The Dark Side Of Fast-Food Promotions

LOS ANGELES , May 1, 2019 () – When I was a kid (so we’re talking about 1980s and early 1990s), Burger King offered its Whopper burger sandwich for $0.99 for so long that I simply assumed that is was the regular price. Yes, the promotional posters on the windows clearly said “limited time only.” However, the price had been 99 cents for years. So forgive me if I didn’t take the posters seriously.

One day after school, however, I went to my local Burger King for a two-Whopper fill-up and found that the price of the burger rose to $1.99. When I asked why, the worker replied: “Well, the 99 cents price was for a limited time only.” When I replied that “limited time only” in this case was several years, the worker just shrugged.

I didn’t get my Whoppers that day. I didn’t have enough money. I was too young to have a credit card and debit cards were not yet en vogue.

In the world of fast food, there are limited-time offers and “limited-time offers.” The former is a special offering that lasts maybe a few weeks, a month at most. But the latter can last for months, or even years in the case of Burger King’s Whoppers.

Fast forward to this past weekend. For the past several months, Carl’s Jr. has been offering soft drinks of any size for $1. The length of time of the promotion had reached the point where customers could be forgiven for just assuming that was the regular, everyday price. But when placing my drive-thru order recently (which included a large Diet Dr Pepper), I was told the total cost was more than $2 higher than normal. Why? Because the soft drinks promotion was gone and that large soda now cost $2.99.

Here’s my point: Fast-food promotions are great, but they’re dangerous as well. They could carry on for so long that you stop thinking of them as promotions and start thinking of them as everyday life. And when everyday life suddenly changes, that can throw you for a particular loop.

Ask any 13-year-old expecting to pay 99 cents for a Whopper.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. We invite you to come take a look at our service. Call us today at 310-553-0008 and we’ll schedule you for a 15-minute demo.

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