Millions of U.S. workers call in sick on the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday. It’s so common, it has its own name: Super Sick Monday. To capitalize on all those homebodies recovering from the win (or loss), Jack in the Box partnered with DoorDash to offer the Super Jack’d Monday Box. The box, packed with two tacos, 10 chicken nuggets, an egg roll, curly fries and a small drink, sold for $6 and made that Monday a big revenue day.

That was one of many great marketing ideas shared during the Marketing Executives Group conference in Chicago, which ran just prior to the National Restaurant Association Show. Presentations inspired, informed and engaged the nearly 300 attendees over the course of the two-day program. As always, networking is one of the conference’s strongest draws and attendees are open about sharing which marketing efforts have worked well for their companies.

  • Partnering with Whole30: Briar Group has been one of Boston's premier, independently owned restaurant groups for more than 25 years. In the fall of 2018, marketing director Hannah Huke noticed that quite a few colleagues were on the Whole30 program, a 30-day nutritional reset that enables participants to understand how various foods affect their physiology. One operations manager was even a Whole30 coach who headed a local Facebook group for the program.

    Realizing Whole30 was popular in the Boston area, Huke pitched one of the company’s chefs, Sean MacAlpine, on the idea of creating a special Whole30-compliant menu at City Table, one of the 12 Briar Group concepts; he loved the idea.

    The coach-colleague put Huke in touch with Whole30’s leadership, where she found out the company has a sponsorship program designed for restaurants that want to do compliant menus. Through the sponsorship agreement, City Table can use the Whole30 logo and name, promote the tie-in through digital media assets, and provide social-media-marketed giveaways once a month for a year. “January and September are key months for Whole30 commitments, and January is typically a slower time in the restaurant industry,” Huke says. “So we launched in January and we saw a huge spike in web traffic and a double-digit lift in sales. Many evenings saw a full dining room with more than a third of the tables ordering off the Whole30 menu.”
  • Any pizza, anywhere: January was also the month Domino’s launched its Points for Pizza campaign. Designed to get guests to download the Domino’s app and sign up for the company’s loyalty program, the campaign promised a free medium, two-topping pizza for every 60 points earned, and those points were very easy to earn. All customers needed to do was download the app and take a photo of pizza — any pizza, anywhere. Every kind of pizza counted, from store-bought to appetizer-size, competitors’ pies, stuffed crust, even a stuffed toy shaped like a slice, thanks to a sophisticated artificial intelligence program design to recognize “pizza” in all its forms. The campaign created huge buzz for the pizza purveyor known for great marketing stunts. Remember “Paving for Pizza?” where Domino’s agreed to fill in pot holes?
  • Signature beverages, off-premises: With in-house and third-party delivery booming, many restaurant companies are seeing the effect on traditional beverage sales – customers often don’t order them, preferring to grab a drink at home. The exception, says Dunkin’ US’s Brandy Blackwell, director of new business, catering & delivery, are indulgent drinks. “Promote signature, indulgent beverages and make them an inexpensive add-on; those sell.” In another promotional success story, she shares that 40 percent of the restaurant company’s new-customer acquisition comes through national limited-time-offer campaigns that offer to deliver a free item. Nothing gets a buy-in faster than a free offer.

Get in on the idea sharing. The next Marketing Executives Group conference is May 13-15, 2020, just in advance of the National Restaurant Association Show, May 16-19. The MEG conference will take place in the Revel Fulton Market space with a room block reserved in The Hoxton hotel.