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Restaurants’ Free Food And Giveaways—How It Helps

Is there ever such a thing as free lunch?

Yes, there are a lot of them in restaurants. In Atlanta alone around two months ago, restaurant diners have been tempted with a host of free food stuff, including Chick-fil-A breakfast, coffee at McDonald’s, Moe’s kids’ meals, treats at King of Pops, cookies at Ted’s Montana Grill, sandwiches at Arby’s and appetizers and starters at Marlow’s Tavern.

There was a time when Denny’s had its “Grand Slam for a Year” food contest, where each winner can order as much as 52 helpings of a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast—eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes. Fifty two servings meant a pile of pancakes and a heap of eggs, bacon and sausages that the restaurant’s chef in cool chef pants prepared, with 17,680 calories, but nobody really cared –everyone joined the contest to win it.

Alright, these aren’t literally free lunch, but you get what we mean—the free stuff the customers get from these promos are clear.

But what do the restaurants get?

Customer Traffic

Chick-fil-A’s Atlanta marketing director Robin Lomax said it’s all about keeping their regular customers happy, and winning new ones. “We expect to see improved tea revenue with our “Great Tea Giveaway” promo. Our sweet tea has been popular for some time already, with customers buying two large ones that could last them the entire day at the office—we just saw the need to offer a larger size since most of our competitors do not have the half-gallon size.”

Addressed Image Issues

For others, it’s all about image. Eric Holder from Atlanta Restaurant Marketing declared that most fast food promos—like McDonald’s on-the-house premium coffee and the free oatmeal of Chick-fil-A—is all about addressing image issues. “These restaurants are trying to talk people out of their traditional impression on fast food, trying to wake-up and light up another demographic that they have never accessed before.” Such promotions are likely to shake up the audience who already has set views about the restaurants, especially now that fast food places and their chefs in quality chef pants continuously move toward healthier menu options.

Stretched-Out Marketing Allocation

Cost-efficient advertising plays a role, too. Restaurants rely on word-of-mouth, hoping that people would get in there to avail of the free product. The cost of introducing a new product by giving giveaways is proven to be more cost-effective than the expense of restaurant advertisements. It’s a low-cost way for restaurants to stretch out their marketing dollars throughout the economic downturn.

Word Of Mouth Referrals

For Denny’s part, they hoped that the winners would bring their friends with them. “Consumers still respond to free,” said the restaurant’s vice president for marketing, John Dillon. “Contestants tend to brag about the free food contests they join, spreading the message further and easier with social media sites Twitter and Facebook. Winners also rarely dine alone, as they’re more likely to bring friends who are new to the establishment, or will pay for their own meal. “

Of the 600,000 customers who joined Denny’s food challenge, 450,000 chose to join the restaurant’s rewards program, who received regular email updates of the chain’s specials and new food menu items. Loyal customers generally springs from promotions like these.

Restaurants might appear to be the one who’s giving away some things, but that’s just on the surface. It turns out that with the right planning and implementation, they are actually the ones who stand to gain a lot.