Restaurants have begun fighting back against the recession and in many cases are using economic-recovery terminology against it. Case in point: McDonald’s new radio and TV campaign touting its Appetite Stimulus Package, an umbrella term for all its under-$5 meal options.
In one new radio commercial, McDonald’s also tosses in some Obama-campaign jargon, telling consumers they can “walk in with $5 and walk out with a full meal plus some change you can believe in.” Other Appetite Stimulus radio spots back the chain’s “breakfast bailout” deals, such as the choice of any two breakfast sandwiches for prices ranging from $3 to $3.30, depending on the market.
Economic forecasts haven’t been encouraging for restaurants. The NPD Group says industry customer traffic was down 1% in 2008 and likely won’t do even that well this year. And recent Harris Poll research finds consumers saying they intend to further cut back dining-out spending. It has taken a few months for burger chains and others to retool their marketing to reflect the new economic realities, but a string of recession-themed campaigns has begun. Among them:
• Columbia Sussex Corp., which operates 72 hotels (38 of them Marriott brands), is promoting its own version of the government’s TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program). Columbia Sussex’s hotel restaurants have their own TARP (Total Appetite Relief Plan) menus with comfort-food entrees such as Baked Stuffed Pork Chops priced between $10.99 and $12.99.
• In Portland, Ore., West Cafe offers a Bailout Menu (extended through the Obama administration’s first 100 days) with a variety of $10 entrees such as a Grilled Turkey Reuben with mashed potatoes. Similar restaurant promotions can be found in every market.
• The Colorado Restaurant Association is spending $170,000 on an multimedia campaign in that state themed “Fork the Recession.” The campaign promotes not just dining out but the economic advantages for the state ($1.30 returned in spending on other industries for every consumer dollar spent in restaurants) of restaurant patronage.
• Other chain recession-jargon marketing efforts include KFC’s discounted Bailout Bucket and Domino’s Pizza’s Big Taste Bailout (although the ease with which CEO David Brandon hands his too-shiny suit jacket to an underling undercuts the populism of that effort).