The newest marketing trick: Pricing from the wayback machine

Marketing Bites: Chains go back to the future on menu prices despite inflation, Dave & Buster’s celebrates the indoors and more marketing news of the week.
Price drop
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Marketing Bites

Welcome to RB’s weekly roundup of the latest developments in restaurant marketing.

I talked this week with Micha Magid, CEO of 13-unit limited-service barbecue chain Mighty Quinn’s, whose brand is doing something unusual.

After seeing his protein costs begin to dip, Magid instituted a 9% price decrease on two of the concept’s most popular meat samplers.

The day after that chat, Italian chain Bertucci’s said it would be rolling back prices, sometimes by as much as a 75%, on a curated menu that celebrates the brand’s birth in the 1980s.

Prices range from $3.25 to $6 for 10 items, including appetizers, pizzas and pastas, Bertucci’s said. The promo is only available July 6-7 and July 13-14 for dine-in.

“These are challenging times for so many,” Bertucci’s owner Robert Earl said in a press release. “And it was important for the Bertucci’s family to do something to offer a bit of relief—and this throwback menu should help.”

And Red Robin this week announced a $10 limited-time deal that includes a hamburger, unlimited fries and bottomless drink, saying it wanted to provide diners with an inexpensive option amid soaring costs of everyday items.

Obviously, value plays in the restaurant industry are nothing new. Wendy’s debuted its 99-cent menu in 1989 (about a month before the fall of the Berlin Wall, for those history buffs out there).

But I expect we’ll see more of these aggressive price drops and rollbacks in the months to come. Why? Quarter after quarter of price hikes appears to finally be dinging traffic, with consumers saying they’re being forced to cut back and trade down to lower-priced items.

Whether the recent menu price decreases are limited-time marketing gimmicks or permanent cuts, though, remains to be seen.

A pandemic milestone?

For more than two years now, restaurants have trumpeted outdoor dining, curbside pickup, third-party delivery and more COVID-safe ways to stay in business and calm customer fears.

So, Dave & Buster’s new national ad campaign, calling for a summer celebration in the “great indoors,” surprised my pandemic-weary ears.

In one spot, a middle-aged dad appears to be taking his teen son fishing. They instead pull up to a Dave & Buster’s.

“Outside sucks,” Dad says. “You’ve got murder hornets, quicksand, bears and sharks. But in here, it’s perfect.”

The eatertainment chain, which just acquired food-and-games concept Main Event, is heralding its 10 new games and seven new menu items. It reported a few weeks ago that its same-store sales are up nearly 11% over 2019, so the ads appear to be playing to an audience of folks who are very much done with being cooped-up by COVID.

Big win for Thighstop

Wingstop rolled out its virtual brand, Thighstop, a year ago. And now the marketing campaign around the chicken thigh concept (which netted 6.5 billion—with a “b!”—earned impressions, according to the chain) is getting a major accolade. Earlier this month, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity awarded Thighstop’s marketing with its Grand Prix award, the highest honor in the Creative Commerce category. Leo Burnett Chicago was responsible for the campaign.


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