Rafi Mohammed

Use Early Bird Specials to Motivate and Profit From Your Customers

Posted on January 28th, 2010 (0 Comments)

The New York Times recently had a front page article on the increasing popularity of early-bird specials in Florida (“Newly Frugal Generation Revives Discount Dining” by Damien Cave). The early bird (aka twilight dining, pre-theater) pricing strategy is spreading across restaurants in the sunshine state.

What’s interesting is that it’s not the notorious elderly (recall Seinfeld’s parents, who lived in Florida, regularly enjoyed the $4.95 special served between 4:30 – 6:00 at a local restaurant) who are taking advantage of these budget conscious specials. Now families, singles, and hip couples make up close to half of the early bird crowd. The key question is whether this is a temporary trend (due to the economy) or more long term (will consumers remain thrifty when the economy bounces back).


All I can say is that these specials work. Craigie on Main is one of the most popular restaurants in Cambridge – GQ Magazine recently rated it one of the best new restaurants in America. While the restaurant menu did not connect with me, many of my friends were pressing me to try it. The key motivator for my trial was a fall special in the bar area for 2 appetizers and a drink for $29 – about a 25% savings. The catch (or hurdle to jump over) is that you had to be seated in the bar between 5:30 – 6:00 on Tuesday – Thursday.

Arriving promptly at 5:30, I was pleased to see plenty of tables open. Announcing that we were there for the $29 special, the bartender shook his head and said they were not offering it anymore. Apparently the price break was so powerful that throngs of thrifty Cambridge foodies were lining up to ensure that they were seated between 5:30 – 6 to get in on the deal. The promotion was too successful.

We opted to pay full price and while I am not in the restaurant review business, my opinion is excellent “hip” drinks but the cuisine was not appealing to me (the special that evening was half a roasted pig’s head - the server noted that the meat around the jowls was especially tender).

Versioning is a key pricing strategy that every company should implement for its products and services. It provides a discount option for price sensitive customers as well as an incentive to shift customers to lower capacity times.

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