While many businesses attempt to use bargains to lure in customers, one restaurant franchise believes getting into the Christmas spirit can produce the same results. The grill-buffet restaurant Golden Corral franchise has determined that adding a little holiday cheer to the outside of its restaurants is bringing new diners in the door and increasing sales.
Bob McDevitt, senior vice president of franchising for Golden Corral, said about 50 of the chain's restaurants have hung holiday lights on their buildings this winter after a test program last year produced pronounced results.
"It is just a great opportunity to increase the street presence," McDevitt told BusinessNewsDaily.
During the test program last year, six restaurants hired professional decorators to hang lights along the rooflines and trees leading up to each location. The lights were kept up from the week before Thanksgiving through the end of the year, and the restaurants saw an average 5 percent increase in sales and a 4 percent increase in meal count. All six saw an increase in sales.
McDevitt said he came up with the idea in 2011, when he was visiting a location in California that had hung lights outside. As soon as he turned onto the restaurant's street, he was struck by how great it looked.
"It was lit up like a Christmas tree," he said, noting that the lights made the restaurant stand out from the other nearby businesses.
After talking with the local franchise owner, McDevitt said he knew the concept needed to be tested elsewhere, too. "He told me that they get a lot of buzz, but mostly that their business gets better," he said.
McDevitt attributes the success of the holiday lights to the exposure it brings the restaurants on streets that are often dull in the dreary days of winter. "It dramatically enhances streets' presence and makes it seem like a happy place to be," McDevitt said.
Children are also contributing to the holiday-light program's success. "Kids love it," McDevitt said. "They see this beautifully decorated place that they are able to go into."
For other businesses considering lights as an enticement, McDevitt suggests letting an expert handle the decorating. The several-thousand-dollar investment in a professional job, he said, is worth it.
"You can't just hang a string of lights from the downspout and expect business to go up," McDevitt said. "It has to look great."
He also said businesses need to have the lights up long enough to make a difference. He suggests starting at least a week or two before Thanksgiving and letting it run through the end of the year. "You need to give it enough time to get a payback on it," he said.
Finally, he said multicolored lights seem to make more of a difference than white ones. In the program's test last year, the restaurants with multicolored lights outperformed those that had hung only white lights.
Founded in 1973, Golden Corral has nearly 500 restaurants operating in 40 different states.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.