Restaurant Promo FAILS

Dear Restaurants,


If you’re gonna do a promo, do it right.

XO,
Albany Jane

Let me elaborate. Some restaurants do promos. Some don’t. Some to promos really well. Others… not so much.

I really dislike crappy restaurant promos. A lot of the restaurant.com coupons are just promos for restaurants. The restaurants usually don’t get any of the money you pay for the coupon. Restaurant.com gets that little sum. And the restaurants eat what they lose in the hopes they’ll gain a new customer (who won’t use restaurant.com coupons for every visit). That’s why you have coupons like La Fiesta‘s for $50 on sale for $25. With the caveat that you have to buy $100 of food. La Fiesta isn’t getting the $25 you’re paying on restaurant.com. So their way of recouping some amount of money is to force you to buy $100 of food in the small print so they’ll at least get $50 in sales. However, from a consumer point of view, you’re paying $25, and then another $50, so you’re basically paying to get 25% off of your total bill.


Personally, I don’t really like how that works. It’s less money for the restaurant overall. If you want a promo, offer a 25% off printable coupon and sent it to Steve. He’s got enough exposure in the region (i.e. FREE ADVERTISING) to get the word out so you’re not paying restaurant.com to lose 50% on a sale that the customer’s only getting 25% off of.

If you’re running a promo, make sure it’s a desirable one. I’m not going to run out to a restaurant that’s offering me a free salad with purchase of two entrees and two appetizers.

I recently got a rather confusing coupon/promo from a local restaurant. It’s a good learning experience for other restaurants.

This promo came with a long-winded letter that was basically a “Happy Birthday, we are sending you something”. It’s a nice gesture, but there were a few things that made it flop:

1) It was sent generically to “customer”. If you’re going to bother to send something out to someone for their birthday and you have their name and address, do a mail merge from Excel to Word to make their name pop up. Customers appreciate these little touches. (If you need help, email me. I’m an excel nerd)

2) Make sure you send it in the right month. If you just send them out randomly, make sure they’re good for an entire year.
I received this coupon in the middle of a month that was not my birthday. The coupon was redeemable only for a person with their birthday in that month, on their birthday, and expired 10 days after I received it. Which basically meant I couldn’t use it. All this does is make me think you randomly picked my name out of a hat and don’t pay very much attention to details like… numbers. Plus, if the birthday was at the beginning of the month, by the time it reached the customer, it was already expired for use.

3) KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! (Sorry, I know you’re not stupid) Customer’s don’t need a longwinded letter wishing them a convoluted “Happy Birthday”. Really. All you have to type is the equivalent of “We LOVE YOU/ YOU ARE AWESOME! Happy Birthday, here’s something on us!”. The more you write, the higher the potential for confusion gets.

4) If you’re going to send a coupon, make it a good one. Especially for customers you see fairly regularly. Or even sporadically, but recognize. It makes them feel valued. A coupon that gives you one free dessert or app with a requirement of three entree purchases isn’t much of an incentive. What it comes off as is: “I would like you to spend a lot of money here in the hopes that a small free thing will make it worth your while,”.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good aim of owning a restaurant. Give the customer some little low-margin items that make them feel valued, at little cost to yourself. But don’t nickel and dime your customers. One of my fave local restaurants will give me a little snackytizer when I sit down. It’s a little gesture that makes me feel welcomed, but not so much that it would make me uncomfortable. It’s like when you go to a bar with popcorn – you think “Ohh, snacky! Now let me get some drinks.”
Wolff’s and Bombers have a great business model: Free drink on your birthday. You’re going to bring friends, and they’re going to spend money on their own food/drinks. And as the birthday person, you’re all like “Wolff’s is AWESOME for giving me a free boot of beer on my birthday!”

Does this make sense?

Look, this is just one customer’s perspective, take it as what you will. I’m sure there are customers that are totally willing to scam anything free. I’m more of a customer that’s like “Hmm, they’re giving me something for free. That’s nice. I like that. They are nice. I want to buy something to support these nice people.” Maybe it’s guilt. I like to think that it’s seeing genuinely positive attitudes of businesses in the area.

2 comments
  1. B said:

    However, from a consumer point of view, you're paying $25, and then another $50, so you're basically paying to get 25% off of your total bill.
    Personally, I don't really like how that works. It's less money for the restaurant overall. If you want a promo, offer a 25% off printable coupon and sent it to Steve.

    Except that with a 25% off coupon, enough people will come in and spend $50 or less to make it a real losing proposition for the restaurant. Remember that most of their costs are fixed, the cost of the actual food is onlya small part of the equation, so 25% off a $100 table hurts a lot less than 25% off $30.

    In either case they're losing money. You know how thin margins are in that industry.

    A coupon that gives you one free dessert or app with a requirement of three entree purchases isn't much of an incentive.

    Is that a real coupon? I've seen fee dessert with purchase of an entree but yeah, that is a bit over the top.

    Wolff's and Bombers have a great business model: Free drink on your birthday. You're going to bring friends, and they're going to spend money on their own food/drinks.

    There's a minimum purchase requirement for both of those, though.

    Totally agree on the birthday postcard coupons. I've gotten them once in a while out of the blue, it's not a great message.

    In the end, there's only so much a place can give away for free, because free means they're losing money. Once people get something for nothing once, they expect it all the time, and it's pretty unlikely they'll stop abck to pay full price; if it's the first visit, the value has already been established in their mind, and they'll balk at paying more (generally). Often, a restaurant doing one of these groupon or whatever deals is a sign of the beginning of the end.

  2. Nicole said:

    Sushi X and Lounge and Mr. Fugi are great about making you feel appreciated!

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