What’s the Deal?

On a recent business trip to Newport Beach, I made time to see my old hairdresser Eddie. I hadn’t seen him since I moved away four years ago, but it was as though it had been four weeks, not four years. That day, all he could talk about was restaurants and the economy:

“Don’t people know there is a recession going on? Last week I was at Fleming’s for Happy Hour and the place was packed!”

The irony was lost on him, but not on me as he proceeded to tell me how crowded the Cheesecake Factory had also been. He was out, despite the economy, but for some reason he never imagined that his favorite haunts would be crowded. He asked me to explain it to him, and I was reminded of the saying, “There’s always room at the top for the best.”

As he was telling me about Fleming’s “Five for Six until Seven.” I had plans to meet a friend there the next night for Happy Hour. (I wanted to check out a promotional offer that I’d gotten from the GM that was burning a hole in my wallet. You know me…work, work, work.)

The “Five for Six until Seven” consists of five wines, five cocktails and five appetizers–one of which is a cheeseburger with their great onion rings as a garnish–all for $6 until 7:00 PM. I love this promotion:

♦ a big enough idea to motivate a visit

♦ simple enough to remember

♦ easy enough to talk about…it certainly worked on Eddie

♦ good enough to make you want to come back

The place was packed when I got there on a rainy Tuesday, but the experience was the best part of the promotion. As we settled into the great Fleming’s atmosphere, the service staff proceeded to give us the full Fleming’s experience (not the scaled back, I-know-these-Happy-Hour-customers-won’t-tip-very-well service you might expect). After we had eaten, my friend ordered a Grand Marnier, and it was delivered in a warm snifter. It blew him away. We both agreed that experience was as good as some of the best meals we’ve had at Fleming’s.

That’s why some places are busy even when times are tough. The Happy Hour offering may give people the permission to go to a nice place, but the staff attention to detail delivered an experience worth way more than the cost of the visit.

The night after I got back to Columbus, I met a friend for Happy Hour at a favorite German Village bar (which shall remain nameless) that was pretty empty when we got there. I overheard the guys next to us talking about a crab cake appetizer on the Happy Hour menu, so I asked the bartender about it. He brought us a menu and we proceeded to order a couple of $4 appetizers to go with our $5 cocktails. When I realized that there were no promotional materials anywhere on the bar, I asked the bartender why they didn’t promote such a great deal. His comment was, “It’s the best deal in town, but we like to keep it really limited to our regulars or our friends. I don’t know what the owner thinks, but we don’t really want a whole hullabaloo over this.” Thank goodness I’m not their marketing person, because there is nothing I like better than “a whole hullabaloo.”

I don’t know whether the choice not to promote their great Happy Hour offering was coming from the owner or the staff, but not leveraging a great promotion leaves money on the table. When you have a great deal, bring your staff in on it to not only build sales, but to build guest experiences that will engender brand loyalty that will last beyond this current economic downturn.

Until next time…I’d love to hear your thoughts.