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Cause for Dessert

If you’re a restaurant, even in a quick-service category, it’s hard to imagine a transactional cause marketing campaign you could launch more easily or quickly than a dessert promotion. When a customer buys a slice of cake, pie, a dish of ice cream, or some other dessert you make a donation to your cause partner.

In most cases you wouldn’t want to promote a salad or a main course. At a sit-down restaurant most customers come into your establishment to order an entrée and in many cases you probably give them a salad with the meal. So you don’t need to promote entrees.

But with an appetizer, drink or dessert promotion you could quite possibly raise the average ticket price by several dollars.

Drinks have very high margins, of course, and consequently they have often been featured in cause marketing promotions. But most of the cause marketing around mixed drinks that I’ve seen involve a custom flavor that somehow befits the cause.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It just requires the lead time to figure out what that special drink is and to stock up on the necessary inventory.

Drinks could, however, be a bad mix for certain causes.

Desserts are potentially more universal than drinks since even youngsters and teetotalers (like moi) could order one. And while there’s a handful of causes you probably couldn’t partner with… anti-obesity causes come to mind…I reckon there’s more safe ground with dessert than drink promotions.

For many of the same reasons appetizers can be a good choice for cause marketing, too.

The above ad is for a special pie benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure from Village Inn, a national chain in the United States.

Through October 31, 2011 when you buy a whole Berry Pink Pie, $1 will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The maximum donation is unstated, but the minimum is $25,000.

Village Inn has created a custom pie for the Komen promotion, but you don’t necessarily need to follow suite. You could probably something from your regular dessert menu.

Likewise, Village Inn is promoting the sales of whole pies here. But depending on your margins, chances are you could do just fine donating $1 out of $4-$7 dollar single plate of dessert.

The key in such a promotion is… well… the promotion. How are you going to tell customers and prospective customers about it?

Telling customers is easy. Brief your service staff on the promotion. You make even offer some kind of incentive for them to push the promoted dessert item. You could put it in the menu, on table tents, on internal posters, etc.

Village Inn is activating the promotion externally with this FSI (Free-Standing Insert). If you already advertise, you should add a picture of the item and a few sentences of description about the cause and the promotion. If you don’t advertise, you should certainly send out some press releases, post it to your website/Facebook (and other social media), Tweet out the daily results, maybe even do some kind of thematically appropriate publicity stunt.

Honestly, this is the closest thing to a turn-key cause marketing promotion as I can think of for a restaurant.

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