May 18, 2013

Pals is grillin’ the cheese out of the competition

Tony Treadway

Celebrating a familiar comfort food with a unique twist is behind an advertising campaign we’ve recently launched for Pal’s Toasted Cheese sandwich. It’s comfort food that takes grilled cheese to a whole new level.

The 24-unit regional chain serving Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is best known for its Big Pal hamburger, hot dog and 32-ounce Big Tea. Yet, its popular Toasted Cheese sandwich had never been the focus of an advertising campaign by the 57-year-old restaurant.

“Like everything else, we do things differently when it comes to Toasted Cheese,” says chain president and CEO Thom Crosby. “We take a burger bun and flip it where the top of the bun is on the inside of the sandwich. We toast the bun, add a thick slice of American cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo and you have an exceptional grilled cheese experience. We’re offering bacon as an option, and nearly 60 percent of our customers can’t resist adding two thick-sliced bacon strips to their Toasted Cheese.”

I knew this campaign would work, based on our planned approach and emerging trends just now impacting major chains. Since 2008, grilled cheese sandwiches have been on a steady track toward more and more restaurant menus. “Any time the economy goes south, consumers head toward comfort foods, and there is nothing more comforting than a great grilled cheese,” Crosby says. “The economy is back, but our Toasted Cheese is front and center with our restaurant and our customers are loving it.”

In the weeks since the launch of an advertising campaign featuring the sandwich, sales across the regional chain are up double digits. Led by a television campaign we developed featuring a beauty shop discussion on the virtues of the Toasted Cheese (, and combined with radio, outdoor and social media, Pal’s bread supplier recently had to increase production of the chain’s unique burger bun that is used for the Toasted Cheese. Increased chatter among Pal’s 46,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter regarding the Toasted Cheese has spread the news about another new hero to the restaurant’s menu.

It’s a campaign that has everyone talking and cruising to a Pal’s. There’s nothing more old-fashioned than a grilled cheese, or the beauty shop your mom used to take you to for a new hairdo. That association with a fond memory and a memorable sandwich is behind the buzz of this campaign.

Tony Treadway


President & CEO

Regarded in the advertising and PR industry as a top strategist, Tony is considered one of the most respected marketing minds in the business, especially in the $600 billion foodservice industry. As president, he leads Creative Energy in serving a variety of regional and national accounts in the textile, hardware, building materials, electronics, nuclear power and health care markets.