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The Great Debates Two-for-One
Dining Programs

Original Article:

Yes Honey, There Really is an Easter Bunny
By Bob Bradley

My friend Jim is a seasoned veteran of the restaurant business and is not real crazy about spending money on advertising. Heís a big believer in the concept called "word of mouth." We sat down for a cup of coffee and he told me about an exciting marketing deal that he recently took on, and filled me in on the details. It was a popular local program designed to drive traffic into his restaurant, and the best part of all was that it would cost him zero out of pocket expenses. Jim was happy and Jim was feeling very good about himself. Jim was also in deep trouble.

The program was the ever-popular two-for-one dining book that would indeed bring a big bunch of customers to his place, and the theory was simple. These people would dine with basically one free entree and would fall in love with his place and on subsequent visits (without the coupons) they would pay the full price. They would also tell all their friends about Jimís wonderful restaurant (the much anticipated "word of mouth") and Jim would live happily ever after. Heíd probably have to expand his facility, or even open a second location to handle the influx of new people.

My first question to Jim was as follows... "Jim, why do I keep seeing signs in so many restaurants saying that they no longer honor the two-for-one program?" My second question was more to the point.. "Jim, have you taken total leave of your senses, and is it too late to cancel?" He looked at me in stunned amazement, and couldnít understand my apparent lack of enthusiasm for his marketing brilliance. OK, so whatís the problem?

The problem is found in the word pyschographics, and in a very loose translation this is a word that defines the attitudes of a particular group of buyers and is totally different than mere demographics. It means that there is an entire segment of the population who will only buy when there is a sale, and the thought of paying the full price for anything is abhorrent to them. They love two-for-ones. They also enjoy having their cocktails in the car, and their standard beverage of choice during dinner happens to be water. Donít forget to order more bread and more butter and God help you if you happen to feature a salad bar or anything else thatís basically free with the meal.

And when it comes time to leave a tip, you can be sure that they will forget about the free entree, and they will subtract the taxes and anything else that will help get them to somewhere around ten percent. Your waitstaff will absolutely love these customers. And one more thing, the next time you see them will be the next time they have another coupon -- and never until then!

But letís be fair, some of these programs actually support a charity (you might suggest the charity should be the restaurants they help put out of business). And it is true that most of my competitors use the books, and if I donít sign up, I have no shot at this business (if you donít sign-up, the real shot you have is to stay in business). But what about all the ads that include my restaurant listing (sophisticated diners avoid restaurants that take part in these embarrassing programs).

I saw Jim approximately two months after our relaxing cup of coffee. His accountant has suggested that this marketing decision will cost him an extra $50,000 per year. And Jim also found out that he mistakenly committed to a two-year program, and not the one year he thought he was doing. There has to be a better way to lose one hundred thousand dollars! By the way, Jim just sold his place and has moved to Florida.

Reader Feedback:

Page One  (bignorthsky, Bob Bradley, Chef D., Terry Jannott, Rosie Saferstein)
Page Two  (Peter Troutman, Margie Tosch, Evan Spiegler, Lorraine DiGregorio, Bill)
Page Three  (Bob McClelland, bignorthsky, Bob Bradley, LPM, Clayton M. Dover)
Page Four  (William Kovel, Maren Hickton, Jo, Howard Duncan, Dorothy)
Page Five  (Dan Greenbaum, J.C. Somerville Jr., Howard Black, Salemiv, G., Ken, Steve Waxman)

Your Turn:
If you've got something to say, we would love to hear from you. Please visit the Great Debates Feedback Page to send in your comments.

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