Restaurants spur PR with round of sampling

DENVER: Recent giveaways by some restaurant and coffee shop chains used the free drinks, sandwiches, and other sampling as part of their larger PR campaigns.

DENVER: Recent giveaways by some restaurant and coffee shop chains used free drinks, sandwiches, and other sampling as part of their larger PR campaigns.

Chipotle, for example, has been offering free burritos, especially at the launch of a new restaurant, dating back to the first location in Denver, said Chris Arnold, the PR director for the chain.

"In doing that, you created hundreds of ambassadors who are going to tell friends about this experience at Chipotle," he told PRWeek, though the company itself doesn't do much PR leading up to the event. "These things are driven or perpetuated really by word-of-mouth for us."

After the fact, Chipotle's PR team uses photos from such events in press materials, Arnold added.

At Starbucks, which is in the midst of a brand shake up, Lisa Passe, communications manager for the coffee chain, said free sample days are "definitely something that's complementary to what we do from a national media perspective." Starbucks recently offered visitors free cups of its new Pike Place roast, in the wake of bringing in the new brew that is featured on the chain's old logo.

Sampling, though is nothing new for its PR team.

"Sampling we have done as part of our marketing program for a number of years," Passe said.

As for PR, "We reach out to the media with news of the day, and the sampling is a part of that message," she added.

McDonald's recently offered customers free samples of its new Southern Style Chicken Biscuit and Sandwich.

"For all our sampling events, we have leveraged a fully integrated campaign to help spread the word," Heather Oldani, director of external communications for McDonald's USA, said in an email. "This has included advertising, media relations, and direct consumer engagement both online, and offline through street teams."

Sampling also gives companies an easy way to measure success by keeping track of how many samples are given away, increased awareness of the product, customer feedback, and repeat purchases, Oldani said.

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