It’s a fine line between edgy and WTF

Photo courtesy Nando’s

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Welcome to RB’s weekly roundup of the latest developments in restaurant marketing.


In restaurant marketing, as with many things we suppose, trying to appear edgy or cool can sometimes go a bit too far.

And, whether a brand’s marketing efforts have crossed that line, is certainly up to personal interpretation.

Take, for example, the email sent to customers of the fast-casual chain Roti this week with the subject line:

“Got the balls to try our all-new spicy lamb meatballs?”

Well, that certainly got my attention.

Did it make me want to run out and try the chain’s new lamb meatballs (which Roti describes as “small, but mighty” and “bite-sized flavor bombs”)? No. Not one bit.

And then there’s the new campaign from South Africa-based chicken concept Nando’s Peri-Peri that launched Tuesday.

It skewers anti-vaxxers who don’t trust COVID vaccines, urging customers with the slogan, “Don’t be an Anti-Apper.”

The app-encouragement campaign includes social media ads and posts, in-store signs and parody videos with statements such as “I don’t want the Nando’s app on my phone and sure as hell don’t want my phone implanted with 5G” and “I ordered Nando’s directly from my phone once, but I realized no one has studied the side effects.”

The chain has a long history of social satire. In 2017, just before former Pres. Trump was inaugurated, the brand launched an “Everyone is Welcome” campaign.

“Nando’s was born in South Africa during Apartheid and we have a long and proud history of speaking out on social issues that are dear to us, including racial equality and diversity,” Sepanta Bagherpour, the chain’s chief brand officer, said in a statement. “We also believe firmly in science and are using humor to educate, not to divide.”

Edginess, it seems, can be most effective when it is employed in service of a broader mission and not simply just for shock value.

Harnessing the power of TikTok

KFC is giving away half a million dollars via TikTok in cash grants to nonprofits working to combat hunger across the country.

The quick-service chain partnered with TikTok creator Isaiah Garza on the #KentuckyFriedGivingChallenge to award $40,000 to 11 agencies. A grand-prize winner will score an extra $60,000 for creating a video that best showcases how the group helps its community.

And Denny’s turned to the wildly popular social media platform to generate LTOs. The casual-dining chain’s new “Social Stars Influenced Menu” includes menu collaborations from 24 TikTok creators.

The chain has unveiled six new dishes, including Get That Cookie Dough Pancakes and the Jala-Bac Burger that’s topped with blistered jalapeno.

Shareable meals for International Women’s Day

Noodles & Company is celebrating Tuesday’s International Women’s Day by encouraging customers to share a meal with the “current or future female leader” in their lives (while also boosting participation in its rewards program).

On March 8, all Noodles Rewards members will get a free shareable dish loaded into their account, valid only for use on that day.

“As the mother of a young daughter, many of our most important conversations happen over a meal—this is when I am lucky enough to engage in conversation about her day, her struggles, and her aspirations. These ongoing conversations bring us closer together,” Stacey Pool, chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

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