According to a survey taken by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the number one special occasion for dining out is one's birthday. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they dined out on their birthday, 30 percent said they dined out on their spouse's birthday and 30 percent said they dined out on a child's birthday. Many people go out for both lunch and dinner on their "special day." Birthdays topped the list above Valentine's Day and all others. Do you need another reason to start marketing to this special occasion? Whether you plan on managing your birthday program or you choose a service to do it for you, let's see how TCC manages their program.

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How can you target people to come to your restaurant on their birthday for lunch or dinner? Starting a birthday club is the answer. The trick to making a program like this work is making the offer good enough to persuade customers to come to your restaurant, according to Judd Goldfeder, president of The Customer Connection (TCC). "The strongest reason to have a birthday program is because it is the simplest and most cost-effective program to run," he says.

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Several things make a birthday club promotion viable for pizza operators. As mentioned before, it is a simple and economical means to boost sales. TCC's analysis of birthday club member dining habits before, during and after the birth month shows that most visits are incremental – they would not have occurred without having received the card. Their analysis also shows customers' visit frequencies tend to increase for months following their visit which was initiated by receiving the birthday club card offer.

happy birthday pizzaAccording to Judd, it is also a great way to build a database of your customers and strengthen the relationship you have with those who are loyal to your restaurant, along with those new customers a free meal will entice. By showing that you remembered their birthday and that you want to say "thanks" for being a customer, a relationship can be built that is sure to continue no matter what pizzeria opens for business down the road from you.

Barry Kancigor, chief financial officer for Don Jose restaurants and Ricardo's Mexican Cafes in southern California, says they have built several marketing ideas around birthday, gift card and frequent diner programs. "The programs are very reliable and dependable," Barry says. "We've grown to depend on the programs because we know (the birthday cards) go out every month." Barry says they entice customers with buy-one-get-one-free offers and see about a 30 percent redemption rate.

TCC sends pizza operators a template to get started on the registration form used to build the database. This is a camera-ready template for use in printing registration forms. The registration form asks for the customer's email address, birth date, address and family members' names and birth dates. Once this is done, you start distributing the registration questionnaires to customers and return the completed forms to TCC or any mailing company you choose.

birthday pizza TCC provides printed birthday cards or anniversary cards, which can be customized with name, logo and store location information or you can provide your own cards. TCC customers send logo, phone number, etc., and a $200 start-up fee and they design the cards and send a proof for approval.

The relative success of a birthday program is determined by your ability to maintain your database and implement and expand target marketing.

TCC uses the information gathered in the registration forms to identify prospective clients, such as neighbors or neighborhoods, and they suggest mailing programs to get these customers, too. They take zip codes where the highest number of clients are and combine them with the carrier routes to determine "Birds of a Feather" neighbors of the "best' customers creating the most responsive target.

The TCC program costs 40 cents for each TCC-supplied birthday card offer they send, or 35 cents if the client supplies the card.

One of their clients submitted 12,000 names in the first month of his birthday club promotion. Judd says the average redemption rate is 25 to 50 percent if the offer is strong, such as a free entree. He says that those ages 55 and older have a higher redemption rate than average and kids have the lowest.