Monday, August 20, 2007

Branding at its Best!

“We have become one of the top three tourist attractions in the state. And, we are a great place to live, unless you are a chicken,” Gary Rupprecht, the Mayor of Frankenmuth, MI (population 4,838) told the Michigan Association of Mayors which was meeting in his hometown. I was there to speak to the group. Mayor Rupprecht was referring to the battle of the Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth restaurants, which sit across the street from each other, both featuring chicken dinners.

Zehnder’s was ranked as the 43rd highest sales independent restaurant in the USA by Restaurants and Institutions in 2006 with $13 million in sales. But it serves the highest number of meals of any other restaurant with 948,675 meals served in 2006, quite a feat for a small town restaurant. People have got to really like your chicken!

The competition of those two restaurants and another local resident’s fascination with Christmas kept Frankenmuth “on the map” even when the town was by-passed by I-75. As Mayor Rupprecht said, “Wally Bronner became the king of billboards when the interstate put us 10 miles off the road.” I’ll have more on Wally in tomorrow’s blog.

Frankenmuth is one of those very, very unique towns that you’ll occasionally find as you travel around the country. It has leveraged what other towns would consider a rather ordinary German heritage into the recreation of a German village, enhancing the experience with numerous festivals, a river walk, 830 hotel rooms and wonderful shopping. As a result 2 million people visit the town on an annual basis.

And, unlike many other tourist towns, Frankenmuth also has a very strong commercial and industrial base. Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance with 600 employees, Star of the West Milling (17th largest miller in the USA), and other employers match 4,800 jobs with the population of 4,838, another very unique statistic! And, 8 of the top 10 employers are locally owned!

In 2004, the town did a $15 million renovation of its downtown, playing upon the German-Bavarian theme. Irrigated flower pots, fountains, complete sound system and other amenities resulted. The flowers are incredible and it didn’t surprise me when Sheila Stamiris, head of the downtown development authority told me, “We employ a full time horticulturist and a crew of five just to take care of our flowers.”

All of the stats on Frankenmuth impressed me, with the exception of their average age of 47.6 years compared to a national average of 35.3 years. Frankenmuth has to figure out a way to encourage young people to move there.

Great town…great brand….and a Must See town!

1 comment:

NT said...

Thanks for the info... we are going there today with our out-of-state guests! Hope it doesn't rain too much!