An Applebee’s promotion in Texas has clearly struck a nerve. It’s so outlandish that some people don’t believe it’s real. With fake news being what it is today (let’s not get started on that), many sources have rushed to discredit this deal. One reporter, explains 150PR, the firm distributing the announcement, called it “… BS. There is no way I can use green stamps or a dry-cleaning coupon for up to 50% off at Applebee’s. Nice try.”

But yet, 150PR notes, it is 100 percent legit and that 67 restaurants in Austin, Dallas, and Houston have received gift cards from Kohl’s Cash to Lowe’s to competing restaurant brands.  

The deal here is that Apple Texas, a franchise partner of the largest casual dining chain in America, is accepting any and all gift cards, gift certificates, coupons, etc., at its restaurants in March. They can even be expired. And as mentioned before, they don’t even need to closely resemble a food deal.

Hand one of these to your server and you can receive up to 50 percent off food purchases. About the only restriction: don’t combine it with a current Applebee’s offer and don’t try to buy alcohol.

The notion that Applebee’s could benefit from some outside-the-box marketing isn’t a revelation. Earlier this month, parent company DineEquity announced that its CFO, Thomas W. Emrey, was stepping down to take a job at Munchkin, Inc., a leading global infant products lifestyle brand. This came as fourth quarter vitals showed a 7.2 percent drop in domestic system-wide comparable same-restaurant sales. For the whole year, that number was 5 percent. On Friday, the brand announced it named a new president in hopes of kick starting the turnaround. 

The alarming metrics speak to a wider casual dining issue of course. Mainly, how can these brands fight declining traffic in a sector that no longer owns the “let’s-have-a-night-out-market?” Not to mention, the same problem during lunch, thanks to fast casual and improving quick-service brands.

For Apple Texas, this promotion was about connecting with those fleeting community bases: “This idea started when we were discussing how we could be an even better neighbor in the communities we serve. We realized a number of people have either expired gift cards, gift certificates, or coupons, to places that they do not care to visit.  So, we had the idea to accept these at all our neighborhood Applebee’s,” says Chris Dharod, chief operating officer of Apple Texas, a subsidiary of SSCP Management, owned by Dallas businessman and philanthropist Sunil Dharod, in a statement. “We want to continue being a great neighbor with our community, we felt like this was a great idea.”

This idea of taking a gift guard from a competitor is a fresh idea. Even half price of somebody else’s business is more than zero, right? And perhaps it will lead to a second turn or a “fan for life.” Either way, it’s bold and it’s inventive. And it’s completely real. 

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Feature, Marketing & Promotions, Applebee's