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Gold Star Chili offers $5 meals

CINCINNATI Citing “the Cincinnati way” of helping neighbors in need as a motivating factor, Gold Star Chili is bringing back its $5 Chili Classics combo meals featuring some of its most popular menu items.

The Cincinnati-based chain of nearly 100 restaurants in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana will offer three bundled meals as part of the limited-time offer: three cheese coneys and a regular beverage; a 3-way, which is chili served atop spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese, and a regular beverage; and chili cheese fries and a regular beverage.

Gold Star also will offer four of its most popular side items for $1 with the purchase of a combo: regular fries, a half salad, chili dip, and garlic or cheese bread.

“Everybody needs their chili fix,” said director of marketing Charlie Howard, who called the combos “extra economic relief” for Cincinnati-style chili fans because the cheese coneys and chili cheese fries are the chain’s top sellers.

Gold Star ran the same promotion at the beginning of last January, making the first quarter of 2009 its strongest of the year, Howard said. While the chain is “cautiously optimistic” about conditions improving in the second half of 2010, Howard said, it expects the first six months of the year to be challenging.

“Last year we were comping 3 percent up from the first quarter of 2008,” he said, “but the reality is we’ll probably be comping 1 percent or 2 percent below 2008 [this first quarter]. Unemployment is a major factor, especially in Ohio and Kentucky, where most of our restaurants are located. … But we’re hoping it’ll turn after June or July.”

Gold Star hopes to debut several new items rather than discount to ride out the long economic recovery, Howard said.

“We’re really trying to get out of the discounting mode and trying to add new value,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of testing of new menu items, and we hope to be offering new instead of discounts going forward.”

The $5 combo offer ends Feb. 21.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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