- marlo monthly
A landmark Boston restaurant for 15 years, Ken Oringer’s Clio was in need of a face-lift in early 2012. In the physical sense, this was accomplished through renovations to the entrance, bar area and dining room (as well as Clio’s adjacent sister restaurant Uni Sashimi Bar, celebrating its 10th anniversary), but the restaurant’s formal reputation needed a shake-up as well. While Clio had a number of loyal patrons, potential new customers were intimidated by the high-concept fine dining cuisine for which both Clio and Uni were known. The time was ripe for both restaurants to shed their reputations as special occasion-worthy only, and position them as more of a neighborhood destination for playful cuisine, cutting-edge cocktails, and a sexy, relaxed atmosphere.
Tasked with updating the public’s perception of Clio as a playful, sexy destination and Uni as one of the country’s best sashimi restaurants, marlo was engaged in late 2011 to manage the strategic PR campaign designed to bring Clio and Uni into the next generation of fine dining without alienating the loyal core audience.
In establishing a plan for Clio’s anniversary year, we decided to leverage what Ken Oringer and his team do best – cutting-edge food and drink. The key was to make these two things approachable for a new and younger audience while not diminishing the reputation of the restaurant and quality of the product. marlo developed PR-worthy program offerings at both Clio and Uni that added a new element of intrigue to both restaurants, increased accessibility and complemented the teams’ already exceptional culinary skills, while still underscoring the significance of Ken and Clio as Boston landmarks.
When Clio closed for renovations in mid-January 2012, we wanted to solidify the restaurant as a Boston culinary landmark, drive traffic, and build hype around the upcoming renovations by creating an event that celebrated Clio and Ken Oringer’s storied past. We encouraged the restaurant to create a multi-course “Clio Classics” menu featuring Ken’s most beloved and classic dishes from the last 15 years. This menu was offered for one week leading up to the restaurant’s closing for renovations. Not only did this position the restaurant as a long-standing institution for modernist cuisine, it also built a buzz around the upcoming renovations and anniversary.
Continuing to build on the restaurant’s legendary reputation, we encouraged Ken to host a 15-course dinner in June of 2012, the halfway point in Clio’s 15th anniversary year. The epic dinner, which featured 15 courses from 15 chefs who had once worked in the Clio kitchen, was a testament to the restaurant and Ken as a training ground and mentor, respectively, for some of the world’s most talented chefs. The dinner, which was announced via Twitter and sold out within hours, was a veritable who’s who of chefs and culinary innovators from around the globe. It provided material for us to continue the anniversary conversations with press throughout 2012, and further established Clio’s role in shaping the international dining scene.
A large part of the renovations at Clio revolved around an expanded bar area – a longer bar, nearly doubled in size, two new four-person booths, interior illumination and a new walnut top on the actual bar. As such, we created two bar-focused programs (an education series with cutting-edge but under the radar mixologist Todd Maul and a cocktail club that encouraged people to try all 100+ drinks from Todd’s list) to support those renovations and further emphasize the evolving Clio image as a destination for friends to meet over a drink and light bites on a frequent basis.
As for Uni, the renovations were more drastic. The entrance to Uni within Clio was completely transformed to create a clear distinction between the two restaurants, in both design and concept. The flooring, walls and finishes were overhauled, and the sashimi bar was lowered to normal dining room height to create a more intimate dining experience. The renovations underscored our PR campaign to establish Uni as an unparalleled destination for upscale Japanese dining. With the creation of the following food-driven experiences, we appealed to a younger, broader audience of foodies.
Japanese Street Food at Uni: Trends are not something Ken Oringer follows; he creates them. marlo encouraged Ken to look to his travels abroad, specifically to Asia, and create a special menu inspired by the region’s vibrant produce markets and street carts. The resulting street food menu offered creative, whimsical, and authentic bites new to most Boston diners.
Late Night Ramen at Uni: For years, complaints about the lack of high-quality authentic ramen in Boston, particularly by the restaurant industry and foodie set, were commonplace. We thought who best to bring ramen to the hungry Boston masses then a seasoned and well-traveled chef like Ken Oringer. A pioneer in bringing authentic Asian ingredients, flavors and dishes to Boston, Ken answered the city’s call for good ramen with a late-night menu dedicated to the popular Asian noodle dish.
As a result of marlo’s strategic PR push around the anniversary, renovations, and creative programming, we secured more than 130 feature stories in local, regional and national press totaling almost $2 million in estimated editorial value and resulting in upwards of 34 million media impressions.
From an ROI perspective, as a result of our highly-targeted pitching and re-positioning, Clio’s bar sales more than doubled from January to February, an increase in business that sustained itself throughout 2012.
Further, our program organically took to the social media sphere; Twitter was abuzz around Uni’s late-night ramen because timing coincided with a general boom in Boston of ramen offerings. Uni and Ken were positioned as front-runners in the growing trend and there were numerous Tweets from food writers, chefs, and hungry patrons waiting in long lines outside Uni that echoed this sentiment.
In addition to securing coverage that nailed the messaging in our strategic plan and outreach, we also achieved the wide swath of our initial objectives thanks to the breadth of programs and positioning: to generate buzz around the renovations and anniversary and further solidify Clio as a Boston landmark; strengthen the Uni brand; and build awareness of Clio’s bar program.
The crowning moment for both Clio and Uni came in August 2012 when Boston magazine bestowed three “Best of Boston” awards to Clio and Uni, directly tied to marlo’s positioning around the renovations and anniversary – Best Bar Menu (Clio), Best Late-Night Dining (Uni), and Best Restaurant Revamp (Clio).