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Chains look to hook customers with two-for-one deals

MARYVILLE Tenn. As restaurants feel the pinch from cost-cutting consumers, some casual-dining chains are looking to pump up traffic with special two-for-one offers.

T.G.I. Friday's and Ruby Tuesday this week launched promotions with coupons good for a free entree with the purchase of another. A number of other chains, like Marie Callender's Restaurant & Bakery in Mission Viejo, Calif., also have offered similar deals through online coupons.

Ruby Tuesday, based here, publicized its offer through its Ruby Tuesday So Connected e-mail service. The chain also is promoting the two-for-one deal with inserts in various newspapers. The offer is good through March 24.

Rick Johnson, a spokesman for the 942-unit chain, said the goal was building a loyal base of customers. "The expectation ... is an invitation that causes people to want to visit the restaurant and have a great experience and become a regular guest," he said.

Like many operators in the casual-dining sector, Ruby Tuesday has struggled with declining traffic as consumers reduce their number of restaurant visits or trade down to less-expensive restaurants. Last month, the company reported same-store sales at corporate restaurants fell more than 10 percent in the second quarter ended Dec. 2.

"We're out there like everyone else, hoping to see more guests more often and staying consistent with trying to serve great food with gracious hospitality," Johnson said.

Dallas-based T.G.I. Friday's is featuring its two-for-one-entree coupon on its website. The 1,000-plus-unit chain said the offer is good through March 1.

"Our guests want more Friday's year-round because of the great food, a fun atmosphere and incredible value," Andrew Jordan, T.G.I. Friday's senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "With our Buy One, Get One free offer, we'll give them twice as many Friday's."

The 130-unit Marie Callender's is offering two online coupons each good for a free entree with the purchase of another entree and two drinks. The deal is good at participating restaurants through March 20.

Restaurant chains aren't the only ones offering two-for-one deals during these tough economic times. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami reached out to frugal couples with a Valentine's Day special that offered two-for-one admission to some of the event's seminars, according to a report in the Miami Herald. The festival kicks off Thursday.

Contact Molly Gise at [email protected].

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