Typically restaurants tend to shy away from being blatantly political; however, serving a candidate a bite to eat can provide undeniable advantages. With the competitive landscape today, restaurants may want to do some campaigning of their own as a drop-in by a politico may deliver some significant unpaid media exposure resulting in driving traffic and possibly a new batch of consumers.
The politico/QSR relationship is nothing new. During President Clinton’s White House race in 1992, it became very well known that he liked to follow his morning run with a stop at McDonald’s for a coffee and chat with dine-in guests.
As a recent QSR Magazine article noted, “although McDonald’s never capitalized on Clinton’s visits, it resulted in media exposure estimated at more than $7 million and ‘indicates that it is all right to go to McDonald’s,’ according to a 1992 Advertising Age story.”
Most recently, Pizza Ranch has been the popular destination for presidential candidates traveling Iowa. Both Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota representative, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich visited Pizza Ranch outlets during the month of July. Although this emerging popularity was unsolicited, Pizza Ranch is reaping the rewards as their name, logo, signage, staffing, and customers are popping up in newspaper photos and television shots.
“These types of visits give celebrity status to the restaurant, which resonates in the small towns across Iowa where Pizza Ranch restaurants stand. As a result, Pizza Ranch gets put in a different category,” says Sherri Fishman, head of Illinois-based Fishman Public Relations, which guides the PR efforts of Pizza Ranch and many other quick serves.
So how can operators truly leverage these visits?
Lorne Fisher, head of Fish Consulting, a Florida-based PR firm that advises Dunkin’ Donuts, Popeyes and Firehouse Subs suggests that, “Operators offer the candidate the restaurant’s signature dish or a novel product the restaurant is seeking to promote.” He went on to explain that these visits, “Are not a strategy for long-term success but an opportunity to induce additional gains.”
It’s no surprise that politicos are selecting quick serves instead of trendy, pricey eateries as common stops on their campaign trail. These calculated moves are designed to suggest that the candidates are just like the rest of us and cognizant of the economic times. Whether that changes Americans’ perceptions of the candidates remains to be seen, but the impact of a politician’s visit on the restaurant is unquestionable.
Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images | Source: Laura Hadden