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Smith & Wollensky

The digital transformation of an American icon

The brand and digital story of America’s Steakhouse

The iconic US steakhouse group, Smith & Wollensky, came to us in 2015 with a problem: the brand was outdated and it needed to advance its digital presence in order to reclaim its rightful place in American hearts and minds.

They needed a fresh take on everything; to reinvigorate the brand, discover a new sense of relevance, fully embrace digital and reach new audiences.

Over the course of our relationship, we’ve transformed the brand, overhauled their entire digital ecosystem and deliver millions of dollars in incremental online revenue every year.

  • Advertising Campaign

  • Digital Marketing

  • Websites

  • Branding & Strategy

Crafting The Story

The Smith & Wollensky brand had lost its way and didn’t encapsulate or articulate its rich 40 year history. We knew that there was a goldmine of stories to tell, and they needed to be rediscovered.

The first step in our process was to immerse ourselves in the brand; through a series of workshops with the executive team and long-standing employees, we collectively explored and discovered to get to the heart of what makes Smith & Wollensky special.

To create a brand with substance, we needed to understand the values at the core of the company, what made it different and interesting, and how we wanted people to instinctively feel when they interacted with the brand.

What we found inspired us to make a bold claim…

By planting our flag as 'America's Steakhouse', we claimed S&W's space in a territory occupied by many storied names.

The tagline is confident yet unpretentious.

It harks back to the rustic roots of the ranch, cooking meat over fire, under the stars, after a hard day's work. The American Dream, where a steak dinner is the pinnacle of success. And connecting that back to the fine dining attributes of the restaurant.

Without the need for overpriced puffery, we welcomed guests back home, where they would have the best steak of their life.

Distilling the richness of the brand story and crafting the 'America's Steakhouse' narrative was the foundation stone.

Now, the brand evolution could begin...

Building The Ecosystem

Once the branding work was complete we set about overhauling Smith & Wollensky’s digital ecosystem. Starting with the website - the heart of a restaurant’s online identity - we needed to translate the America's Steakhouse idea effectively in the digital space.

The site had to be beautiful, authentic and intuitive, bringing the richness of the S&W story to life.

And, as a key revenue driver for the brand, it had to serve an important commercial purpose too: being focused on driving bookings and converting browsers into guests.

Another important consideration was crafting the story of the group brand, whilst giving the iconic restaurant locations across the greatest cities in America space to shine.

We went through a meticulous content and UX planning process to determine the optimum way to structure the site. We then did extensive design exploration to bring everything to life.

The result? A powerful brand story told through video, sweeping vistas of the ranch, iconic events and famous S&W faces. Plus a spotlight on each restaurant’s local flavor, site-specific info and reasons to visit.

A Custom E-Commerce Shop

Smith & Wollensky has an extensive product range, including prime steaks, rare wines, branded tableware and gift vouchers.

They wanted a custom-built e-commerce shopfront to sell direct to customers from their own website. We integrated the various different products, distribution methods and shipping costs into one slick, branded e-commerce store.

Intelligent Marketing

With the digital ecosystem on point, it was time to focus our efforts on the wider marketing strategy.

At Ignite, we believe that digital builds brands over the long term - it’s not just a tactical lever. So it was crucial to make sure that the stories, values and experience principles we developed throughout the branding process were articulated effectively across all of S&W’s marketing communications: from social media, emails, online video advertising and even in the search PPC ads.

We used targeted, intelligent marketing techniques to make sure we were reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right message.

Key also was continually growing S&W’s digital audiences, reaching more people and building their online community.

Digital Brand Storytelling

We have incredible stories to tell about Smith & Wollensky. The dry-aged, USDA Prime beef that is hand-butchered on site. The premium seafood and award-winning wine lists. The people, the ranch, the history, the rigorous dedication to quality.

We make sure S&W owns their space by creating content that makes the America's Steakhouse proposition a reality.

The Most Successful S&W Campaign. Ever.

We were challenged to put together a campaign to supercharge S&W's winter season.

A bold idea: 10 unique courses, 1 wild night.

The Whole Cow was born.

A truly game-changing campaign that generated 1,100% ROI. So successful that The Whole Cow is now a much anticipated regular event in S&W's calendar.

The Impact

The success of our work with Smith & Wollensky lies in our long-term, collaborative partnership, rooted in trust and mutual respect.

Brands aren't transformed overnight. Trust in the process, an open-mind, a willingness to be bold, dedication and an investment in the long-term journey are required.

This is how truly great digital brands are born.

“Ignite has the unique ability to understand our business, our people and most importantly our guests.”

Kimberly Giguere-Lapine - CMO, PPX Hospitality Brands


Total Booking Conversions


Website Visits


Video Views


Estimated Total Revenue from Digital Marketing Alone


Average Conversion Rate (industry average 3%)


Overall Increase in Annual Online Conversions


Average Annual Increase in Digital Website Covers


Yearly Digital Revenue Increase

The Next Chapter

We're now working with Smith & Wollensky's parent company PPX Hospitality Brands and other brands within their portfolio to transform their group brand and digital presence.

As for Smith & Wollensky, the America's Steakhouse journey and partnership continues as we look forward to the next phase of growth from 2022 and beyond.