It’s officially summer, and for many in the restaurant industry it’s a time to tap into consumers’ warmer-weather dining mindset with promotions designed for picnics, barbecues, later-night dinners and playing outdoors.
Boston Market, Panda Express, Burger King and Sonic have all introduced limited-time offers designed to drive traffic through the warmer months. Here’s a look at their summer promotions.
Golden, Colo.-based Boston Market has officially declared itself the “Unofficial Sponsor of Summer” with a campaign that will run through August.
During the first leg, which runs through July 29, children 12 and under who visit their local Boston Market wearing a team uniform for any sport will get a free dessert with any kids’ meal purchase.
From June 25 to July 29, the chain will offer a “Summer at Its Best” sweepstakes, giving guests a chance to win a vacation for four to Maui and other prizes. Guests can enter by scanning a QR code found in every restaurant or by visiting www.bostonmarket.com.
From July 16 through July 20, in honor of the Tour de France, guests who ride their bike to a Boston Market can get a free individual meal with the purchase of another meal and drink.
In August, Boston Market is promising a special event hosted by “one of extreme sports’ most notable athletes” in a nationwide deal, but they won’t say just yet who it will be and when.
“Summer is the time to get out and get moving and Boston Market intends to provide our guests with quality meals and reasons to have fun in the months ahead,” said Sara Bittorf, chief brand officer. “As the temperatures rise, our diners — from the youngest sports fanatics to followers of the season’s most anticipated athletic events — will be rewarded with plenty of cool incentives.”
Boston Market has 476 locations nationwide.
On Friday, Panda Express is celebrating the start of summer June 20th with a freebie that highlights the chain’s extended hours through Labor Day.
Hours vary by location, but most restaurants are staying open until 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10:30 p.m. on Sunday. Typically restaurants close by 10 p.m.
The extended hours started May 23, but on June 22, Panda Express is offering a Facebook coupon for a free single serving of orange, from 9 p.m. to closing.
Panda Express has 1,500 locations in 42 states, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Sonic Corp. is also encouraging nighttime dining with half-price shakes after 8 p.m. through the summer.
Limited-time offers on Sonic’s menu include:
• A Guacamole Dog with pepper Jack cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños and onions topped with a cheese sauce on a poppy seed bun
• Chili-Cheese Fritos Coney, a grilled beef hot dog topped with warm chili, chili cheese corn chips, shredded cheddar, onions and mustard on a bun
• Island Breeze Slush, a blend of piña colada slush and real fruit in strawberry or pineapple flavors
On Facebook, Sonic is also hosting “The Great Skeedaddle” cross-country road trip, which will send its “Two Guys” ad spokesmen on a tour of restaurants around the country.
A "Skeedaddle" application will allow fans to do their own virtual tour and enter to win $5,000 toward a real-life trip.
Sonic has more than 3,500 drive-ins in 43 states.
Barbecue is the theme of Burger King’s summer limited-time offers, which include a Memphis-style pulled pork sandwich, Whoppers with regional flavors, and bacon ice cream sundaes.
The new, limited-time summer offerings include:
• A Memphis Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich with Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet n’ Spicy BBQ sauce, onions, Sweet Southern dressing and a toasted artisanal roll
• A Carolina BBQ Whopper or the Carolina BBQ Chicken sandwich, topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, Sweet Southern dressing and Bull’s-Eye Carolina-Style BBQ sauce on a sesame seed bun
• The Texas BBQ Whopper or Texas BBQ Chicken sandwich, topped with American cheese, jalapeno slices, onion, tomato, lettuce and Bulls-Eye Texas-Style BBQ sauce on an artisanal bun
The summer menu also includes frozen lemonade in lemon and strawberry flavors, sweet potato fries and a Bacon Sundae. The sundae has vanilla soft-serve topped with hot fudge and caramel sauces, as well as bacon crumbles, and is garnished with a thick-cut slab of hardwood-smoked bacon.
Burger King has more than 12,500 locations worldwide.
Editor's Note: Panda Express’ summer hours started May 23. An earlier version of this story said summer hours began June 22.