A number of restaurant chains are using various web-based games or contests to lure in and keep customers.
A few, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s and Wendy’s, have teamed with existing online gaming sites like Sims Social and Farmville to incorporate their brands into the play. Others, like Chuck E. Cheese, offer exclusive games on their own site. The pizza-and-entertainment brand offers 14 games on its website that children and parents can play.
“It’s a way for us to expand beyond our four walls into the web and extend our in-store experience,” said Cristina Hayes, a spokeswoman for Irving-based CEC Entertainment Inc., parent to the Chuck E. Cheese’s brand.
“Our customers are online,” Hayes said. “They are checking things out, and engaging them in that is a very important thing for us to do.”
Brands aimed at older audiences also offer games to engage and draw in customers in the comforts of their own homes or offices.
Sports-minded Buffalo Wild Wings of Minneapolis, Minn., offers four different games, from Joust and Arm Wrestling to Sauce Bowling and Wing Hunt, and Dave & Busters Inc. of Dallas offers four games on its website, ranging from trivia to Kitchen Kaus, where players get to run the food deliveries.
Heather Reid, a marketing executive at Houston-based Pointsmith, a point-of-purchase management and marketing company that serves the retail market, said games offer restaurants at least three advantages to driving sales and customer loyalty:
- “Millennials love gaming, so you are reaching Millennials how they want to be marketed to.”
- “Gaming allows consumers to wrap their arms around your brand, while having fun.”
-“[Gaming] allows other potential consumers to discover your brand in an unconventional method.”
Some restaurants also work with third-party gaming sites to incorporate their brands and offers with players.
Wendy’s recently debuted its new “W Burger” with coupons for free sandwiches at the Sims Social Facebook game after players watched a video, and McDonald’s planted its brand in the popular Farmville game. Also, Dunkin’ Donuts highlighted its brand in a Sims Social game.
While Chuck E. Cheese’s has offered games, some as simple as painting- and alphabet-based, for several years, the company in July 2010 began offering rewards of winning tickets. Those online winning tickets can be printed out and redeemed at a local Chuck E. Cheese’s. The tickets have a bar code printed on them so the company can track where they came from and how and where they are used.
That has helped CEC derive some return-on-investment numbers for the online games, which Reid said has been something difficult for restaurant companies to measure. Another drawback, she said, is having to make several attempts to find games that resonate with the restaurant’s demographic.
“Your brand may not be an appropriate fit for gamification,” Reid warned, and she suggested any operator “consider your audience and your objective.”
Hayes said Chuck E. Cheese’s “Ticket Blaster,” which is offered at the stores, has translated well to the Internet platform.
“Not all games give tickets,” she said. “But these allow us to ‘air’ marketing material as players are waiting for their tickets to be produced.” That captured time gives CEC a time to play a promotional ad while the tickets are being calculated.
The website games page also offers Skee Ball, which is a more adult-oriented game, so parents aren’t left out of the fun, she added.