Breakfast in Middle Earth and Other Movie Tie-Ins
If you’ve ever wanted to fortify your resolve with ”seed cake french toast” or “shire sausage” before battling orcs, trolls, and dragons, Denny’s new tie-in with the upcoming Hobbit movie is for you. If you’re like everyone else, you’re probably a little puzzled about the ubiquitous chain diner’s relationship to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Movie tie-ins are nothing new, of course — Star Wars, E.T., and Jurassic Park have marketed through tie-ins with Burger King, Reese’s Pieces, and McDonald’s — but on first glance Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey seems a strange choice for Denny’s. After all, how many breakfast eaters have you seen with pointy ears?
I don’t know that I’m qualified to say whether or not movie tie-ins work for the restaurants that do them. They certainly help market the movies to unassuming fast food and diner customers, but how much benefit do they have for the restaurants that agree to do them?
Over the short term, you can see how they’d drive up a little business. The combination of new, movie-themed menu items and collectible gifts (think glasses, cups, and toys) bring in both those interested in a restaurant’s food and those who are supremely geeked-out about their entertainment franchise’s new movie. And because these deals are usually partnerships with little cost outside the food costs associated with offering new menu items, there’s often little risk to the large chain restaurants that usually do them. Plus let’s not underestimate the power of nerdiness — plenty of fans will eat food they don’t even want just to do something related to their favorite movie. Heck, I’m probably one of them. If I were back in school with my friends we’d probably head to Denny’s after a morning long run and pig out just to get our halfling on.
The truth is, most restaurants will never be in a position to do a tie-in anyway. The marketing needs of these movies match them up with national chains for a reason, so unless your visibility is as great or greater than that of the movie’s, you’re unlikely to be a good advertising match. Nonetheless, we can learn some marketing pointers from this strategy. For instance, sometimes new menu items are a draw; if you can spin them to seem exciting, limited-time, and unique, you’re likely to attract some new customers or even bring regulars in a little more often during your offer. And if your limited menu items are a hit, you can always consider adding them to your regular menu.
I guess the biggest lesson smaller restaurants can take away from the apparent success (and weirdness) of movie tie-ins like Denny’s is that a little publicity and excitement goes a long way, even if it doesn’t make any real sense. Giving people a reason to come in, with very little cost to you, is pretty much always a good idea. Make your restaurant seem exciting and active. Visibility is king.
Even if you have to resort to orcs.
I’ll be back next week with some new posts. Until then, contact us here.