Chili’s’ May 10 national coupon promotion offering a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entree sent the chain’s perception soaring among parents with kids under 18.

The promotion doubled Chili’s BrandIndex Buzz score since May 10 and gave the brand its best score in this demo – 33 – for 2011 so far.

Chili’s was not the only casual-dining brand running promotions during this time. Applebee’s, which had been tracking in the single-digit range, began climbing at the end of April, propelled by the introduction of two new Sizzling Entrees, Sizzling Smokehouse Chicken Stack, and Sizzling Cajun Steak and Shrimp. That took the company's score to 19.2 on May 5.

Then on May 9, the day before Chili’s had its Kids Eat Free Day, Applebee’s launched its “Girls Night Out” customized invitation on its Facebook fan page, which kicked its buzz score all the way up to its current 31.5 score.

Another mainstay in the casual-dining segment, TGI Friday’s, saw similar Buzz improvements following heavy product placement in the trailer for the new Kevin James talking animal comedy, Zookeeper.

The various promotions by the big three casual-dining competitors helped to improve the buzz score average for the casual-dining sector. Around the time Chili’s and Applebee’s announced their promotions, the buzz score for the sector also nearly doubled, moving from 6.2 on May 10 to its current 11.3 standing.

All casual-dining brands were measured using YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score, which asks respondents: "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?" The results were then filtered for parents with children under 18.

Buzz Scores: US adults with children under 18 years
Buzz Scores Casual Dining
Industry News, Marketing & Promotions, Applebee's, Chili's, T.G.I. Friday's