With 152 million shoppers expected to hit retail stores this weekend for the start of the holiday spending season, restaurants are hoping to cash in on their hunger with Black Friday discounts.
This year, a number of national retailers are planning to start the Black Friday frenzy even earlier than in previous years. Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Macy’s, for example, plan to open at midnight on Thursday, rather than the wee hours on Friday, as per tradition. Wal-Mart is starting even earlier, kicking off Black Friday at 10 p.m. on Thursday — before the dishes from the holiday feast are likely to be done.
The National Restaurant Association estimated that about 32 million people will dine out while shopping on Friday.
Still, shoppers remain in a “frugal mood” this year, retail observers say.
Consumers are expected to spend an average of $497 per household on gifts this year, according to The Conference Board, up from last year’s estimate of about $390. However, only 7 percent of surveyed consumers said they plan to spend more this year, while another 40 percent said they plan to spend less, according to Conference Board research.
In addition, four out of 10 holiday shoppers surveyed said they expect more than half of their purchases to be on sale.
“With the overwhelming majority of consumers expecting to spend the same or less than they did last year, it’s not surprising that they expect a large share of their purchases to be on sale or discounted,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.
Following in the spirit of Black Friday discounts, restaurant chains across the country are offering promotions tailored specifically to this weekend’s holiday shoppers:
• Pizza Hut: Despite the big feasts planned for Thursday, Pizza Hut is betting consumers will be looking for ways to feed the crowd through the weekend, starting with “Red Roof Wednesday,” referring to Pizza Hut’s red roofs. That’s the pizza chain’s term for the day before Thanksgiving, when hungry college students return home and out-of-town relatives are looking for a dinner that won’t dirty dishes needed on turkey day.
This week the pizza chain launched a new Big Dinner Box promotion, an “epic-sized” box with two medium rectangular one-topping pizzas, eight wings and five breadsticks for $19.99.
Kurt Kane, Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement that the chain was breaking ground “by offering our first-ever pizza value box because we know that our customers need a value-conscious option that can feed a crowd during the holidays.”
The chain expects to sell 1 million pizzas on Wednesday — almost enough to cover the length of the Mayflower more than 12,000 times, the company said — and receive 275,000 orders for Big Dinner Box meals.
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• Pie Five Pizza Co.: The three-unit chain, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Pizza Inn Holdings Inc., is inviting shoppers to bring their receipts from gift-buying over the weekend to get a free pizza.
From Friday through Sunday, guests who show holiday shopping receipts dated Nov. 25–27 will receive a free pizza with the purchase of another pizza. The chain will also donate $1 to the North Texas and Tarrant Area Food Banks.
• Fazoli’s: The Italian quick-service chain is offering $2 off any $5 spent at its restaurants on Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to all shoppers who show a receipt for any retail purchase that day. The chain is promoting its new line of entrees for 500 calories or less introduced this month.
• Dunkin’ Donuts is hoping Keurig brewers are on holiday gift lists this year. The Canton, Mass.-based chain is giving away five brewers and boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cup packs to those who tweet @DunkinDonuts with the hashtag #DDKCUPPACKS and share how the brand’s K-Cups “keep you running” throughout the holiday season. One winner per hour will be randomly selected until 11 a.m. Eastern time Friday.
Through the end of the year, Dunkin’ units are also selling the Keurig system and K-Cup packs in five flavors.
• Starting Friday, Chili’s will promote various HoliDaily specials ranging from free appetizers and desserts to free kids’ meals. The coupons, available through Dec. 24, will be promoted through the chain’s website, on Facebook and Twitter, and the chain’s Email Club. Guests can print out the coupons or display them on their smartphones to redeem.
• The Twin Peaks “breastaurant” chain is looking to change the meaning of Black Friday by dressing servers in black lingerie for a “Real Black Friday” costume party to promote the launch of a new holiday Man Card. Guests will receive a $20 bonus card for every $100 purchased in Twin Peaks gift cards.
• Tim Hortons is enlisting “Holiday Helpers” to distribute coupons for free doughnuts and coffee or other holiday merchandise to shoppers in line at Best Buy stores. One shopper per participating store will win a $725 Visa Gift Card.
• Seattle’s Best Coffee, a secondary Starbucks brand, is sympathizing with people who have to work on Friday, especially those in retail. Through its Facebook page, the chain is offering workers a chance to get a free sample of Level 3 packaged coffee, delivered by mail. Shoppers can also find a $2 coupon for the brand’s packaged coffee that can be used in retail stores where it’s sold.
• Not to be outdone by brick-and-mortar retailers, eBay is dispatching food trucks to create Happy Holiday Hotspots in various cities to provide a shopping alternative with food.
The trucks, including Sweetery NYC in New York and Kara’s Cupcakes in San Francisco, will also offer free WiFi, creating a “mobile shopping sanctuary,” so consumers with an eBay app on their smartphones or iPad can shop while they eat.