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Chili’s rewards consumers with free food via mobile, social campaign

April 6, 2012

A foursquare check-in at Chili's

Restaurant chain Chili’s Grill & Bar is giving diners free food when they check-in to participating restaurants.

Chili’s is using social networks such as foursquare and Facebook Places to ramp up the interactive campaign. Consumers who check-in to Chili’s locations through May 30 can receive a free appetizer.

“Chili’s strategy is about informing or reminding our guests that we have a social presence and that we understand and participate frequently in social media interaction,” said Christopher Kopenec, marketing manager for Chili’s, Dallas.

“It is also a convenience factor for digital-savvy guests who want to connect with our brand and take advantage of unique specials directly targeted toward mobile users,” he said.

Chili’s is a fast casual restaurant chain that operates 1,500 restaurants in 31 countries.

Check-in chow
According to Chili’s, the company decided to leverage mobile rewards after seeing more than 1.5 million check-ins on Facebook Places and more than one million on foursquare.

The mobile offer is good for one free appetizer that is $5 or less, and consumers can redeem the offer by showing a Chili’s employee their mobile device while at the restaurant.

In order to qualify for the free appetizer, groups of three or more must check-in to a Chili’s location together. This helps Chili’s get the word out about the promotion, as well as educate consumers about the mobile check-ins.

Desktop users can also print out a coupon to redeem the offer via Chili’s Facebook page.

Mobile eats
Chili’s has been doing a lot in the mobile space to increase its social media prescense.

For example, earlier this year Chili’s ran a mobile advertising to campaign to promote mobile ordering (see story).

The chain has also tested mobile bar codes on its menus and to help raise donation money for its charities (see story).

Since partnering with foursquare in 2010, Chili’s has run other location-specific check-in specials. The company is bolstering its social presence as well by incorporating Facebook Places into the marketing mix.

Using a reward to tie social and mobile initiatives together is a smart move for Chili’s and points to the growing need for brands to find ways to combine digital efforts that help build loyalty.

Additionally, the free appetizer makes users more inclined to check-in. In turn, giving consumers a free appetizer helps to bolster other sales for the company, including drinks and entrees.

“Chili’s believes in social media by design – meaning, we believe social media is a vital component of our business structure,” Mr. Kopenec said.

“The visibility to check-in for Chili’s is another engagement piece between us and our guests, but mobile check-ins have enough breadth behind it to grow within the casual dining and beyond the restaurant industry as a whole,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York 

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