Case Story

connecting families to a coastal state of mind


With fantastic food and a couple decades of spectacular service, Fish City Grill had a loyal base of longtime regulars who visited with impressive frequency, and same-store sales figures that greatly outpaced the casual dining category. But aside from new market launches and short-lived traffic spikes, Fish City Grills weren’t attracting new and diverse consumers.

Those “loyal regulars?” 81% of them were over 45. So MindHandle joined Fish City Grill to steer the brand toward greater relevance among the opportunity target, millennial families.


We began by, well – diving in.
We’d be lying if we said our exploration wasn’t delicious

Because consumer “relevance” challenges can be symptoms of broader obstacles, we began our exploration into the consumer mindset as well as the employee experience. Consumer and employee alignment are inherently correlated, and when they’re in equilibrium, can greatly impact the momentum of the brand. When employees buy in, so do consumers, and vice-versa. It’s a rather reliable indication of a “strong brand.” The ability to balance the scales leads to higher financial performance, higher customer satisfaction and higher employee engagement and retention.

MindHandle’s Magnetic Brand Scorecard measures the effectiveness of a brand at communicating its value to both consumers and employees, and how that reflects in their behavior. Ultimately, this diagnostic illuminates opportunities in a brand’s quest to attract, adopt and create brand champions internally and externally.

The good news? Fish City Grill’s Magnetic Brand Scorecard told us the culture that fueled the 15-year-old brand was alive and kicking within the walls of restaurants and the corporate office alike. Employee satisfaction was through the roof. Not only was the company able to attract and retain top talent, their employees were active champions for joining the team.

The not-so-good news? If a brand is truly magnetic, the employee experience scores should be balanced by the consumer side of the equation. And it wasn’t. While Fish City Grill had strong consumer adoption among late Gen-Xers and Boomers, we couldn’t count on them to introduce new customers to the brand.

A consistently good experience was likely being mistaken for a magnetic brand. But before we could confirm our hypothesis, we talked to fam-millennials and surveyed their impressions of Fish City Grill, as well as seafood in general.


Fam-millennials showed surprisingly strong reactions to FCG’s current brand identity and language. At best, they didn’t recognize the brand (despite living down the street or even having visited), but at worst, they were repelled by it and “wouldn’t consider going there.”

With our brand dilemma confirmed, we had even bigger fish to fry, like the lack of appeal for the seafood category in general. When we asked, “Is it ever the right time for seafood?” they responded confidently, “Of course. When we’re at the beach!”

To summarize our challenge, we set out to:

    • Get fam-millennials
    • To change their perception of Fish City Grill
  • from just another fish restaurant that doesn’t make the cut
  • to a place where families can slide into a “coastal state-of-mind”


Magnetic brands depend on equally compelling internal and external communications. So we turned to the celebrated employee culture for inspiration. We created a communications map to illustrate how every stakeholder of Fish City Grill could bring the coastal mindset to life in an impactful and authentic way.

With a magnetic story and identity, Fish City Grill transformed their restaurants into beacons for those who crave the coast. Employees welcomed new decor packages, uniforms and POP. Signage, social media presence and other advertising vehicles were converted to reflect the new essence of the brand, an upscale seafood joint. Now, even though it’s right around the corner, Fish City Grill can transport their guests to the coasts, welcoming them to a fresh, unexpected destination with a distinct voice.

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