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Fazoli's debuts meatball sub with giveaway

Fazoli’s, a 242-unit Italian quick-service chain, is rewarding customers who “suit up” and stop in for its newest sandwich, the Ultimate Meatball Smasher Submarino.

Guests who “look smashing” in uniforms for work or play — be they police officers and firefighters, military service members, or even kids on a youth baseball team — can show up in uniform at a Fazoli’s through July 11 and receive a bounce-back coupon for free spaghetti when they purchase a Meatball Smasher or any Submarino and a drink for $4.99.

Offering the chain’s core spaghetti product for free on the next visit preserves margins, said chief marketing officer Cathy Hull, but more importantly, it drives traffic with Fazoli’s most widely known and liked item. The brand has used free spaghetti offers over the past several years successfully, she added.

“We look at the financial returns for free offerings, but spaghetti has the broadest appeal,” Hull said. “We definitely wanted the bounce-back for pasta, and spaghetti is the broadest appeal you can get. Kids love it, adults love it, and everybody knows and loves red-sauce spaghetti. We really use it as a way to get that traffic into our restaurants and look at our new menu.”

The first in a planned series of commercials for the promotion will debut this week in spot markets, both on cable and standard networks, in the 27 states where Fazoli’s operates.

“This is part of a larger campaign of returning to real food,” Hull said. “We’re trying to establish a differentiating brand identity, that we’re sit-down, wholesome, and baked not fried. We’re excited about it.”

Fazoli’s also is adding a local-store marketing element to the promotion, sending “Smasher Squads” of employees out to local police and fire stations, auto repair shops, hospitals and other uniformed workplaces to give out free samples.

All Submarino sandwiches come on freshly baked ciabatta bread, and the Ultimate Meatball Smasher includes meatballs covered in marinara sauce and melted Provolone cheese, with crushed red pepper and pepperoni. The sandwich is the latest new product on a menu that has changed substantially since February 2009. (EARLIER: Fazoli’s to go ‘premium QSR’ in 2010)

Boca Raton, Fla.-based private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners has owned Fazoli’s since 2006.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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