Lenny's News and Interviews

Nation's Restaurant News - No toys in Lenny’s ‘values-based’ kids’ meals

September 12, 2005

Lenny’s Sub Shop is bucking the tradition of offering kids’ meals that include toys by launching a program that emphasizes personal hygiene and academic success.

Although most kids’ meals include toys of some kind — often tied to TV and movie characters — Lenny’s “Li’l Lenny and the Global Adventurers” is a “values-based kids’ meal program” designed to educate children instead of merely amuse them, according to chief executive George Alvord.

“I’m not interested in a little toy you take home,” he said.

Lenny’s is a 64-unit chain in the South and Southeast with annual sales of $40 million to $50 million. It plans to open 15 to 20 more locations by the end of the year.

The kids’ program is built around four characters, who appear on packaging and in-store material and have different areas of expertise. Li’l Lenny is the crew leader who finds his way out of crazy situations. Sally Science deals with the scientific challenges the crew faces. Freddie Fix-It is the handyman, and Curious the Cat is the crew’s best friend.

The crew is racially diverse and designed to appeal to children’s imaginations by featuring hobbies, pets, and playtime activities. The kids’ meal comes with an activity bag, 12-ounce cup with a drawing of the crew and a sticker with the characters.

Lenny’s launched the program to appeal to the growing number of families that dine out together by giving them a program that they can’t get at the competition, Alvord said.

“I’m the father of four children, and I wanted to do something different,” he said.

The program was developed by C3 of Overland Park, Kan., a kids-and-family-marketing agency, and can last for up to four years by changing themes and story lines for the characters and updating the artwork, said John Strand, Lenny’s director of brand marketing.

“We tried to come up with a program that’s entertaining and provides education,” he said. “The graphics themselves and the characters were selected to be interesting to a lot of different children and interests.”

One element of the program encourages children to practice personal hygiene. A static cling placed on mirrors in Lenny’s bathrooms shows Li’l Lenny with soapy hands and includes copy that reads, “Hey Kids! Scrub Before You Grub!”

A second element promotes education with a Global Adventurers Achievement Award. Lenny’s is working with various school systems to encourage academic endeavors and “award positive behaviors,” such as reading a certain number of books, Alvord said. Students who participate in the program are rewarded with a free kids’ meal.

The kids’ program and a TV campaign set to break within three months are two of the marketing changes Lenny’s has made since Alvord and private investors acquired majority ownership of the company last year.

The campaign, titled “Lenny’s Truths,” will feature actual customers talking about their experiences at the restaurant.

As an example, Alvord described one day when a woman in her 90s who used a walker came into the restaurant to buy something for herself and a chicken salad sandwich to take to her friend Alice, who was 104.

“The following is almost cultlike,” Alvord said. “People take Lenny’s very seriously.”

Contact Lenny's Public Relations:

Jenna Duett
Marketing and PR Manager
(901) 753-4002