East Side Mario's
|Industry||Casual dining restaurant|
East Side Mario's is a Canadian chain of casual dining restaurants, managed by its parent holding company Prime Restaurants, which operates in Canada and the United States. The restaurant specializes in Italian-American cuisine. Individual locations aim to recreate the historic ambience found at the corner of Canal Street and Mulberry Street in Lower Manhattan. The brand is marketed as "A taste of little Italy". It is best recognized by its old logo featuring the Statue of Liberty holding a large tomato instead of a torch, as well as the jingle containing the catch phrase "Hey, budda boom budda bing".
East Side Mario’s was developed through the merger between several restaurants and began as a subsidiary of Yesac Creative Foods.
In 1980 three entrepreneurs from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada opened the first Casey’s restaurant. The restaurant’s success prompted the opening of a second location in Elliot Lake, Ontario. The company moved to Burlington and introduced a fourth partner. The Casey’s brand was developed through the company name of Yesac Creative Foods. In 1982, the first Pat & Mario’s Restaurant was opened in Whitby, Ontario. The objective was to establish a takeout pizza and pasta business. The venture was successful and the Pat & Mario’s chain expanded into the North York area, as well as Florida, U.S.A.
The first East Side Mario’s restaurant was developed and built in Aventura Mall in Miami, U.S.A. To expand the business on both sides of the border, it was necessary for Yesac to raise capital. To do so, the collective brands of Casey’s, East Side Mario’s and Pat & Mario’s were sold to the Prime Restaurants holding company in August 1989. Prime Restaurants has become a major force in the current Canadian restaurant industry largely in part from this acquisition. By 1993, Prime Restaurants had expanded East Side Mario’s throughout the United States through an American subsidiary. Because of the high potential of this restaurant chain, the American subsidiary was later purchased by Pizza Hut and Prime Restaurants retained exclusive rights to the Canadian trademarks. As of February 2000, Prime Restaurants has re-acquired global trademark rights to East Side Mario’s Restaurants Inc. On July 22, 2002, the parent company made an initial public offer for the Prime Restaurant Royalty Income Fund, allowing for public investing into the brand.
As of 2010, three members of senior management retain 18% ownership under the company Prime Restaurant Holdings Inc. with the other 82% belonging to Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited. In October 2013, Fiarfax Financial Holdings Ltd. Exchanged Ownership in the Prime Restaurant Brand, by selling to Cara Operations with a Warrant and Cash deal. See Fairfax Financial 3rd Quarter Report. In October 2013, Farfax bought a minority interest in Cara Operations. Cara in turn bought, and assumed debt from Prime Restaurants. Fairfax also kicked in 100 Million in secondary warrants. Fairfax Declared a Loss of approximately 50 Million Dollars in the process. 
East Side Mario’s website shares a list of brand promises to be carried out across the chain. These include creating a fun atmosphere, maintaining value & quality, family-focused service, and being involved as an important part of the neighbourhood.
The menu primarily offers traditional Italian-American dishes, with an emphasis on pastas as well as classic entrees such as steak and chicken. The interior design is styled after New York Italian eateries of the mid 20th century. In 2008, East Side Mario’s revamped their franchise design and menu. The new menu had a healthier focus, promising that no artificial trans fats and fresher ingredients were to be used. Their restaurants received an updated look, mixing styles from the Old World Italy with the more contemporary North American Little Italy. The logo also changed; a red tomato replaced the established figure of the Statue of Liberty. Commenting on the renovations, vice-president Bernie Dryer said: “This makeover is designed to contemporize the East Side Mario’s experience and give our restaurants an approachable, affable personality focused on great Italian cooking.”
In some tourist venues, such as airports and ONroute service centres, the chain also operates smaller East Side Mario's Pronto! locations, offering a scaled-down fast food version of the East Side Mario's menu.
Advertising & marketing
East Side Mario’s has produced a variety of both chain-wide and regional promotional offers. These have included local radio contests and giveaways in association with communities. Similar to other restaurant chains, East Side Mario’s has a longstanding promotion that offers free meals for young children, marketed for families. The franchise has also engaged in advertising partnerships with other companies such as Budweiser. In 2010, East Side Mario’s took advantage of the FIFA World Cup and launched a campaign, declaring itself as the “soccer headquarters”.
In January 2010, East Side Mario’s launched one of the largest 3 month long contests in Canadian casual dining history, the “Budda Boom Budda Ching” campaign. The contest totaled up to $10 million in prizes, and was created with support from East Side Mario’s marketing partners Endeavour Marketing, Endo Marketing, Ron Christie Communications and Cowan & Company. This campaign was launched in conjunction with an ongoing social media strategy in which East Side Mario's uses its presence on Facebook in an effort to raise awareness of promotions among consumers.
People are most familiar with the restaurant's long running jingle featuring the catch phrase: "Hey, budda boom budda bing".
East Side Mario’s has been a corporate sponsor of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in the past. In early May 2010, it was the national family restaurant sponsor of the 2010 Canadian Breast Foundation CIBC "Run for the Cure" fund raising event. The partnership included in-house promotions to help raise awareness about breast cancer. John Verdon, Vice President for Marketing, had this to say regarding the campaign: “East Side Mario’s commitment to the neighbourhoods and families we serve extends well beyond providing a great dining experience full of value, variety and fun. Most of our restaurants are family owned and our focus is on moms and family, so partnering with a leading charity like the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, that’s making a significant difference in the lives of many Canadian families, was an easy choice.”
East Side Mario's has also provided corporate sponsorship of Camp Oochigeas, a volunteer-run and privately funded organization working out of Toronto, Ontario which provides a summer camp experience for children with cancer.
East Side Mario’s has been recognized for its success in the past. It has appeared on Canada's 50 Best Managed Private Companies consistently since 2000. A list of awards and achievements include:
- Readers' Choice Award 2006
- Entrepreneur of Year 2003
- Board of Trade (Mississauga, Ontario) - Outstanding Business Achievement Award, Large Business of The Year
- Ontario Restaurant News Restaurateur of the Year
- Ontario Hostelry Institute Food Service Chain Operator
- Pinnacle Award - Restaurant Company of the Year
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- "Flying high: EMS Pronto! opens at Dallas intl. airport.". Nation's Restaurant News, August 19, 1996.
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- January 19, 2010 by Nick Krewen (2010-01-19). "East Side Mario’s ‘Budda Booms’ into Facebook". Media in Canada. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
- "Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure:". Runforthecure.com. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
- "East Side’s Teams with Breast Cancer Foundation". Foodserviceworld.com. 2010-05-06. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
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