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Restaurants Retool Kids Eat Free Deals

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TooJay’s Deli is focusing on family touchpoints to drive incremental sales by offering a special Kids Eat Free deal throughout the month of August. One of the classic traffic drivers for restaurants is the Kids Eat FREE promotion. It used to be found mainly in family style restaurants such as the IHOP and Denny’s of the world, but now as guest traffic is down across all categories, you see more and more types of restaurants running a Kids Eat Free promotion. The question is, “Does it work?” The easy answer is, yes it works to drive traffic, but the better question is, “Is it right for my business?”
According to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, “Free is a very good price, and will always bring people in to get the free food. Look at the lines out the door each time a national chain has a free food giveaway promotion. The problem is, just getting people in the door no matter what it costs is not why you’re in business.”
Sure, you need customers, but you need to make a profit on those customers. Your ultimate job is to make money for yourself and your investors, not just drive guest counts. At TooJay’s kid’s age 12 and under may order one free meal from the kid’s menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites with each paid adult entrée. This special offer does not include beverages and cannot be combined with any other offers. To redeem, guests must show the required coupon.
Kid’s menu favorites include a hamburger, Jr. Tuna Melt, Chicken Salad Chop Chop, Mac & Cheese and more. All lunch and dinner meals offer a choice of two sides, including crispy carrot sticks with Ranch dressing, Mandarin oranges, chocolate pudding, red grapes, French fries and apple sauce, plus a famous TooJay’s mini black & white cookie for dessert. This offer is available for dine-in and takeout only.
TooJays
A price-based promotion like this does can build loyalty. It attracts customers who are price sensitive, and without the low-price incentive to come in, they won’t continue to keep coming. It’s much like, your coupon customers. If they have your coupon in hand this week, they’ll visit you, but if they have your competitor’s coupon in hand next week, they’ll visit them. I was involved with a chain that offered Kids Eat Free on Saturday and Sunday nights, two very slow nights for this chain. While we promoted Kids Eat Free, guest counts grew quickly, but as soon as we took it away the counts went right back down to their previous levels.
According to Johnson “the other factor to consider is the length of time you’re willing to offer this promotion. Many owners roll out the kid’s promotion as an immediate fix to low guest counts on a certain day or daypart. Once that fix starts working, the increase in guest counts is like a drug and you want more and more. If it worked for Tuesday, let’s also offer it on Thursday. And at some point, you’ve devalued your product in your customer’s eyes. Why should I pay $5 for this kid’s meal today when it’s FREE tomorrow? And if you keep the promotion in place for any length of time, your customers grow to expect it. There may be a backlash of angry customers when you decide that it’s time to stop offering the promotion.
So, should you rollout a Kids Eat FREE promotion? If you do, go into it with a plan. Know what it costs you. Know how much growth you need to offset the food costs. Prepare a marketing plan because you have to tell the world about it, otherwise you’re just giving away money to current customers. And make an exit strategy. Offer it for the summer or a certain period of time, to keep customer expectations under control, create some urgency, and keep yourself out of the situation where customers expect to have their Kids Eat Free at your restaurant forever.
Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter
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