Huddle House hungry for a younger crowd

Family-dining chain looks beyond its older core customers with giveaway on Facebook

The Huddle House family-dining chain is looking to appeal to a younger demographic with a new Facebook-based waffle giveaway [2].

The Atlanta-based chain of more than 400 restaurants is offering a coupon for free waffles to anyone who becomes a fan of the brand on Facebook. Customers can redeem the coupon for the complimentary waffles on Tuesday May 17 and Huddle House hopes to continue the promotion through the summer.

Aimed at younger diners, the Facebook promotion is a first for the chain, whose core customers tend to fall in the 35-to-54 age group.

“This is the first time we’re giving away free food [on Facebook]. Young people use Facebook for discounts and freebies,” said Susan Franck, Huddle House’s vice president of marketing. “It was a plunge for us. We want to connect with younger guests.”

Huddle House said it expects to give away 15,000 waffles as part of the promotion. Since the giveaway was announced via social media May 10, the chain has added 2,000 fans on Facebook. As of Monday morning, the chain has 15,888 fans.

Sean McGowan, general manager of a Huddle House an hour north of Atlanta, hopes to serve 40 to 50 free waffles Tuesday.

“Obviously, it’s an inexpensive way of marketing to that young demographic. Younger people don’t have a lot of money, so it’s a good way to get a free waffle,” said McGowan, whose family owns their Huddle House. “It’s an easy way to get people interested in our product and a good way to get our name in front of people.”

At a Huddle House in the central Florida city of Eustis, the local senior citizen snowbird customers are departing for their northern summer homes, and there’s a need to replace the lost revenue from that patron base, said Mary Andrews, the store’s assistant manager.

“I hope we get more business. That’s the goal. We’re surrounded by senior citizens but our season is stopping,” Andrews said.

Huddle House’s social media consultant, Atlanta-based No Limit Media Consulting, runs the chain’s Facebook page and engages younger people to answer their questions and respond to their comments in hopes of getting them to visit a Huddle House, said Chad Bryant, No Limit’s social media director.

“Younger people are more vocal [on social media]. We’ll have college age kids tweeting late night about Huddle House. The social media push is to attract the younger demographic and also teach the older demographic about the social media,” Bryant said.

Huddle House isn’t the only family-dining chain going after the 20-something crowd. Denny’s has reached out to younger customers with units on college campuses, its $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu and a web-based video series on CollegeHumor.com [3].

Once a restaurant succeeds in attracting younger patrons into the store, it’s vital to have a product and atmosphere that will keep them returning, said Geoff Alexander, vice president and managing partner of Wow Bao, a division of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago.

Alexander, a recent speaker on a Nation’s Restaurant News webinar on social media, said it’s important to have a social media presence as well as a complete restaurant experience to appeal to young customers.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of the promotion. Huddle House said it may continue the promotion through the summer.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected] [4].
Follow him on Twitter: @alansnelnrn [5]