The Alexandria Upstart/Fishbowl – Restaurant marketing big biz for Old Town firm


Wonder where all those e-mail coupons and online offers from South Austin Grill, Stardust, Hard Times and Ben & Jerrys come from? Yes, we know, its a far-out-in-left-field thought.

Surprisingly, a few million of those come from right here in Old Town, from the nerve center at 44 Canal Center Plaza. In several short years, Alexandria-based Fishbowl has become a leader in on-demand email marketing software solutions for the restaurant industry.

On March 28, Fishbowl secured $12 million in growth capital from Vienna-based Valhalla Partners and a current shareholder, Edison Venture Fund, to support its growth strategy. Their support is a significant validation for Fishbowl and where we are headed, said Scott Shaw, the firms president and CEO. This investment represents confirmation that the industry we serve is ready for solutions and products. 

Fishbowl serves 700 restaurant companies in North America and Europe, powering email marketing to about 28,000 restaurant locations. Their software enables the restaurants to identify restaurant guests, manage guest databases and deliver email marketing campaigns to drive repeat visits and generate revenue.

Last week, the firm also announced the expansion of its product and service line to include mobile marketing.  Mobile is a natural extension for Fishbowl, said Per Huge-Jensen, an Old Town resident and the firms product director for mobile and web solutions. We can give clients the same target and turnkey marketing offered through email now through mobile.

With its client Smoothie King, for instance, Fishbowl launched a mobile sweepstakes campaign this month for the restaurant and its 500 locations nationwide. The campaign encourages smoothie-lovers to text daily for a chance to win one of 20 Swimsuit Weekend prizes. Our guests are always on the go, and were thrilled to be able to offer text messaging, said Cindy Kuhnau, co-founder of Louisiana-based Smoothie King, originator of the nutritional fruit-based smoothie.

In addition to list-building and sweepstakes, Huge-Jensen said that Fishbowl Mobile will feature time-based messaging, polling, and surveys that, like email, will drive sales and customer retention and increase brand awareness and customer frequency.

As mobile capabilities have broadened to offer GPS, web and the like, and consumers are constantly on the go, cell phones have become a computer-away-from home, he said. It only makes sense then that consumers would want the option to receive marketing communications through their phonesTheyre way ahead of the curve.