Snack brand Cheetos decided to take on the world of fine-dining, partnering with chef Anne Burrell to create an exclusive three-course menu offering dishes that put Cheetos front and center.
The meals were served in a pop-up restaurant in New York called The Spotted Cheetah. The restaurant was open to the public for two days only – August 15 to August 17, and drew a waiting list of more 1,000 people.
Cheetos and its PR agency partner, Ketchum, began planning for the campaign in February 2017. The inspiration for the campaign came from the brand noticing interesting and well-shared recipes by chefs and fans that incorporated Cheetos. The idea was to create a fine-dining experience that would drive consumer and media buzz.
Cheetos looked to find a chef who could serve as a spokesperson for the campaign, as well as craft the menu for the restaurant. The brand chose to partner with Anne Burrell, best known for the Food Network shows Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and Worst Cooks in America.
“We wanted to make sure we had the right chef partner that could drive quality and who also married well with Cheetos’ personality,” explains Kimberly Scott, director of communications for Cheetos’ parent Frito-Lay North America. “[Burrell] is fun, playful, cool, hip, and all the things we are as a brand.”
The PR team also wanted to release a downloadable digital cookbook (available as of August 15) of the recipes created as part of the campaign.
The three-course menu ranged in prices from $8 to $22 and included Cheetos meatballs, Flamin’ Hot Limón chicken tacos, and Cheetos-crusted cheesecake.
“When the idea came about, one of the things we wanted to make sure we delivered on was something fans could enjoy beyond a pop-up experience as well as for our fans outside of New York or those who couldn’t make it to the restaurant,” adds Scott.
To help boost social engagement, Cheetos created the hashtags #TheSpottedCheetah and #CheetosRestaurant. A microsite was developed to house campaign content, most notably the digital cookbook.
Media strategy teases
In early August, Cheetos teased the campaign to media by sharing one of Burrell’s Cheetos-inspired recipes and a save-the-date. The brand also provided interviews with Burrell and embargoed information to several media outlets.
“The media strategy focused on large, national broadcast and different types of print outlets,” explains Joan Cetera, senior director of marketing communications at Frito-Lay North America.
On August 8, Cheetos issued a press release announcing the upcoming activation and teased the news on branded social channels. The announcements included info about how people could make reservations for the restaurant.
On August 15, the restaurant officially launched in New York City. The digital cookbook launched that same day. The brand tapped Burrell for a series of interviews.
“We started in the morning at Fox Business and did a full day of media interviews in and around Manhattan,” said Cetera. “In the afternoon at the event, she came and did four broadcast and two print media sessions.”
Food & Wine was given an exclusive first taste of the menu. Menu items were also brought to Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, from NBC’s Today show, for an on-air taste test.
In the early evening, Cheetos hosted a private dinner for media and VIPs before the restaurant opened to the public, which included a welcome from Burrell and an appearance from the campaign’s only sponsored influencer, La La Anthony, a television personality and author, who posted an Instagram story that received more than 100,000 likes.
The pop-up ran through August 17 and was fully booked each night. In addition to foodies, media, and Cheetos fans, the restaurant hosted influential guests, including Mariah Carey, Victoria’s Secret models Jasmine Tookes and Lais Ribeiro, Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Dolores Catania, and actress Shay Mitchell.
Following the August 8 announcement, reservations at The Spotted Cheetah were booked in less than six hours, with more than 1,000 reservations on the waitlist. The digital cookbook was downloaded nearly 13,000 times during the first week when the restaurant opened.
By the end of August, the campaign had generated more than 3,400 media placements. Notable outlets that featured the campaign include: Mashable, The Washington Post, People, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN’s SportsCenter, and E! Online.
The campaign’s microsite received more than 157,000 visits during the campaign.