By Steven Hedlund
Published on 01 April, 2012
Ivar’s — a Seattle-based seafood restaurant chain known for its savvy marketing and sense of humor — pulled one over on the media and its customers on Sunday, April Fools’ Day, when it distributed a press release detailing its “groundbreaking” new vending machine that dispenses customized, mixed-to-order chowders “at the touch of a button.”
Called Ivar’s Chowder SelectCM, the vending machine supposedly allows consumers to choose from a variety of seafood items, including clams, crab, lobster and cod, and an array of ingredients, from the believable bacon to the not-so-believable coconut; it even apparently gives patrons the option to add a shot of espresso to their chowder for a little kick.
Ivar’s even mocked up an image of the vending machine (pictured).
But it’s a prank, Kirsten Wlaschin, Ivar’s director of marketing, confirmed to SeafoodSource on Monday.
“Our internal team looked at the trend of customization, technology and food vending (a recent cupcake ATM … offered cupcakes from an ATM, George Jetson-style),” said Wlaschin. “We wanted the idea to … toe the line of outlandish yet believable. It really was a team effort in building the concept. We’re very fortunate to have a talented, dynamic team working together layering in detail upon detail.”
Ivar’s posted the announcement on Twitter as well as on its Facebook page, where it received numerous comments, ranging from “April Fools’” to “That looks so unfresh!” The response has been “very positive,” said Wlaschin.
Ivar Haglund, who founded Ivar’s in 1938, was quite a prankster, and the company likes to keep his spirit alive by maintaining a sense of humor. On April Fools’ Day last year, the company unveiled a new logo dropping the word “Ivar’s” and adding the phrase “Since 1938,” a playful jab a local coffee giant Starbucks (SeafoodSource fell for the hoax). In 2009, the company ran a promotion claiming that three billboards featuring an Ivar’s advertisement were recovered from Puget Sound, explaining that Haglund believed submarines would be a more viable mode of transportation than ferries in the future.
“It’s important we continue to carry the torch of our flounder, Ivar Haglund. People connect with him and our brand because he didn’t take himself seriously and relished in that. The quirkier the better was his motto,” explained Wlaschin. “Our customers have come to expect not only award-winning seafood and exemplary service, but a chuckle here and there in a time where joking around and self-deprecation is rare. The other piece that it provides is a rich environment for engagement either online of offline. People can comment, forward, add upon and the idea takes seed from there. Now it isn’t just our idea, it is the Ivar’s community’s idea to have fun with.”
The company operates 22 Ivar’s fast casual Seafood Bars, three walk-up Fish Bars, three full-service restaurants — Ivar’s Acres of Clams, Ivar’s Salmon House and Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing — and concessions in stadiums, including Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball club. Its retail division, Ivar’s Seafood, Soup and Sauce Co., markets soups, chowders and sauces nationally and internationally.