Restaurants tackle the month of ‘no’

Marketing Bites: It’s January, a.k.a Dry January, Veganuary, Resolution Season, and restaurants are looking for ways to get virtuous consumers to keep spending money.
Restaurants want consumers to say "yes" during the month of "no." / Photo: Shutterstock
Marketing Bites

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot riding on January. And it seems to intensify every year as “new year, new me” messaging ramps up.

January is the month we give up booze (Dry January!), the month we eschew animal products (Veganuary!), the month we resolve to do all sorts of things that likely won’t stick once the calendar page flips.

It’s also, historically, a quiet time in the restaurant industry following six weeks of holiday parties.

So, restaurant operators are once again getting creative, looking to spur consumers to say “yes” during a month of “no.” Some notable examples:

  • Starting Saturday, diners at Uno Pizzeria & Grill can swap in Ritual Zero Proof spirit alternative to create a number of alcohol-free cocktails, including a non-alcoholic Margarita, Hurricane, Old Fashioned and Peach Mule.
  • QDOBA added five Post-Workout Bowls to its digital menu, targeting those looking to boost their protein and veggie intake.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill is also looking to capitalize on New Year’s exercisers, partnering with digital athletic community app Strava to direct runners and walkers to a convenient Chipotle for a post-workout meal.
  • Fast-casual chain Just Salad joined forces with vegan fine-dining chef Amanda Cohen of New York City’s Michelin-starred Dirt Candy restaurant to create the Dirt Candy Salad for Veganuary packed with romaine and arugula, organic sesame tofu, sliced cucumber, shaved broccoli, Tajin-spiced pumpkin seeds, sweet pepperoncini and buttery Castelvetrano olives before being tossed with house-made creamy vegan ranch, a blend of plant-based mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, minced garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and seasonings.


A loyalty program re-imagined

Marlow’s Tavern, with 18 casual-dining restaurants in Florida and Georgia, recently revamped its loyalty program, rewarding diners for both the number of visits and the dollars they spend.

The Insider Program incentivizes visits through a tiered offering. Spend $500 and get a Marlow’s mug; $1,000 to earn a swag bag; $2,500 for a Skip the Wait card, set of glassware and bottle of wine or spirits; and $5,000 for a Skip the Wait card, 10% off every visit and a party for up to eight people at Marlow’s.

After four visits, guests will earn a free entrée (up to $20) on their next trip to the restaurant. After signing up online or via the Marlow’s Tavern app, Insiders will also gain access to special offers and events.

Marlow’s Tavern was co-founded by CEO John C. Metz and opened its first restaurant in 2004 in Alpharetta, Ga.


My colleague Reyna Estrada took a look back at restaurant marketing in 2023. Hint: Nostalgia was a big deal. That’s a trend I bet we see more of in 2024.

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