Whats the connection between Deckers and White Castle?

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Simple … White Castle owns Deckers. Deckers are grilled sandwiches. Deckers represents an innovative new restaurant concept. White Castle offers Half Deckers, Full Deckers, Lil’ Deckers and Sweet Treat Deckers. If you’re confused about the name, don’t be because White Castle had to call them something since they are not hamburgers or sub sandwiches.

I am writing this blog inside White Castle’s new Deckers test store lobby in Lebanon, Tenn. After driving past the store a couple of times, my curiosity got the best of me and I stopped in to check it out. In my continuous quest for new food innovation, I quickly began looking for innovative ideas, products, marketing concepts, etc. The more visible innovation, the higher I score the concept on my mythical Food Innovation Yardstick. My 60-minute visit yielded the following innovative concepts at Deckers.

First, the window clings and marketing logo included three “Deckers” words stacked vertically on top of each other. Those three Decker words reflected the three large layers of sliced grilled bread on every sandwich – an excellent example of a tightly integrated marketing campaign and product concept.

Second, White Castle created an innovative new word “Deckers” to differentiate and describe its new sandwich concept – I wonder how Wikipedia describes this new concept – in fact, Dekker Sandwiches can’t even be found on Wikipedia. But a name change was critical to differentiate the product since it is not a sub sandwich, it is not a hamburger, it is not a Panini sandwich, and it is not the Original Chicken Sandwich – a la Chick-fil-A.

Third, White Castle applied its product innovation to the dessert menu, which is usually the most lackluster menu category for most QSR chains. But since White Castle dared to be different, they dared to apply the same innovation to their dessert menu – creating the unique Chocolate Decker, Chocolate Hazelnut Decker and the Chocolate Hazelnut & Banana Decker products. These concepts have a fair chance of success because they are built around chocolate, the most craved dessert flavor. The company describes these craveable new products as “Crispy on the outside, smooth and gooey on the inside … like handheld chocolate lava cakes.”

Fourth, the Deckers sandwich was much, much larger than I expected. I always expect a large quantity of food at an economical price from White Castle, but they busted that mold with an innovative large-size perception. One surprising downside was the serving cost of $9.05 for a sandwich combo meal that included fried onion rings.

And fifth, White Castle dared to be innovative by offering a wide range of international sandwich flavors – American, Italian, French Onion, Cordon Blue and Western.

I like one other White Castle Deckers concept because it reminds me of dual branded QSR stores that became popularized in the 1990s and 2000s. Except in White Castles case, it created a subtle brand within their current brand. It is not a KFC blended with Taco Bell. This could provide a significant boost to same store sales if the concept takes off.

The obvious downside to me is the increased operations complexity. For a concept known for its operational efficiency leadership, Deckers represents a risk to this component. Let’s wish them well, and hope their innovation risk pays off big time!

P.S. By the time you read this I will probably be in the country of Turkey, where a well known food company has asked me to implement a food innovation new product pipeline for their company. So it’s not just the United States that talk food innovation; food innovation is an international phenomenon. I will be reporting from Turkey.

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