Next week’s marketing calendar is enough to make any full-service dining chain nervous or excited. Or both. The Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day fall within a mere three days of each other, meaning two major traffic influxes essentially back-to-back.
Of course, this isn’t the first time there’s been such a tight squeeze (in 2022, the two were one day apart) but it doesn’t make the task at hand any less daunting. For Hooters, the main focus is on the Super Bowl, the 410-unit chain’s busiest day of the year. That’s not to say, however, Valentine’s Day isn’t a priority.
“We know we need to take advantage of all those people coming to watch the game and pick up their orders by telling them we also have something happening in three days. It’s a great bounce back opportunity,” Hooters CMO Bruce Skala said during a recent interview. “It’s a fun promotion to say, ‘we’d love to see you back,’ through bag stuffers, promotional in-store merchandise. We’re targeting everything.”
And the company has been preparing for everything as well, hosting monthly meetings to make sure operations and marketing are on the same page of the playbook and preparing stores to maximize capacity to sell wings during a certain window.
“It’s all about staffing and making sure we have enough to greet the customers, fill their orders on time … It’s a nice flow to make sure there are no lines out the door,” Skala said. “Our increased staffing leading up to the game is to make sure we’re able to handle a ton of orders at a certain time.”
To entice football fans, Hooters hosting a season ticket sweepstakes for the chance to win 2024 season tickets to watch their favorite NFL team play. Additionally, dine-in customers can take advantage of the Post-Season Pick deal – 10 wings, curly fries and a Bud Light or fountain drink for $16.99. Bud Light pitchers are also available for $11. To-go and delivery customers can choose from 75 boneless wings for $65, 75 boneless wings for $85, or the Quarterback Sack – 50 boneless and 50 bone-in wings for $100.
Meanwhile, Valentine’s Day is what Skala calls a good opportunity to promote the brand and its “unique promotions.” This year’s promotion provides a new twist on the “Spin the Bottle” game in which on-premise diners will be invited to play the “Hooters Game of Love” at a prize wheel for the chance to win rewards such as $1 wings, free appetizers, and more.
“Hooters may not be the first place you think of for Valentine’s Day, but we do get a large swath of consumers looking to have fun and enjoy just another day here, and we wanted to choose a promotional concept that didn’t take a lot of explaining, that was simple and easy,” Skala said.
Hooters’ marketing opportunities certainly don’t end after Valentine’s Day and, in fact, March Madness is also one of the busiest times of year. The basketball crowd starts to show up the day after the Super Bowl, Skala said, then the crowd flows into baseball and other events such as pay-per-view boxing.
“We’re generally busy throughout the year and our marketing calendar is set up so we’ve got national promotions, local promotions, beverage promotions, sponsorships, and more,” Skala said.
Macro marketing trends
Skala has been in marketing his entire career, so managing such calendars is nothing new. What is new, however, is the function’s shift more toward “fact-based decision making,” created simply by having more access to relevant consumer data.
“This trend has really grown over the past 18 months and has changed the way we look at things; getting to the data and having it spill out information in a legible way that connects the dots and tells the story of what happened and what could happen next will direct marketing initiatives going forward,” he said.
That data comes from all sources and channels and has also driven a closer working relationship between marketing and IT.
“Three years ago, if you told me the CIO would be sitting in a franchisee marketing committee, I would have told you you’re crazy, he’s the back-of-house guy,” Skala said. “All of a sudden, we’re talking about loyalty, tracking, real-time data …”
Skala also acknowledges that there is more national marketing activity as of late, particularly in the full-service space as chains fight over softening traffic and value-seeking consumers. Hooters is “keeping tabs on it,” but hasn’t committed to any similar types of promotions at a large scale. For now, the company is shifting more of its investment dollars toward digital channels that can better target guests and potential guests.
“Social media is no longer something just for millennials. Everyone is following now and if you want to get a message out, most people are following brands on X, Instagram and TikTok,” Skala said. “Our strength of being an image-based concept and having Hooters girls tell our story works well here. It’s more engaging and interactive than just showing a plate of cheeseburgers and fries.”
For any type of marketing campaign, Skala noted the most important piece is to stay nimble and think outside of the box. He points to Hooters’ NIL (name, image, likeness) campaign that starred offensive linemen versus star quarterbacks or wide receivers as an example. The campaign won Hooters “Brand of the Year” recognition at the annual NIL Awards.
“We look at three things to understand return on investment – sales, traffic, and remaining fun and relevant to younger demographics,” Skala said. “Hooters is a fun brand, and this is a fun way to invite younger consumers in.”
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]