Chains plan Valentine's Day promos

Staff Writer
Chains plan Valentine's Day promos

Restaurant chains are using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity for quick marketing promotions to drive traffic to their regular menus.

Valentine’s Day often conjures up images of romantic, fine-dining dinner experiences for many restaurant patrons, or perhaps pink or heart-shaped menu items at some of the nation’s largest chains. But segments not often associated with the holiday are finding unique ways to boost traffic with special offerings.

On Feb. 14, Qdoba is offering customers the chance to buy one entrée and get a second entrée free for somebody else in line, if the two people share a kiss in front of the cashier. The couple could be lovers, family members or even willing strangers — and a peck on the cheek is acceptable for bashful customers who have just met

“We’re pretty excited for our ‘BOGO for a Kiss’ promotion, because it feels like Valentine’s Day, particularly in fast casual, is something that hasn’t been strongly promoted,” said Karen Guido, chief marketing officer for the nearly 600-unit Qdoba Mexican Grill. “It represented an opportunity for a holiday not traditionally spent at fast casual.”

The nationwide promotion follows a test from last Valentine’s Day in a few markets. That one-day promotion drove a double-digit increase in same-store sales for the participating restaurants, compared with the same weekday a year earlier, Guido said.

“We were blown away by how many people came in for it last year,” she said. “This year we have bigger expectations, and we’ll be ready to handle the volume. We try to look for different opportunities to engage our customers a bit more, and giving somebody a BOGO that didn’t involve a coupon was a twist on the holiday and very appealing.”

The promotion is easy to integrate into the restaurants’ daily operations as well, she added, since cashiers need only to enter a predetermined code at the point-of-sale system to redeem the offer.

The Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based chain also will try to extend the honeymoon phase of its Valentine’s Day offer by asking for customers to submit their photos of their Valentine’s Day meals at Qdoba to the brand’s national Facebook page. Doing so gives customers access to a bounce-back coupon titled “Kiss back with queso,” redeemable for a free order of chips and queso.

“We were curious last year how this would evolve,” Guido said, “but this turned out to be really fun for our customers and especially for our staff.”

Qdoba is a owned by Jack in the Box Inc.