Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Friday's grabs for Obama's coattails

Subway might’ve scored a coup by signing Michael Phelps as a pitchman, but T.G.I. Friday’s figured out a way to ride the stardom of an even bigger celebrity, and for free: Barack Obama.

The granddaddy of casual dining gave a drum roll and cymbal smash today for what it’s trumpeting as the World’s Largest Inauguration Party. On Jan. 20, while the moving trucks are probably still unloading at the White House, all 930 of the worldwide chain’s units will be celebrating the change in Oval Office occupants, according to the announcement.

The best, of course, is reserved for outlets in the United States. People who can’t get to Washington for the all-night parties can raise a little whoopie throughout the month by popping in a Friday’s for a half-price appetizer—provided they spring for an entrée. “Now that’s cool!” effused Friday’s.

The pull is even stronger for members of the chain’s Give Me More Stripes frequent-guest program: A free appetizer of chips (red and white; what happened to the blue?) and dip (can you froth up Curacao?) if they stop by a unit on Jan. 20.

And anyone who takes part in the Inauguration Day festivities gets a free button. Movie fans will know that kind of Friday’s swag is sometimes known as “flair.”

But I shouldn’t pick on Friday’s. It’s actually a good idea for a promotion. Indeed, the attempt seems to be part of an emerging trend. Having trouble getting customers into your restaurants? Throw a party!

The Riese Organization, a Friday’s operator in Manhattan, plans to host one in its Tropic Zone restaurant on Monday to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition 75 years ago. The guests of honor at the Times Square soiree will be 400 bartenders, waitresses, chefs and DJs, according to the announcement.

That event comes fairly close on the heels of the New York City event on Dec. 1 to celebrate the anniversary of the Bloody Mary.

The way I see it, with careful calendar planning, I could stay drunk with a lampshade on my head until the restaurant industry rebounds.

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