The newest thing in restaurant marketing just might be a revival of celebrated gimmicks from the past.
Recent weeks have resurrected such golden oldies as fake prices (think Carl’s Jr.’s Six Dollar Burger, which actually sold for $3.95), once-a-year special cups (without the controversy attending Starbucks’ PC versions) and a high-price pass for unlimited visits (thrifty gluttons salaam to you, Olive Garden).
Here’s a look at how some chains are giving old ploys a new twist.
Del Taco’s $10 burrito
Back in 2001, Carl’s Jr. made a splash with the rollout of a premium burger, one of the first from mainstream quick-service chains to be made with Angus beef. To tout the quality and value, Carl’s dubbed it the Six Dollar Burger—and stressed that the price was actually just under $4.
Del Taco resurrected that tactic this fall with the two-item extension of its Epic Burritos line. Media support materials for the Epic Queso Chicken Burrito and Epic Chipotle Chicken Avocado Burrito referred to each as a “ten dollar burrito,” then noted the price of around $5 each.
The added jab of the products was the choice of names. Each was a sly reference to what was coming out of the test kitchen at the time of arch-rival Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Wendy’s $2 endless Frosties
Little noticed amid the hoopla over Olive Garden’s initial Never Ending Pasta Pass in 2014 was a follow-up of sorts the next year from Wendy’s: For a mere $1 donation to an orphans’ charity, the chain would provide a key tag that entitled the bearer to a free Frosty on every visit for a whole year. It was an early example of what’s now become a noticeable trend: Offering freebies over an extended period to patrons who bought what was in effect a pass.
Wendy’s has brought back the key tag in what’s become an annual promotion, at a price significantly higher than what was charged back in 2015: $2. Like Olive Garden’s pass, speculators are offering their pass on eBay for a mark up of as high as $4.
PJ’s rides Starbucks’ buzz, minus the controversy
Every year, a coffee chain unveils a limited-time holiday cup, to considerably more fanfare than a temporary container change might merit. This year, pint-sized PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans decided that it’d be that operation, Starbucks be damned.
The 84-unit chain scheduled the rollout of a holiday cup exactly one week before Starbucks pulled off its big reveal—close enough to capitalize on the hoopla over Starbucks’ much-anticipated and routinely leaked introduction, yet far enough in advance to have some solo crowing time.
Starbucks’ 2018 holiday cups proved controversial, a tradition as rock-solid as singing Christmas carols. PJ’s avoided any charges of excessive political correctness by featuring scenes of its native New Orleans on the containers.