Developing a drink promotion always means taking a risk. Will your guests take notice? Will they enjoy the signature cocktail featuring a particular brand? Will it deliver financial results? It’s even riskier to enlist a new brand for a promotional campaign, and yet fear of the unknown didn't deter the management at the Dallas, Texas-based On The Border chain from engaging with recently introduced Hotel California Tequila to help create its Baja Margarita promotion. The campaign launched in November and is running through January at four Southern California On the Border locations.
Brian Whitney, President of Hotel California Tequila, recalls an instant connection between the brand and the casual chain concept. “We ran into them while we were meeting with another tequila company,” adds On The Border Area Director Dave Ihm. “We set up a time to test out the [Hotel California] tequila in the restaurant and set up a full-on program from there.” The meeting sparked the creation of the signature drink. In fact, the Baja Margarita went from a one-month promotion to a three-month long endeavor because of it success, selling 600 drinks per location a day, with the hopes of selling 25,000 to 30,000 over its 90-day promotion. On The Border decided to run the promotion longer than the normal one month because of the commitment Hotel California made for On The Border exmployees, as well as the trip promotion running alongside the Baja Margarita.
Though Hotel California Tequila is a relatively new brand, launching in January 2010 and gaining distribution in California only a few months ago, Ihm’s fears were quelled after he and his team tried the product and saw its packaging. “It’s a good product, and we put it out there, ” Ihm says. He also notes that On The Border will carry Hotel California after the promotion runs its course because "it's a great tasting tequila."
For $7.99, patrons can sip on the Baja Margarita, made with orange juice, sour, lime, cranberry juice and Hotel California Blanco Tequila; the drink was created by David Brogan, who works with Hotel California and runs his own company Signature David, one of the nation’s leading mixology firms. Posters of the Baja Margarita adorn the walls while table tents are placed on each table. What’s more, a Hotel California event at individual restaurants occurs monthly where everything from T-shirts to silver belt buckles are raffled off for eager guests. The events generate excitement and traffic for the restaurants and awareness for the tequila brand.
To make sure guests are aware of the brand and the promotion, the staff at On The Border is constantly training and promoting; tastings and educational sessions help them understand and explain the tequila, and logoed shirts promote the brand. An incentive drives the program, as well: the two top-selling servers and the two top-selling bartenders receive gift cards each month. But the real reward is for the On The Border patrons, who can sign up to win an all expenses paid trip to Hotel California’s Mexican resort for five days and four nights. “People get excited about running this promotion because it revolves around a trip to our hotel," Whitney explains.
For Ihm, the goal of the promotion was to bring something different to On the Boarder guests, but the ultimate goal was to add 2,000 names per restaurant to the chain's e-mail list, and, he notes, they’re on track to do just that through registration for the trip giveaway. However, a great partnership also came from this, one that's driving sales at On the Border and awareness for Hotel California Tequila. “They [Hotel California] have really taken care of the staff; they provide something for us and the guests, and all those points are important to us,” Ihm says.