Industry News | November 21, 2008

Stealing Holiday Business

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Throughout the economic crisis, quick-serves have come to consumer’s rescue at meal time, offering low price points and lots of choices. As the holiday season quickly approaches, chains are also looking for ways to add value to their gift card programs in hopes of snagging even more deal-hungry customers.

Retail analysts expect spending to be weaker for the holidays than last year. Almost six in 10 consumers (59 percent) expect to reduce their spending, according to a recent Deloitte survey.

But Harry Balzer, vice president of market research firm, says the unusual economic climate makes it difficult to make accurate predictions about consumers’ spending. “This is new territory for all of us,” he says.

“We know the consumer’s plans are less, but there will still be gift giving going on. And when push comes to shove, when those days come around, what will you do?”

Several quick-serves including Papa John’s, Dunkin’s Donuts, and CiCi’s Pizza, are enticing cash-strapped consumers by adding extra vale to their gift-card programs. Papa John’s is giving away free pizza, Dunkin’ Donuts, $2 for money added online to cards, and CiCi’s, a scratch-and-win ticket that could result in a $2,500 prize.

CiCi’s Director of Marketing, Sara Hundley, says offering cards in $5 increments, the cost of the company’s all-you-can-eat buffet, attracts consumers who might be turned off by chains where card programs begin at higher price points.

“The prizes, which range from $2500 cash to gasoline gift cards to great CiCi's food, [offer value] while creating bounceback visits in January,” she says.

Wingstop is also among the chains offering added value to its gift card program. For the first time in the company’s history, customers will be able to purchase gift cards at reduced rates.

“We feel everyone will be looking for extraordinary value and this adds an exceptional sweetener to our already value-priced menu,” says Andy Howard, Wingstop executive vice president of marketing.

--Blair Chancey