Home Run Inn finds insights through capstone marketing class
By Mikal Muhammad
During the 2019 spring semester, I took part in an intensive client project as my capstone course, MARK 390: Marketing Strategy. The class was asked to help Home Run Inn explore different U.S. markets for possible expansion of their business. Since Home Run Inn operates in both the restaurant and frozen pizza industry, we had the option to target expanding restaurants or frozen pizza to another city.
Home Run Inn, which is also a member of Loyola's Family Business Center, is a family-owned business founded here in Chicago. Home Run Inn currently has nine restaurant locations in the Chicagoland area and is the top-selling frozen pizza brand in the Chicago market.
Students broke into groups of four where each of us were assigned a different market to research, target, and plan promotions to introduce or grow the Home Run Inn pizza brand. Our class was responsible for 12 different cities to focus on expansion including my group's task of growing the Tampa, Florida, market.
Professor Sara Gramata (MBA '04) launched the project by telling us that working with an actual client who listens and values your ideas and thoughts would give us a more engaging experience we can use for our careers.
Real client experience
The capstone class simulated working for a marketing agency. There were no checkpoints, no deadline for certain steps, just a check-up with the client and the date for presenting the marketing plans. That process gave us a more realistic expectation of what the job world is like without a professor holding our hand along the way.
We were given proprietary information from Home Run Inn, and added to it with our own research and planning.
Feedback from professionals
Before our final presentations to the client, Professor Gramata set up a poster presentation where we were judged by various marketing professors, alumni, and industry contacts. Faculty judges included Department Chair Mary Ann McGrath, Professor Clifford Shultz, and Professor Geraldine Henderson. She also brought alumni and contacts from various companies including Facebook, Starcom, Energy BBDO, Aptitive, Learfield IMG, and Quality Candy.
The professionals offered valuable feedback on what we did right or wrong with our project before our final presentation to the client. They also offered perspectives from a business standpoint rather than a traditional classroom grading scale.
During the final presentations to Home Run Inn Pizza, every group had their own unique ideas from setting up a social media scavenger hunt to completely redesigning the pizza box.
Looking back at this class, I took away many lessons to help my future in marketing. First lesson is that teamwork is key. Without collaborative efforts and using everyone’s strengths to their fullest, our final product would not have been as solid as it was.
Second would be to remember how important deadlines are. In an actual marketing agency, groups may be responsible for multiple projects at once, so making sure you meet deadlines and produce an excellent product will be important for success.
Final takeaway I had was the importance of understanding the client to the fullest extent possible. Understanding the history, the product, and the future they want to take the company is essential for a great marketing plan.