From hyper-local promotions to customized freebies, savvy restaurateurs are finding new ways and new networks to build business.
Preopening for locals
When Nando’s entered its second U.S. market this May, it made an effort to not only alert residents, but win them over. The chain treated those living and working nearby as a “priority market,” says Director of Marketing Sepanta Bagherpour. For the few days leading up to its Chicago launch (and at each opening since), the chain invited neighbors to come try its peri-peri chicken. But unlike traditional launches with comped meals, it ran as a pay-what-you-want operation, with all of the money being donated to a local nonprofit.
It takes a village to raise a wing joint
To stimulate economic development and employment, the village of Obetz, Ohio, franchised a Buffalo Wings & Rings last December. “It opens up an opportunity for us to partner with other cities that want to invest in their municipalities ... instead of having their tax dollars sitting in a bank,” says Nader Masadeh, CEO of the Cincinnati-based chain. “There’s a need out there for it, and we are trying to build our brand around that need.”
A good match
Jax Cafe, a Minneapolis dining institution, prints personalized matchbooks on-site for guests. Owner Bill Kozlak says it’s one of the many special touches that creates lifetime customers. “Sometimes I ask: Is it worth it to spend $50,000 to $60,000 a year on this,” Kozlak says. “And the answer is always ‘yes.’ Many guests rebook for special occasions and say the matchbooks were top of mind.”
Crowdsourcing the sports bar
B-Dubs TV, Buffalo Wild Wings’ internal TV network, got personal. The wing joint has called upon athletes and spectators in high school sports and recreational leagues to upload their action videos of “awesome plays, fanatical fans and cheery cheerleaders” via the chain’s Hometown Highlights website. The clips are reviewed by BWW staff; those chosen may air at 300 participating units or get uploaded to the website.
Scents of place
Chef Nick Steffanelli partnered with a candle maker to develop custom candles scented to evoke the aromatic landscape and flavors of southern Italy—the region that’s the focus of his Washington, D.C., restaurant, Masseria. The blood orange, rosemary and sea-salt candles are lit at the host stand and in the restrooms. Masseria also gifts a candle to guests celebrating a birthday or anniversary; others can purchase them for $22 as a memento.
Countdown to happy hour
In June, Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails gave the people of Jacksonville, Fla., a reason to clock out a little early. The restaurant rolled out its Progressive Summer Happy Hour, starting with $3 drink specials at 3 p.m. After that, the drinks went up by $1 per hour, until 6 p.m. when normal happy-hour pricing kicked back in.