Suburban happy hour kings cultivate new customer relationship strategies

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Suburban happy hour kings cultivate new customer relationship strategies
Suburban happy hour kings cultivate new customer relationship strategies
Direct marketing plays a major role in the consumer outreach efforts of competitive brands Chili's and TGI Friday's. When consumers visit the websites of both Chili's and TGI Friday's, they're immediately greeted by offers to join the brands' e-mail clubs and loyalty programs. 

Although many casual dining restaurant chains have loyalty pro-grams, TGI Friday's “Give Me More Stripes” initiative sets it apart from competitors, say industry experts. 

The program, promoted heavily in store and on the brand's web-site, offers consumers points for every dollar spent, preview opportunities for new menu items and exclusive tastings, and special discounts and coupons. Members also get a free appetizer or dessert for signing up, and free dessert on their birthdays. The brand also gives consumers points toward free menu items for spending certain amounts of money. 

“From the loyalty perspective, there is a very clear standout with what TGI Friday's is doing with the Give Me More Stripes program,” says Kelly Hlavinka, managing partner at loyalty consultancy Colloquy. “It's a holistic program, it's very well branded, and it really reinforces the Friday's theme and the vibe that they want to associate with the restaurant. After you spend $100, you get about $8 back for dessert, and that in the world of loyalty is very generous,” Hlavinka says. “They also do some nice perks, which is very important for a younger
demographic, such as allowing them to jump the line or a free dessert. We've seen from our research that's very important.” 

Chili's is also active in the loyalty and couponing space, and the brand integrates its loyalty strategies well with its e-mail marketing initiatives, according to experts. Consumers who sign up for the e-mail club get free chips and queso at their next visit, and the brand also allows them to opt in for mobile alerts. 

Chili's also recently distributed e-mails promoting its holiday specials. The restaurant chain posted a different holiday special each day from December 6 through December 24 on its website, and it reminded consumers about the discounts using e-mail messages. Chili's also adds its brand to merchandise, which is available for purchase on the chain's website. Consumers can order food through the portal as well. 

“[Chili's is] doing things that appear to try to cultivate loyalty and get repeat visits. They have an e-mail club that gives someone who joins a free order of chips and queso, and they have promotional specials on Foursquare that they announced earlier this year,” Hlavinka says. “They have taken a very different approach in that their loyalty program is not as strong to me because it doesn't have the same holistic approach and continuity as Give Me More Stripes. It appears to be driving traffic, but I don't know how well it will drive
loyalty to Chili's.”

Neither Chili's nor TGI Friday's responded to numerous Direct Marketing News' requests for comment on this story.

Chili's, though, is ahead of TGI Friday's — and many other brands — in terms of incorporating location-based social media marketing to its promotional mix. In July, the chain began offering Foursquare members free orders of chips and salsa for checking in at Chili's locations. The program also alerted people in the vicinity of a Chili's restaurant that the giveaway was going on, helping to attract custumers to their locations. 

TGI Friday's, meanwhile, launched a Foursquare initiative in the UK to reach 18- to 35-year-olds and individual lo-cations have conducted Foursquare initiatives in the US for alcoholic beverage promotions, according to media reports. Jeff Hilimire, chief digital officer at digital agency Engauge, says Chili's is the clear leader of the two in social and mobile media. “It's not even close.” 

“The fact that Chili's has an iPhone app — and it's a pretty extensive app — shows that,” he says.

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