Industry News | November 2, 2010 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Starbucks Joins the Canlis Birthday Game in Seattle

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Most birthday celebrations do not last 50 days or invoke a city-wide chase. But brothers Mark and Brian Canlis, owners of Seattle restaurant Canlis, are shaking things up.

To celebrate their restaurant's 60th birthday, the brothers signed 50 original menus from 1950. They hide them in various locales throughout Seattle, send out a clue via the @Canlis Twitter account and Facebook page, and wait for the first person to locate the menu. The game continues with one menu per weekday until December 11, the restaurant's birthday.

"There's been overwhelming enthusiasm and support for the menu hunt so far," Brian Canlis says. "It is encouraging us to be more creative with the clues and hiding places."

On Monday, October 25, Leo Shklovskii, a Russian native and Yale graduate who has lived in Seattle for five years, received a tweet blast from Canlis on his cell phone: "I'm enjoying a cup of coffee with Howard Schultz at Starbucks. First person to find us and say hi wins the menu."

Shklovskii already knew which site Canlis and Starbucks CEO Schultz were sipping their coffees at. He recognized the publicity factor of the contest, and the Olive Way location, eight blocks from his residence, had just undergone a $500,000 renovation.

Shklovskii's motivation to find a menu only multiplied when, two days before he hurried to 1600 E. Olive Way, he watched the Space Needle menu get snatched right before his eyes. "(That) only made it more tantalizing," he says.

A half hour after the original tweet, Brian Canlis had yet to be found. He sent out another clue: "Still waiting. Are you all across the street at Glo's?"

Shklovskii's phone beeped with the update as he was on his way, reassuring him he was headed to the right one. "I was elated, but still nervous I wouldn't be the first," he says. "On the way there, I was constantly scanning for others who might be rushing to the Starbucks."

But Shklovskii was the first to find Canlis and Schultz – even as other participants rushed into the store on his heels. Canlis handed Shklovskii the sixth menu in the game. As Shklovskii returns to his day job as co-founder and CTO of Energy Savvy, he has until December 11 to take the menu to Canlis and dine for the prices listed on the menu. It will be Shklovskii's first time at Canlis.

While elaborate schemes may not be the norm, restaurants do work to make their birthdays meaningful to customers. Dickey's Barbecue Pit turned 69 on October 19 with $1 pulled pork sandwiches. Dunkin' Donuts, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, in March held a contest to let customers create Dunkin's next donut, while in September, art finalists competed to have their design emblazed atop a limited-edition six-count donut box.

By Sonya Chudgar