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Kicking it into high gear

Kicking it into high gear

Bike Night revs up sales, turns into nationwide promo for ‘The Lube’

When Quaker Steak and Lube chief executive John Longstreet discussed the success of his chicken wing chain’s popular Bike Night, held most Wednesdays when the weather allows, he risked getting himself into trouble with his newest promotional partner, Progressive Insurance.

“We’re a good neighbor with Bike Night,” he said, unintentionally using a rival insurer’s tagline to describe the event’s ability to draw thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts and spectators to Quaker Steaks and surrounding businesses with a block party atmosphere.

Progressive likely will let it ride, however, as it has signed up the Sharon, Pa.-based restaurant chain as a co-sponsor of its Ultimate Ride Giveaway. For the contest, two motorcycle riders can win a trip to anywhere in the continental United States and have their bikes shipped to them for a week of riding. Quaker Steak will promote the contest to Bike Night attendees and is offering a $200 gift card as the sweepstakes’ third prize.

Officials for “The Lube,” as fans call it, see the promotion as a chance to turn its longtime success in local-store marketing into involvement with a national campaign for an advertising heavyweight.

Get your motor runnin’

Progressive may have developed the Ultimate Ride Giveaway, but the idea for the sweepstakes was conceived at a Quaker Steak during one of its Bike Nights, said Kathy Bell, public relations manager for Mayfield Village, Ohio-based Progressive. Many employees in its division that insures motorcycles, boats and the like are riders who take part in Bike Night, and a few of them thought up the giveaway over wings.

“What drew us to Quaker Steak were their Bike Nights,” Bell said. “We knew they drew our core audience, so it was a natural fit and a great way to reach that audience other than and in addition to traditional advertising.”

The Lube, which has 38 restaurants and plans to open nine more this year, also sought to build up its branding and leverage Progressive’s heavy investments in TV, said Bob Mentrek, senior vice president of promotions and marketing.

“What we both want to get out of this is to improve our social-media awareness and to build fans through e-mail and collect data through that,” Mentrek said. “Progressive and their spokesperson Flo are top of mind, and they’re saturating the market with those commercials. It was a real coup on both our parts to get together for a common cause.”

Me and my gang

Mentrek said that, while this is the first time The Lube has partnered with Progressive, Bike Nights often have served as events where the restaurant can cross-promote with outside vendors, like the purveyors of leather goods, sunglasses and custom paint jobs.

“The key is to try to get a fit with a common goal with a company,” Mentrek said. “Progressive is one you might not think is a good fit for a restaurant company, but it’s one of the largest providers of motorcycle insurance, and we have the biggest and best Bike Nights on the planet.”

Mentrek recommended using social media, specifically polling a restaurant’s followers and fans, for finding outside partners for co-branding. When The Lube announces an upcoming Bike Night and asks fans what kind of vendors they’d like to see show up, responses are useful and help maintain attendance, he said.

“We always get great interactions among those groups,” Mentrek said, “and then they come in and buy food and beverages.”

Fueling sales growth

Bike Night started 20 years ago at the original Lube in Sharon, Mentrek said, and it will continue in every new location.

“As we’ve franchised, Bike Nights have been a brand standard for us,” he said. “It works because our units are built in large parking lots, and we can turn them into a revenue-producing area.”

While he wouldn’t disclose a percentage, he said Bike Nights add a significant amount of sales. For 2009, The Lube had systemwide sales of $102 million and an average check of $16.59 at its full-size restaurants.

The local-store marketing doesn’t end with Bike Night. The Lube hosts classic-car cruises on Monday, all-you-can-eat wings on Tuesday and 50-cent boneless wings on Thursday.

“There are days of opportunity every day,” Mentrek said. “Try to make every day a weekend.” 

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected]

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