4 restaurant snipes that cut through the holiday clutter

Photograph: Shutterstock

People, people: Can’t we all just get along this holiday season? Apparently not when it comes to marketing. As in love and war, all things were adjudged fair in the battle for consumers’ attention in recent weeks, a credo that turned restaurants into both instigators and victims of the guerilla attacks.

Here’s a roundup of those controversial stabs for attention.

Popeyes’ poke at airlines

On the day Delta Airlines began turning away passengers accompanied by  comfort animals, a term that’s been stretched to include everything from fish to peacocks, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in Philadelphia’s airport decided to have some fun with the policy change.  The unit added a to-go meal packaged in a box resembling a rooster permissible under the old rules, complete with the designation “Emotional Support Chicken.” And unlike a real bird, the chicken is permitted on flights, Delta or otherwise.

“This chicken provides comfort and nourishment during stressful air travel,” reads the chicken’s vest. “Do not leave unattended, as Popeyes is not responsible for lost or stolen chicken.”

The chain has not yet revealed what effect the chicken had on sales.

A Victoria’s Secret model disses In-N-Out

One’s signature garb is a soda jerk-style peaked cap and a red apron. The other’s wardrobe abounds in lace, underwires and wispy nothings for the boudoir.  It’s hard to imagine two brands more dissimilar in their sartorial standards and the lifestyles they represent than In-N-Out and Victoria’s Secret. 

The discrepancies were highlighted in a video shot by friends of Kelly Gale, a Victoria’s Secret model, during her visit last week to an In-N-Out in Monterey, Calif. Instead of ordering a Double Double, Gale opted to munch a pear she’d brought along with her. Then, for reasons that were never explained, the 23-year-old exited the store for a quick exercise routine just outside the building. She’d dressed appropriately, in full workout garb.

It’s unclear whether Gale had the blessing of her employer for the visit. But the brand didn’t look so good when social media erupted in protest against the appearance, which was blasted as “fat shaming.” 

@innoutburgeris the best and you can eat whatever you want Ms. Gale but please don’t be so pathetic and unkind to others,” tweeted one. “I think it’s pretty obvious @KellyGale_is having some kind of mental issue and needs some help. Let’s not shame her like she choose to shame others,” noted another. 

Burger King sends fans to McDonald’s

Fans of the Whopper were offered a head-turning deal in exchange for downloading the next generation of Burger King’s smartphone app in mid-December. The new version offered users the premium sandwich for just a penny—provided they order it within 600 feet of a McDonald’s. 

The deal not only extended a powerful incentive to potential downloaders, but also hyped one of the new app’s gee-whiz features, a geolocation capability. And it delivered an ample dose of the cheekiness that’s a near constant in BK’s marketing.

The chain has yet to reveal how many patrons took advantage of the offer, which was limited to one per app user.

Wendy’s vs. McDonald’s vs. Consumer Reports

It’s probably just a coincidence that Wendy’s revealed a new initiative for keeping antibiotics out of its beef just a few days after McDonald’s announced a plan for achieving the same end. Right. And Popeyes’ Emotional Support Chicken can really fly.

But that one-upmanship might have been directed as much at a mutual detractor as it was at an archrival. A few weeks beforehand, Wendy’s had been designated by Consumer Reports as the most active of the Big Three burger chains in deflecting antibiotics from their supply chains. McDonald’s and Burger King were given failing grades for their efforts.

That’s not to say Wendy’s got a gold star. It was given a D-minus.

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