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Small Business, Restaurants and Mother Earth

Small Business, Restaurants and Mother Earth

By Rodger Roeser, CEO, The Eisen Agency

Restaurants can get mileage out of Earth Day in any number of ways. For instance, give away a branded reusable lunch bag or water bottle/mug with purchase. Advertise a special “Earth Day” menu featuring sustainable foods. Partner with an environmental group and donate trees, or perhaps hold a relevant social media contest and the winner gets a gift certificate for dinner. The ideas are seemingly endless but unless they actually fit in with the general brand of the business, these can come across as hollow at best and even hurt the brand if it’s viewed as a shameless tie in.

So, before embarking on any Earth Day tie in, take a good look at your brand of restaurant to get a better handle on what type of Earth Day promotion makes sense for the good of the brand and the good of Mother Earth. Are you a high end restaurant, or a bit of a greasy spoon? Fast casual or a sports bar, maybe even a craft brewery – all of which have differing brands and thus different experiential marketing opportunities.

If you’re hamburger joint, there is the potential of that very Earth Day brand backlash because the production of beef cattle is apparently not very Earth friendly. And, at the same time, a hamburger joint suddenly schilling for 10 percent off a salad is probably going to do more harm than good in the branding department. Last, adding in a special “tofu” burger or veggie burger for Earth Day will likely also be viewed as hollow and flat. So instead of focusing on the promotion side, focus on the experiential side. Donate the cooking oil to the biofuel company of your choice. Use 100 percent recycled napkins and paper products. Separate out food waste, compost waste and recyclable waste and not just on Earth Day, but all year long. Then, on Earth Day, celebrate what you did in the last year on coasters, posters and social media. After all, what’s more impactful and positive branding: 10 percent off a tofu burger or the fact that you saved 10 tons of food waste from going to the landfill?

Now, as far as a morning coffee spot, this one is easy. Have everyone bring in their used coffee grounds and they get a free cup of coffee. All of those coffee grounds can be donated to any number of organizations or, simply used in the landscaping beds of the establishment. Not only does it smell fantastic, it’s one of the best things you can possibly put into your plant beds and again, simply merchandise that with a little sign in the beds thanking customers for creating beautiful plants and flowers – remember, it’s always about the customer and not about you. And, these ideas are easy to promote and easy to share via social media.

Higher end restaurants can benefit from a number of experiential ideas, like a “Lights Low on Earth Day” dinner, where you have dinner by candlelight. It’s a great promotion, very romantic and hey, you’re saving energy. Many have also stopped automatically serving water and instead asking if the customer would like water. Bathroom lights and sink faucets that are motion activated are also a simple but effective way to save resources, just again, as these are experiential versus promotional, be sure to merchandise it. Put a little sign on the sink or even inside the stall – a great place where folks can read ahem, uninterrupted.

One of my favorite promotions for a higher end restaurant is to replace the centerpiece cut flowers on the tables with a live plant or seedling tree (The Arbor Day Foundation can actually help you with this and it’s cheaper than you think) that the patrons can take home after dinner. You can even get logoed plants (seriously, you can – just google it). Our firm did an amazing promotion with sunflower plants.

As sports bar is a great opportunity to get the “team” together to do something as a crew, such as a community clean up, where everyone wears their team colors and again, you merchandise this on your social media and other areas where folks can read more about the great work you do. Because, back to an earlier point, what’s better for your brand, 10 percent off Earth Day chicken wings, or the fact that your sports bar cleaned up a nasty space and turned it into a baseball field for kids.

The bottom line is to think long term about your brand and how you want to communicate your values, which is best done via experiential opportunities rather than short term, and often brand hurting promotions.

About the Author

Rodger Roeser is the founder, president and owner of one of Ohio’s largest and most award winning marketing and PR firms The Eisen Agency. From offices in Greater Cincinnati and Greater Cleveland, his firm works with SMBS across the country to help them acquire and engage more clients and customers through ingenious marketing ideas and strategic implementation. More information can be accessed at

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