Now more than ever, creative advertising and innovative promotions are the keys to bringing cost-conscious diners into casual-dining restaurants, according to marketing executives for chains in the segment.The obvious reward is a quick sales increase, and the longer-term benefit is an opportunity to stay top of mind with consumers so that when they become a little freer with their spending, theyll remember the restaurant that gave them something special.The Leawood, Kan.-based chain, which has more than 90 units, sent e-mails to the 350,000 consumers in its database on July 3 to promote new beverages and a vegetarian enchilada. Houlihans timed the promotion to see how it would affect sales during the normally slow Fourth of July holiday period, said vice president of marketing Jen Gulvik.The promotional material didnt even contain a price-point offer. It did show a zany character wearing a sombrero and holding portobello mushrooms for maracas. A copy block read in part, "Gas prices suck."It was more of an awareness message," Gulvik says. "I think the creative message resonated with consumers such that Houlihans was memorable and top of mind to help our typically slow July 4 weekend sales.Houlihans also hopes to increase its bar business with the return of "Mini Mondays," which offers mini burgers for $1 each. The burgers usually come in a flight of three, but when the chain unbundled them for a promotion in March, bar sales increased 22 percent year-over-year and 16 percent compared with the previous 12-week period, officials say.Although $1 burgers can be considered a value offering,. Marketing.
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