Gun Smoke continues to provide stiff competition to its competitors Arizona Grill and Copper Kettle with its wide array of burgers and steaks.

And Gun Smoke’s reputation has become bigger than the actual product behind the brand, which is precisely what brands are created for – to charge brand premium for the larger-than-life perception.

The biggest reason for this is that Gun Smoke has managed to cultivate more brand evangelists than its competition. These brand evangelists have not only joined the Gun Smoke Facebook page in droves (16,000+ todate), they have created video ads of Gun Smoke and uploaded them on youtube. Here are three of them:

Gun Smoke Promo

Gun Smoke ad

Now they may not be the most sensational ads you’ll ever see, but these ads are made by ordinary people who love this brand so much that they’ve put in the time and effort to create them. How many of Gun Smoke’s competitors can boast of this?

Consistency is  the second  most potent weapon of any powerful brand and Gun Smoke has it.

If you’ve been to Gun Smoke, you must be familiar with their menu pattern.  The basic offering of the main entrée remains the same, the only thing you change is the choice of meat – chicken or beef, and the item itself – burger or steak.

For instance, if you choose Mediterranean Garlic, you can have burger or steak in that particular recipe and within that category, beef or chicken. Confused? It’s like this:

  1. Mediterranean Garlic Beef Burger or
  2. Mediterranean Garlic Chicken Burger or
  3. Mediterranean Garlic Beef Steak or
  4. Mediterranean Garlic chicken steak

That means for every single recipe there are four combinations.

In the case of sandwiches and pasta, the scheme is a bit different.

Here’s the complete menu.

In this visit we tested four of their offerings: Mediterranean Garlic Steak (Beef), Whiskey River Steak (chicken),   Royal Burger (Chicken) and Gourmet Cheese Burger (Beef).

Whiskey River bbq steak-- Gun Smoke
Whiskey River bbq steak-- Gun Smoke
Mediterranean garlic beef steak- Gun Smoke
Mediterranean garlic beef steak- Gun Smoke

Although Gun Smoke’s steaks are pretty much renowned, taste-wise you would be hard-pressed to differentiate them from Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill, Roasters or even Secret Recipe.

Portion-wise you are going to end up disappointed. Gun Smoke could do a whole lot better in offering generous portion sizes like its rivals. While the rivals offer generous helping of vegetable, garlic sauce and French fries, Gun Smoke offered spinach. Can you believe that? Who would want to have that with steak? How does that work? (“Hey honey look, these fine cowboys are so concerned about our health they’re giving us spinach!”)

Maybe some people do fancy creamed spinach, none from our party did. A better strategy is to offer options, something that doesn’t require any extra effort on their part, like buttered sweet corn or grilled vegetables, something they’re already offering with other menu items.

To be fair, we didn’t try the Sheriff’s Cut category, which we reckon is just the super-sized version of the existing steaks. Maybe taste-wise they’re different as well. At almost 1000 bucks, they better be all that and more.

Most people say that taste (especially that of the steaks) is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of Gun Smoke. We found out that the salad bar option with each steak  is the real USP. At second comes the ambiance which the youth especially have taken a liking to.

No rival of Gun Smoke has come up with the salad bar, which is fast becoming the in-thing in this part of the world. Although many restaurants have come up with a salad bar, apart from Pizza Hut no one has been able to leverage it in the form of deals as Gun Smoke has done.

However, it would be better for Gun Smoke to allow the customer to have the salad with the dinner and not before it. What happens is that you’ve the salad 10 minutes before the steak arrives, and by then your expectations have risen to quite an extent that when you see just the potatoes or spinach, it makes for a sorry site.

Just imagine how potent the whole deal would look if the salad bowl is placed along with the steak? It would enhance the worth of the whole deal.

Coming to the burgers, they are no more tastier than most of the rivals, but at least portion-wise they are right up there with the competition. One burger ought to satiate your appetite well, what with the generous helping of French fries, coleslaw and the humungous burger itself.

The coleslaw is a bit too crispy with sparse use of mayonnaise whereas Karachiites are weaned on the pasty softer version.

Gun Smoke has done a pretty swell job of building a strong brand. But it still need to tie the loose ends if it is to become a great brand loved not only by Pakistanis  but people abroad.

The pathway to greatness has already been defined in the earlier article Gun Smoke- The Resilient Brand. What can be added to that strategy is that Gun Smoke will have to upsize the portion size of the steak, add more sizzling sidelines to them, and then offer some scintillating deals to maintain the flow of consumers throughout the week.

That is one weakness of Gun Smoke. On some days of the week, the place is pretty deserted which doesn’t do any good to the brand equity especially if a first-time customer walks in. Introduce something along the lines of Purple Haze’s Ladies Only Night on Tuesday where pretty much everything can be had at 50% discount!

Of course Purple Haze is not of the same caliber as Gun Smoke but even then it ought to be willing to try Haze’s strategy if it’s effective. The aim should be to drive traffic to your place even if that means cutting your profit margin a bit.

Gun Smoke has also introduced breakfast deals in line with the prevailing trend of the upscale restaurants. And those deals are prominently displayed on the table. However, the deal itself is not that appetizing. Not many people are going to throng the place for a mere egg with steak at a price that is pretty much the same as the dinner’s. Gun Smoke will need to come up with better deals if its customers are to be tempted out of their bed on a holiday morning.