Restaurant chains are using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity for quick marketing promotions to drive traffic to their regular menus.
Valentine’s Day often conjures up images of romantic, fine-dining dinner experiences for many restaurant patrons, or perhaps pink or heart-shaped menu items at some of the nation’s largest chains. But segments not often associated with the holiday are finding unique ways to boost traffic with special offerings.
On Feb. 14, Qdoba is offering customers the chance to buy one entrée and get a second entrée free for somebody else in line, if the two people share a kiss in front of the cashier. The couple could be lovers, family members or even willing strangers — and a peck on the cheek is acceptable for bashful customers who have just met
“We’re pretty excited for our ‘BOGO for a Kiss’ promotion, because it feels like Valentine’s Day, particularly in fast casual, is something that hasn’t been strongly promoted,” said Karen Guido, chief marketing officer for the nearly 600-unit Qdoba Mexican Grill. “It represented an opportunity for a holiday not traditionally spent at fast casual.”
The nationwide promotion follows a test from last Valentine’s Day in a few markets. That one-day promotion drove a double-digit increase in same-store sales for the participating restaurants, compared with the same weekday a year earlier, Guido said.
“We were blown away by how many people came in for it last year,” she said. “This year we have bigger expectations, and we’ll be ready to handle the volume. We try to look for different opportunities to engage our customers a bit more, and giving somebody a BOGO that didn’t involve a coupon was a twist on the holiday and very appealing.”
The promotion is easy to integrate into the restaurants’ daily operations as well, she added, since cashiers need only to enter a predetermined code at the point-of-sale system to redeem the offer.
The Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based chain also will try to extend the honeymoon phase of its Valentine’s Day offer by asking for customers to submit their photos of their Valentine’s Day meals at Qdoba to the brand’s national Facebook page. Doing so gives customers access to a bounce-back coupon titled “Kiss back with queso,” redeemable for a free order of chips and queso.
“We were curious last year how this would evolve,” Guido said, “but this turned out to be really fun for our customers and especially for our staff.”
Qdoba is a owned by Jack in the Box Inc.
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Other restaurant chain promotions include:
Jack in the Box tied its latest limited-time offer to Valentine’s Day, launching the “Marry Bacon” ad campaign to promote its BLT Cheeseburger and Bacon Shake, a milk shake made with bacon-flavored syrup.
Watch the commercial; story continues below
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers will take a different tack, hoping to attract the “Gal-entine’s Day” crowd to its more than 460 restaurants in North America. The casual-dining chain’s “Girl’s Night Out” promotion will offer groups of female diners bottles of wine and a new dessert for half-price.
“Red Robin wants to support all the women who don’t have a significant other to dine out with,” chief marketing officer Denny Marie Post said in a statement. “Girls’ Night Out is about celebrating the ever-important bond between friends.”
The brand will debut a new chocolate dessert, the Gooey Chocolate Brownie Cake, for $1.99 on Feb. 14, with the purchase of a full-price burger, entrée or salad.
Other chains, including Waffle House and White Castle, will put on fancy airs for Valentine’s Day. Several dozen Waffle House restaurants will offer reservations and white-tablecloth dinners, serving a limited menu with rib eye and eggs or a pork chop dinner.
See more of Waffle House’s offer; story continues below
As it has for several years, White Castle also will offer reservations and candlelit, white-tablecloth dinners on Valentine’s Day. This year, couples booking a “Hot & Steamy” package can enjoy a new dessert for free at White Castle, a chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick.
And for diners looking to take things to the next level, Fazoli’s is offering free spaghetti for a year to any couple that gets engaged at its restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Any groom-to-be thinking of popping the question at a Fazoli’s must inform a manager beforehand, not after the fact, to receive vouchers for a year’s worth of spaghetti.
“A romantic dinner doesn’t have to cost a lot,” chief marketing officer Cathy Hull said in a statement. “Fazoli’s is not only a favorite destination for families; it’s also a popular place for college students, some of whom had their first dates at the restaurant. It seems fitting then that they get engaged at Fazoli’s on Valentine’s Day.”
Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN