduced a fresh, modern look with our iconic logo that still maintains elements of the original design, preserving the connection to its history. The visual identity overhaul extended to our restaurants, which underwent a redesign, incorporating warm colors, inviting decor, and a more open layout. The aim was to create a welcoming and comfortable environment that provided a more enjoyable dining experience.
Embracing technology was another vital aspect of the rebranding strategy. We implemented new state-of-the-art kitchens to improve efficiency and provide our guests with the highest quality. With our new advancements in the technology space, we are providing our guests with an enhanced experience, aligning the brand with modern expectations.
Honoring our history
One of our major findings during the rebranding process was deciding to embrace the changes and continue to highlight the greatness of the old. It is not easy to let go of the former ways of doing things and embrace something new and modern. Often, however, change is necessary for growth and success. We welcomed the new improvements that came with the rebranding, leading to further growth and success. Throughout the process, we updated our historic carousel-themed dining rooms, our marketing strategy, and even our logo. Embracing change allowed us to appreciate our historic brand while looking toward the future in a constantly evolving industry.
Embracing the changes during the rebranding process is important, but it is equally crucial to highlight the greatness of the old. If your business has been successful in the past, there are many elements of the brand that guests love and that set you apart from competitors. Throughout the process, keep and maintain the key features in your new branding strategy and build upon them. We want to continue to highlight our famous original roast beef sandwich and other classic menu items because they are our main focal point and overall purpose. While focusing on the future and the rebranding, you also must honor and admire what has made your brand successful.
Adaptability and excellence
Through its journey from a humble sandwich shop on Revere Beach in Massachusetts to a successful roast beef franchise, Kelly’s has been able to exemplify adaptability and further its commitment to excellence. Rebranding your company’s strategy can be challenging, but it is a rewarding process that has helped us attract more guests, while still appreciating our loyal fan base.
Rebranding is a powerful tool for franchises in any industry, but doing it successfully requires strong leadership and a clear vision. By staying true to your core values and embracing the change—all while continuing to highlight the greatness of the old—you can successfully navigate the process and position your brand for long-term success. At Kelly’s Roast Beef, we have seen the benefits firsthand and are excited to continue to grow and evolve the brand in the years to come.
Neil Newcomb is CEO of Kelly’s Roast Beef.
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