Steaks Sizzle in The Machine Shed

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Midwestern restaurant group Heart of America Restaurants & Inns hopes for a lot of steak as well as sizzle with the recently dropped summer issue of The Machine Shed catalog.

The book offers top cuts of meat and cooking accessories from the Moline, IL-based restaurant group to the farmer-inspired home chef. This is year two for its Machine Shed catalog.

"We are sending the summer catalog to target the Fourth of July audience," said Carmen Darland, vice president of marketing for Heart of America. "Last year we had a surprising amount of sales around Father's Day, and we were hoping to tap into these sales and touch on both holidays."

The 24-page catalog is 5 by 11 inches and made on lightweight glossy paper. Products featured include steaks, burgers, hams and turkeys, along with spices, kitchen accessories and dishes.

Also in the book are fashions for farm enthusiasts of all ages including men's button-down cotton shirts printed with either stalks of corn or groups of cattle. Babies can be outfitted in Old McDonald-inspired sleepers and overalls.

The cover shows a close-up of a juicy tenderloin filet. The headline is folksy: "Fine fixins' from the farm for 27 years!" A toll-free number is listed at the bottom. Tempting images of products feature on every page with the telephone number and Web address at www.machineshed.com to place orders.

Interestingly, the company's call center reps place all orders through machineshed.com and not via an alternative system.

Ms. Darland declined to disclose the size of the recent drop. But she said the catalog went to names on in-house and rented lists.

The Machine Shed catalog first dropped in May 2005 after Heart of America formed a deal with Neesvig of Windsor, WI, the largest industrial distributor of foods in the Midwest. This deal extended Heart of America -- previously only a restaurant and hotel group -- into direct marketing through catalog and e-commerce sales. Catalog sales now are a complementary feature to Heart of America's hospitality business.

Though the group's sales come mainly from restaurants and clientele in the Midwest, most of the catalog sales now come from the South and the West and East coasts, all new demographics for the group. Marketing efforts include print ads in alumni graduate magazines in the Midwest.

The firm issued four catalogs last year and plans five or more this year.

"Brand enhancement and other fancy business terms like that are important, but it is more than that," Ms. Darlan said. "Having a catalog is like putting something special on the menu in a restaurant that will only get ordered once a week, but it is still just a cool thing to have."
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