Case Study


The owners of a new-concept restaurant on the Greensboro scene, Gate City Provisions, are no strangers to the industry. Co-owners Beth Kizhnerman and Jerry Kizhnerman have been the minds behind many successful Triad food service businesses, including Bistro Sofia and the ever-iconic Smith Street Diner, which was famous for weekend breakfast lines snaking around the restaurant exterior throughout its 15-year history. Since Smith Street Diner closed soon after the pandemic, the two decorated chefs wanted to bring a new concept to Greensboro—a unique, eclectic menu with global inspiration yet local appeal. Beth also envisioned and brought to life an onsite mini-marketplace featuring food products sourced from local businesses as well as woman-owned and environmentally focused companies.


Opening a restaurant is especially demanding today with ever-increasing food costs, supply chain issues, and staff shortages, plus discerning consumer palates and numerous other financial challenges. In addition, Beth hadn’t yet closed the previous Smith Street Diner social media accounts, still with thousands of local, energetic, and vociferous fans. We needed to introduce both the already-established fan base and new diners to the new restaurant located in a different part of town. In a “Field of Dreams” sort of way, we all felt that if they built it, the established fans—and many more—would come.


Through a series of kick-off conversations with both co-owners, we gained a clearer idea of what the brand should look and feel like—and taste like too! For example, Jerry not only wanted to have a great Reuben on the menu, he wanted the BEST Reuben in Greensboro. In our humble opinion—and in the opinion of many reviewers—he did achieve that goal. They also came to us with a debonair fox logo and some well-thought-out ‘Not Your Ordinary’ branding already created both internally and with a graphic designer. Our job was to bring all of this to life.


From the start, it was obvious to us that the fox in the logo would be a branding centerpiece for Gate City Provisions. And, with that being the case, he needed a name. After brainstorming a list of possible monikers, the owners settled on Sterling, as the name itself and its definition embodied the type of food and service they wanted to bring to Greensboro and the Triad. With a name in place, we created a wealth of branding, brand voice, and even humor: foxy food, foxy fare, feed your inner fox, etc. We also created the StoryBrand behind Gate City Provisions (and Sterling) as well as a comprehensive Social Media Strategy with coordinated, branded graphics. 

Then, we added a local PR Campaign with outreach to surrounding neighborhoods, neighboring businesses, and University of North Carolina-Greensboro students and staff right down the street. Plus, in the meantime, the owners collected and built the restaurant décor and artwork around the Sterling fox motif.

As part of the branding, we created chef-recommended ‘Sterling Recommends’ food pairings and even added a fun napkin rating system (because good food is sometimes messy). Plus, our team created the sometimes sly, somewhat secretive story/lore behind Sterling the fox, including has family history and how he came to be the muse for the restaurant owners. 

Additionally, we capitalized on fun occasions, such as National Bowtie Day (since Sterling sports a classic bowtie), offering a free beverage with a meal to anyone wearing a bowtie that day. Both the StoryBrand and Social Media Strategy were key to Gate City Provision’s overall branding. And playful, foxy language was built into the website and social media content in order to set the foundation for the restaurants online and community presence—and give fans something fun to be a part of.


While maintaining their static menu favorites day in and day out, Beth and Jerry also crafted weekly comfort food specials, including soups of the day and a daily grilled cheese special. They also listened closely to their customer base and eventually added a kid-friendly menu alongside opening earlier in the day and bringing back some of the breakfast favorites from Smith Street Diner days. Yes, even the cat head biscuits!
We were able to carry over the high social media following and engagement rate from the former Smith Street Diner to Gate City Provisions’ Instagram and Facebook pages—with frequent posts viewed by thousands along with hundreds of reactions and engagements. In addition, through a targeted distribution press release, Gate City Provisions was featured numerous times on major local television, print, and online media. Plus, they received overwhelmingly positive reviews by local and regional foodies, critics, and bloggers.
Unfortunately, achieving financial success in the restaurant industry today is more challenging than ever. Despite five-star reviews, many regular diners, numerous fans, and catering to customer asks while staying true to providing stepped-up menu items, Gate City Provisions wasn’t able to maintain the daily business needed to keep a restaurant establishment profitable. (The busyness, drive-by traffic, and low walk-by traffic at this location may have also been deterrents to business.) 

The lesson… if you’re like us and want to support unique, local restaurants like Gate City Provisions, then we encourage you to choose local vs. chain—and dine out often!

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