Several restaurant chains are celebrating key brand birthdays this year, but they are not planning gifts of silver, ruby or diamond, as is customary for a 25th, 40th or 60th anniversary. They are celebrating with their menus.
Eau Claire, Wis.-based Erbert & Gerbert’s turned back the clock Wednesday for its Founder’s Day promotion, selling its Classic and Specialty sandwiches for $2.25 and $3.25, respectively, the same prices the sandwiches cost when the 63-unit chain opened in 1988. A third menu tier of five signature subs was sold at regular full prices.
Director of marketing Chuck Schwalbe remarked in a statement that Erbert & Gerbert’s wanted to reward its loyal customers for their part in helping the chain reach its “huge milestone” of 25 years open.
“What better way to kick off 2013 and show our customers we care than rolling the prices on our most popular sandwiches back to the day we started?” Schwalbe said.
Bringing back prices from 1953 was not a realistic option for Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s, but the 1,680-unit family-dining chain still wanted to celebrate its 60th anniversary with an homage to its founding values, said John Dillon, vice president of marketing and product development.
“What we’re wrapping in this year is everything we were founded on as an American diner,” Dillon said. “There are quotes from our founder, Harold Butler, about serving a good cup of coffee, quality food, and at a good value. That’s all still very important today to our guests.”
This month the brand introduced three new coffee blends and a limited-time Complete Skillet Meals menu, as well as additions to the core menu and the popular $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu.
The coffee program took about two years of research and development to be completed, but Denny’s 60th anniversary was not a deadline for the beverages’ rollout, Dillon said. “We saw the anniversary on our scope for quite a while, but in no way did we say everything had to launch by the 60th,” he said. “We had to get these coffee blends right. The two years just so happened to finish when we were able to launch the anniversary, which made even more sense.”
The improvements to the core menu and $2 $4 $6 $8, as well as the launch of Complete Skillets, also were developed without that end date in mind he said. The guiding principle behind those was Denny’s heritage of “abundant value,” he said.
“That really celebrates our heritage in value and as a diner,” Dillon said, “but redefines it to the needs and wants of guests today.”
Bolstering brand equity, innovation
Madison Heights, Mich.-based Hungry Howie’s also kept its longtime brand equity in mind when formulating this year’s promotion to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The chain of more than 500 locations has differentiated itself for decades with its flavored pizza crusts, vice president of strategic marketing Rob Elliott said, and this year will expand upon that advantage with one of 12 new flavored crusts offered each month this year.
January’s promotional crust flavor is “buttery Cajun,” Elliott said, adding that other flavors will include cheese puff, spicy sesame, Asiago and cheesy garlic. Hungry Howie’s will still offer its eight standard crust flavors all year as well.
“Defending our flavored-crust positioning like this brings news value, which always works for us from an advertising perspective,” he said. “We hope new people try the new flavors and come back more often.”
While the new flavors are offered only for a limited time this year, Hungry Howie’s may add one of the new crusts to the menu permanently. “Product innovation is important for a progressive chain,” Elliott said. “We’ve stood the test of time, but I like that we’re pushing for more flavor mastery.”
“Product innovation is key to our continued success,” echoed Bill Dunn, chief operating officer of Lancaster, Pa.-based Auntie Anne’s, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on Feb. 2.
The 1,325-unit chain will hold a “Sampling Saturday” event that day and the next three Saturdays to promote its new Honey Whole Grain Pretzel. The item is available as a soft pretzel, snack-sized pretzel bites, or as a pretzel dog.
The Honey Whole Grain Pretzel importantly hit on a trend for more healthful items, Dunn said, meaning it likely would have staying power beyond this year’s promotional tie-in with the 25th anniversary. “We identified that whole grains are something consumers look for, and we worked closely with our franchise partners to come up with this,” he said. “The timing happened to be around the 25th birthday, but it wasn’t something we said we wanted just for the anniversary.”
But a major sweepstakes giving away $25,000 as a grand prize, as well as prizes like $25 gift cards, an iPad Mini and free Coca-Cola beverages for a year, would be another 25-theme effort to drive home the anniversary, he said.
“Among our founding principles 25 years ago were always finding opportunities to give back,” Dunn said. “By incorporating this sweepstakes, it gives a number folks a chance to participate and for a guest to potentially win $25,000 — that’s a lot of money and could make a significant difference in someone’s life.”
Contact Mark Brandau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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