Chain Restaurant Branded Food Trucks May Not be That Far Fetched

When it comes to promoting a product, many marketing folks are often very myopic in what they believe will work. Instead of thinking creatively, they stick with what they have always believed will work. For conservative marketers, this usually means spending money on the same promotions they have spent money on for years and years. Taking risks with new promotional options is not something they consider, possibly because they are inherently risk-averse marketers.

Yet, spending relatively little money on non-conventional methods can often pay off. For instance, directing a small amount of promotional funds to target a younger demographic may not seem to make much sense if a company’s market is primarily middle-aged (e.g., a financial retirement company). But appealing, in a small way, to a group while they are still young could begin to build a level of brand awareness that will be with this younger group as they grow older. On the other hand, as we note in our Managing the Advertising Campaign tutorial, sometimes companies have no choice but to spend in unusual promotional methods so their message is heard above the clutter that is created by their competition.

A good example of a company experimenting with an unusual method of promotion, at least for its industry, can be seen in this story from NPR. It discusses the newest promotion from the mid-level restaurant chain Olive Garden. The company has created a number of food trucks, a common presence in the downtown streets of big cities and college campuses, to hand out free products. Is this news suggesting Olive Garden is testing out a new distribution channel for eventually selling its products? Not likely, as it appears to be more of a method for generating publicity for their restaurants.

However, it is interesting to contemplate what would happen if customer response to these trucks is overwhelmingly positive. Maybe it would encourage Olive Garden to explore this as another distribution channel. Certainly in large cities, where leasing downtown store space can be extremely expensive, having a fleet of trucks selling Olive Garden meals, albeit a limit selection, could make sense. And if it does, watch for other restaurant chains to take to the road as well.