Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Entrepreneurial marketing class partners with new restaurant

Entrepreneurial marketing class partners with new restaurant

In November, restaurant startup BBox hosted a pop-up location in Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

By Travis Cornejo  |  Student reporter

Quinlan’s entrepreneurial marketing class recently tackled an intriguing real-world project: how to market a startup company seeking to revolutionize breakfast.

In fall 2015, the class partnered with BBox, an innovative new “restaurant” seeking to break into the Chicago market, and by the end of the term, delivered two very different marketing plans.

Finding an Innovative Partner

Assistant Professor Ugur Uygur found BBox through Loyola University Chicago’s partnership with 1871, the Chicago hub for entrepreneurial startups.

“What I was looking for was somebody who has an idea—a service or product—and didn’t understand their customer fully,” Uygur said. “And the class chose to work with Greg Becker and his company BBox.”

BBox plans to sell breakfast sandwiches prepared by a machine. With almost zero human involvement, fresh ingredients will automatically be prepared when a customer orders a sandwich.  

“The invention is the most striking innovation,” Uygur said. “But Becker also designed an app that will track everyone’s location and prioritize orders according to how close they are. It ensures maximum freshness and ease of delivery. When you arrive, you tap your phone to the machine, a box will open, and your sandwich will be ready.”

The entrepreneurial marketing class was divided into two groups. Each was tasked with creating a full marketing plan—identifying who the customer is, how to communicate with them, and what the message is.

“We didn’t divide work,” he said. “They were competing in that way. However, it’s a very creative class. I spent a lot of time on how to come up with new ideas and how to create an authentic message for the customer.”

He said both teams went through the experience and ended up creating “really different” marketing agendas for the customer. Even though both teams were working on the same company, given the loose guidelines, they ended up in different directions.

Rethinking Traditional Restaurant Marketing

According to MBA student Lavina Phulwani, the uniqueness of BBox created some additional hurdles when developing a marketing plan.

“There were a couple of objectives that we had,” she said. “One was erasing the negative stigma of vending machines. The other was how to engage customers around a vending machine, because it’s not like a restaurant where you can have a conversation with them.”

Because many potential customers would think, “How can I trust a machine to make my sandwich?” her group sought to humanize the machine. And she said they received strategic guidance from Uygur.

“One of the key elements to success has been his involvement,” Lavina said. “He has been mentoring us from the beginning. He’s always encouraged us to be more creative and to think about problems from different perspectives. He was crucial to our ability to apply classroom concepts to this real-world marketing plan.”

Implementing The Results

Overall, Becker said the experience was “very enjoyable” as both teams were motivated and provided fresh approaches to the problems BBox was trying to solve.

“One of the teams identified two customer personas—Techie Tracey and Healthy Harry,” Becker said. “Healthy Harry is very into fitness and gyms. So based on the marketing plan’s suggestion, we’re looking into partnerships with gyms to promote a healthy lifestyle. Getting free coffee for completing a certain number of pushups, and other similar incentives.”

In the end, Becker had two 20-page marketing plans. And throughout the process, both teams were responsive to his feedback, easily dealing with the challenges and constraints unique to the startup environment, said Becker.

“I just think these types of collaborations are awesome,” he added. “The students get real-world business exposure, and we’re provided with marketing ideas. It’s a win-win situation. This is an awesome program that Dr. Uygur has created—one that I would recommend to other startups.”