Why one restaurant gives away 6,000 free meals…

During his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, Tad Peelen of Joe’s Real BBQ and Joe’s Farm Grill talked about the dilemma of debt, the value of technology, and how to retain great people. But what he had to say about a highly unconventional yet successful way of creating word-of-mouth buzz really caught my attention…

Wil: “What kinds of marketing do you do, outside of social media?”

Tad: “Not much. We only half-jokingly tell the army of sales people who call on us that our annual advertising and marketing budget is zero.

We really run very few ads, and we really do rely heavily on word of mouth to grow our businesses. The handful of advertisements we do run are usually as a courtesy to an organization or business we really care for. That said, we spend a bunch of money on marketing. We just don’t do it in conventional ways.

We have an annual Customer Appreciation Day, when we open our doors and serve as many people as we can for free. We streamline the menu, offer canned sodas instead of fountain drinks to keep things moving along, and have served more than 6,000 free meals during the day of the promotion. Free Days around here usually mean someone is getting a free meal every six seconds we are open. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch.

We do this to thank our loyal customers for their patronage, and at the same time attract new customers. The buzz created by this annual event is pretty overwhelming. We’ve had years when every TV news channel in town picked up the story, as well as radio stations, blogs, and the social media crowd. Obviously feeding 6,000+ people isn’t cheap, but we think the investment pays off pretty quickly. It doesn’t take many converted first-timers for this approach to pay off.”

Want to learn more about the other cool, unconventional things Tad and his partners have done to make their restaurants institutions in Gilbert, AZ? Grab a copy of our book on Amazon – paperback ($14.99) or Kindle version $9.99).

Take care…