A $12 million boost from savvy marketing

Branding, local advertising and a menu expansion helped this Cincinnati buffalo-wings chain take flight.

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Philip Schram, CEO of Buffalo Wings & Rings

(Fortune Small Business) -- The cuisine he sells isn't exactly what he grew up eating in his native Paris, but Philip Schram knows he can add panache to anything he peddles. After he launched a new marketing campaign for his Cincinnati-based restaurant chain, Buffalo Wings & Rings, sales jumped from $8 million in 2006 to $20 million in 2007.

Schram, 44, worked in France until his employer, auto-parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen, transferred him to Cincinnati in 2000. "Ever since I was a young boy, I dreamed of owning a business," he says. When he heard that a co-worker's father was planning to sell an underperforming chicken wings and onion rings franchise, Schram saw opportunity and bought the six-restaurant chain in 2005.

To boost foot traffic immediately, Schram insisted that franchisees spend about 3% of their sales on neighborhood advertising such as direct mailings and flyers. Then he tackled the bigger problem: "Each shop looked completely different. There was no branding," he says. So he hired a design firm to create an appealing look for the stores, which includes galvanized-sheet-metal furnishings and a green, red and yellow palate. He also introduced more menu options.

As revenues grew in 2007, Schram opened 13 new locations, bringing the total to 43. He expects to open about 25 Midwest restaurants by the end of 2008. Schram also landed a deal with a Korean restaurant supplier to open locations on U.S. Army bases in Kuwait, selling wings, onion rings and a distinctly American image to soldiers abroad.  To top of page

After the Wal-Mart deal: After Cynthia Baker landed distribution with Wal-Mart for her Buffalo wing tongs, she learned that breaking into big retail is just the start of her sales work.

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