I’ve been up since 4am. Why? Because my local Twitter contacts were abuzz about the new Dunkin Donuts grand opening happening at 5am this morning. Since I wasn’t doing anything else at 5am, I decided to head on over and check it out, dragging my 17 year old daughter in tow.
What I encountered was a dramatic contrast to what I was expecting, and it gave me a lot of ideas about the right way and the wrong way to host a retail location grand opening. If you are opening a new brick and mortar business in the future, I believe there are some lessons to be learned. Here is my story…
About two years ago, Chick-fil-A announced a grand opening of a new store near my home. Part of the grand opening celebration was that the first 50 people would get gift certificates for 50 free combo meals, and everyone else who showed up would get prizes as well.
This was enough to convince my daughter and her friends to camp out the night before to ensure their place in line. I stopped by there late in the evening to check on them and hang out for a while, and here is what I saw:
- Hundreds of people camped out in the parking lot, some in tents, many in just sleeping bags and blankets
- Dozens of people playing Frisbee, tossing footballs, playing board games, socializing, and having a great time
- The owner of the new franchise (His name is Randy. I still remember after a few years) walking around, shaking hands and thanking everyone for coming out
- Workers from Chick-fil-A handing out food, drinks, and ice cream, making sure everyone had a good time
- Everyone having such a good time that nobody cared that the wait was 12 hours or more before the doors opened
At 6am the next day, Randy gave a quick welcome and thank you speech, opened the doors, and fed everyone in line a free breakfast.
Yes, the first 50 people did indeed get 50 combo meal vouchers.
By a quirk of fate, one of my daughters’ friends went off to serve his country in Iraq shortly after this event, so he gave me his 50 coupons. Then my daughter moved to a different state, so she gave me what was left of hers. Here I sat with nearly $500 worth of free food vouchers for a great place to eat. So what did I do?
I spread the word!
“Oh, you’ve never had Chick-fil-A, the best chicken sandwich in the world?” “Well, let me buy you lunch!”
I know I converted at least a dozen people or more to the taste-bud-delight that is a Chick-fil-A sandwich.
On future visits, the owner remembered me, and always came to say “Thanks for coming in” and “Thanks for your support”
That’s how to do a Grand Opening right. Fun. Memorable. Established the brand in the neighborhood. Brought more people in after the fact who became paying customers. That’s good marketing.
Now let’s fast-forward to today:
I heard about the Dunkin Donuts grand opening on Twitter. The owner had wisely recruited a local Twitter maven to host a “Practice run” a few days before the grand opening, announced only to people following @DDinKC on Twitter. This bit of innovative thinking had me excited to see how the grand opening would be handled.
Here is the timeline:
- 9:00pm the night before – Watching all the tweets about the opening, I saw “There will be 100 little @DunkinDonuts reasons to be among the first 100 thirsty customers :)” Hmm, maybe we should spend the night? That might be fun!
Posted that question back to @DDinKC on Twitter, and got this response. “being 1st 100 NOT worth spending nite-it’s a “little” special-so sleep!” My first thought…thanks for making sure I didn’t waste my time, but telling customers NOT to come have a good time…Not a good sign.
- 4:45am – Arrived for the 5am opening to see only a handful of people in line. My daughter and I were #8 and #9 in line.
- 4:50am – Entertained by watching through the front window as the “Cup” and “Donut” mascots get their costumes. Neither looked very happy to be there.
- 5:05am – Doors still not open. Outside temp is 40 degrees. Hot coffee would be nice about now. Maybe they could bring some out to the shivering masses? Nope.
- 5:08am – Doors open. We are each given a plastic Dunkin Donuts travel cup.
- 5:10am – At the counter. Guy in line in front of me “Do we get free coffee for our new cups?” Girl at counter, “No, you have to buy a coffee”. Woman in line in front of me “Do we get free donuts?” Girl at counter “No, sorry”
So I BOUGHT some coffee and some donuts, said hi to a few Tweeple I was meeting for the first time IRL and went home.
No, the owners didn’t make a speech thanking everyone for coming. No, they didn’t say “hello” to the customers as we were waiting, or walking in, or eating the food we had purchased. I know there are two owners of this new store from reading the press releases, but have no idea who they are.
To be fair, it seems there were additional festivities happening later at the grand opening including an appearance by baseball star George Brett, and some TV and radio media. However, that didn’t take place until 7am…two hours after the doors first opened. By then, responsible citizens like myself were back in the trenches at work. (Yes, blogging is work for me!)
The Chick-fil-A opening was a real “event”. It was fun, exciting, the owner really engaged with the customers, and the freebies were leveraged to bring new customers into the business long after the big event.
The Dunkin Donuts grand opening felt more like; “We’re open, now buy some donuts”.
After posting this blog, a few people picked it up on Twitter, including the owners of the Dunkin Donuts in question. (@DDinKC)
This is a classy way to handle less than desirable press, so I wanted to share it as part of this post:
@DDinKC: hey thanks for the feedback! Sorry to disappoint you, we did try to please today and last week too. 🙂
@FawnKey: Didn’t mean to burst your bubble on an exciting day. Just writing what I see for my readers. I wish you the best of luck!
@DDinKC: oh it’s all good! Appreciate your thoughtfulness! Maybe we’ll get another chance with you Marty 🙂