How can one-time promotions drive repeat visits? By appealing to customers who are more value-conscious than price-conscious, says the head of marketing for Tupelo Honey Café.

The restaurant industry’s go-to marketing promotional idea has long been the coupon, the discount, the BOGO, the “all-you-can-eat-at-one-low-price.” But with an endless assault on the consumer over the past few years, these deals are losing their punch.

For many chains and franchises, the intent is primarily to drive volume, and undoubtedly the lure of a deal will forever appeal to price-conscious consumers. But is that a win for everyone? Or do restaurants—particularly full-service operations—need to adjust their thinking and seek out those consumers who are more value-conscious than price-conscious?

Today’s consumers have access to all the knowledge in the world, just one Google search away. They know what you and your competitors are doing, what you are cooking, what you are charging, and how your food and service are ranked on review sites. What matters to the new generation of diners is the perceived value you bring to the table—not only the food, beverage, and quality service you deliver, but the added benefit you offer that sets you apart from the competition. At Tupelo Honey Café, we’ve experienced success with several added-value ideas:

  • Perceived Value: As a consumer, what is your email address worth? Apparently, it is worth a pint glass for 14,500 diners who have been to one of several Tupelo Honey Café locations in the Southeast. In order to increase membership in our loyalty program, the Shoo Mercy Club, we offered people a free pint glass. The cost of the pint glass is much lower than any food item. It is compelling and collectible, and actually drove traffic and revenue, as people had to redeem the glass in-store. We started this idea in November 2014 and we’ve given away nearly 7,000 pint glasses since. We exceeded average redemption rates by 140 percent! Customers love the glasses, and we love having a constant reminder in their house and being able to continue to the conversation.

  • Convenience When It Matters Most: As a restaurant that often has a wait on weekends and holidays, we have started to created added-value and convenience for our customers and “open up reservations” on holiday weekends like Valentine’s Day. Pair that with a special three-course prix fixe dinner engineered to raise check averages, and we found a recipe for success. We saw same-store sales increase by 4 percent and check averages increase by 17 percent.

  • In-Store Events: In order to highlight our craft beer offering and drive sales in what is typically a slow month, we created a Tupelo Honey Beer Week in April. We brought in exclusive rare local beers, offered free limited edition pint glasses when you purchased a pint and a small plate, and created in-store “Brew and Chew” events where loyalty members could meet the local brewers, try the rare brews, and sample some of our new small plates. In most stores, small plate and alcohol sales rose 9 percent and check averages rose by 4 percent.

While we still offer discounts occasionally to award Shoo Mercy members, our approach is to add to your overall experience at Tupelo Honey rather than discounting what we believe to be a superior dining offering. We’re committed to delivering fresh, scratch-made, Southern food that pays homage to Southern food traditions from across the region—and does so with delicious creativity.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

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