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Buffets, Inc. Restructures Marketing Agency Line-Up and Adds Consumer Insights Expert to Internal Team

Restructuring initiatives fuel "Plan to Win" Rollout

GREER, S.C., Nov. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Buffets, Inc. recently finalized realignment of its marketing agency roster to create more "real connections" with its guests. These efforts assist its entire portfolio of family-style buffet restaurants to stay on course with goals set in the "Plan To Win" initiative.  Agencies playing a vital role in the restructuring are: Atlanta-based Trend Influence, which has been named Creative Agency of Record (AOR); Ft. Lauderdale-based Ink Link Marketing, which has been named Promotions and PR AOR; Miami-based IGT Media Holdings, which will handle all media buying for the brands; and New York-based Conversation, which will handle the digital initiatives for the company.  The company also appointed a new senior-level consumer insights professional, Tama Looney, to the marketing team.  She reports to Jason Abelkop, Chief Marketing Officer. These moves complete the marketing restructuring of the brands that began earlier this year.

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Abelkop explained the changes are an outgrowth of the dynamic business plan adopted by the company earlier this year.  "These agencies have an aggressive approach to planning and execution that matches our own, and their talents complement the team of internal professionals we have assembled," Abelkop said.  "All are nimble, smart, efficient and, most importantly, laser-focused on the guest."

The new agencies will be instrumental in communicating the expansive reconcepting plan for the chain.  Abelkop explained, "As we invest in our restaurants, we need to get the message out to guests that we're better than ever and ready for them to come in and see everything that's new."

New Creative AOR
Trend Influence is part of KBS+ and the MDC Partners network of companies, the 9th largest marketing organization worldwide.  They will provide integrated branding and communications solutions, including television, radio, print, collateral and direct point-of-sale.  

Media Planning & Buying
Miami-based IGT Media Holdings, with satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles, will handle media planning and buying for the brands.  "IGT has a solid track record in developing layered media campaigns that incorporate both traditional and nontraditional methods.  We believe IGT can effectively help us improve our share of voice in the marketplace," said Abelkop.   IGT Media Holdings reports more than $200M in billings.  It has developed media strategy for multi-unit QSR and family dining brands including Pollo Tropical, Friendly's, Tony Romas, and Arby's® restaurants.

PR & Promotions Support Added
Ink Link Marketing, a Promotions and PR agency from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. will work with the Buffets marketing team to create an integrated 360 degree calendar with complimentary public relations, promotional tie-ins and events.  The agency's principals have more than 25 years experience of strategic calendar, promotions and public relations campaign planning and execution with restaurant brands such as Burger King Corporation and Pollo Tropical. 

New Focus on Digital
New York-based Conversation, which most recently earned acclaim as winner of AMC's "The Pitch'" will manage and grow Buffets 400,000+ Facebook fans and help reach out into other social media platforms. They are charged with creating key digital promotions, social media efforts and mobile marketing outreach for the brands.  Their client list includes dressbarn, Hearst Communications, and L'Oreal. 

Consumer Insights
As the new Director of Consumer Insights, Tama Looney is responsible for developing and executing all new product, consumer and brand research plans, tools and processes.  She will also coordinate all secondary research projects to help identify emerging consumer trends that could impact the family buffet-dining segment.  Looney will also be responsible for the Buffets' SMS texting and email-based loyalty program, "Crave Connection."   

Looney has more than 13 years of experience in marketing research & analysis on both the client and agency side.  She has worked with such brands as Arby's, Burger King, Delta Airlines, SunTrust and multiple homebuilders across the Southeast focused on understanding consumers through customer satisfaction, social media, qualitative as well as quantitative research. 

She holds an Executive MBA from Georgia State University and a BA in Psychology from the University of West Georgia.

About Buffets, Inc. 
Buffets, Inc., the nation's largest steak-buffet restaurant company, currently operates 350 restaurants in 35 states, comprised of 340 steak-buffet restaurants and 10 Tahoe Joe's Famous Steakhouse® restaurants.  The restaurants are principally operated under the Old Country Buffet®, HomeTown® Buffet, Ryan's® and Fire Mountain® brands. Buffets employs approximately 18,000 team members and serves approximately 100 million customers annually. For more information about the company, please visit

SOURCE Buffets, Inc.

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