UKHospitality’s 2019 Summer Conference is taking place in London today, focusing on how the industry has the ability to ‘reboot’ Britain. The event brings together the hospitality and leisure market to chart the central role the sector will play in the future of the UK.
With a large number of exciting bars and restaurants set to open in Birmingham this year, we couldn’t help but start to feel a bit nostalgic and remember our campaigns for The Alchemist back in 2016 and The Canal House in 2017.
For The Alchemist’s campaign, a see-through Perspex box was built next to the Bullring Bull to directly engage with consumers. Passers-by saw two ‘mad scientists’ concocting dry ice based cocktails with plenty of theatre and drama, which proved to be very popular. Big Cat ran another stunt for the launch of The Canal House, where attendees were transported to the pub on a barge, sampling ales along the way.
This got us thinking about our favourite PR stunts from the hospitality industry, so we’ve compiled a list of our top five below:
Greggs’ undercover appearance at the Foodies Festival
Greggs has really been in the limelight over the past few months and here at Big Cat, we have all been huge fans of their recent PR stunts. Another one that springs to mind is when the nation’s favourite bakery went undercover as ‘Gregory and Gregory’ at the Foodies Festival in London last year, with a new logo and polished signage. The stunt was used to promote their new summer menu, which included a feta, beetroot and grain salad and a vegan bean wrap. It proved hugely successful and prompted fantastic comments from unsuspecting Greggs fans, such as ‘the avocado is so au fait at the moment, it definitely pops’, and completely changed foodies’ perceptions of the brand.
McDonald’s VIP experience
In a stunt comparable to Greggs’ luxurious overhaul, McDonald’s launched a luxury restaurant at its High Street Kensington branch in August 2018. In a stunt to promote the fast food chain’s new Signature Collection, customers were able to reserve a table that was surrounded with its own velvet curtain, before sitting back and enjoying music from a string quartet and table service from a white-gloved butler. As a restaurant that’s not particularly associated with high-end luxury, this dramatic and luxurious one-off overhaul certainly got plenty of people talking.
Uber’s ice cream delivery
The original campaign was launched in America in 2012 and was rolled out across seven cities in celebration of National Ice Cream Month, where users could request door-to-door ice cream delivery. The summer campaign reached the UK in August 2016 as a way for Uber to promote its new UberEATS app, which was launched two months earlier. For one day only, Uber delivered ice creams to customers in 17 UK cities including London, Manchester and Edinburgh. Thrilled customers uploaded their ice cream photos on Instagram, supplying Uber with free social media promotion – win-win!
Deliveroo’s meat trifle
Whilst everyone remembers that Friend’s episode where Rachel concocted her meat trifle after her cookery book’s pages got stuck together, Deliveroo went one step further by actually creating the infamous dish. Last year, the food delivery service made the trifle – custard, beef and all (although don’t worry, a vegetarian tofu option was also available) – to mark the anniversary of the final Friends episode, which aired on 6th May 2004. Deliveroo launched the special Regina Phalange pop-up restaurant on a Friday at 9pm, which cleverly coincided with Friends’ traditional UK time slot to appeal to the sitcom’s huge fanbase.
Burger King’s Bullying Jr. campaign
In 2017, Burger King spoke out about bullying with a hard-hitting campaign for National Bullying Prevention Month. The fast-food chain ran a Bullying Jr. experiment; young actors bullied a High School Jr. while Burger King employees ‘bullied’ (smashed) a Whopper Jr., in order to see which action received more complaints from real customers. The experiment returned shocking results; 95% of customers reported the bullied Whopper Jr. whilst only 12% stood up for the High School Jr. Burger King linked the anti-bullying cause to its own brand values, commenting that ‘the BURGER KING® brand is known for putting the crown on everyone’s head and allowing people to have it their way. Bullying is the exact opposite of that’. This campaign was shared far and wide on social media because of the stunt’s hard-hitting message.
It’s been interesting to see that our favourite stunts from the hospitality industry have all come from fast-food restaurants and delivery services. Perhaps other higher-end restaurants and pubs should start to follow their example in order to directly engage with consumers…