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Restaurants Expect High Traffic for 4/20 Offers


Strange Donuts

A lot of hungry, funny smelling people are out and about today and restaurants are taking full advantage.

Today, of course, is April 20; the day marijuana enthusiasts celebrate their pungent herb and eat all manner of indulgent snacks.

At the 83-unit Toppers Pizza, the day's provided a nice uptick in business for nearly a decade. The company saw a bump in business every April 20, so it made it an annual promotion called Worldwide Topperstix Day, giving a deep discount on their popular side item. Mac Malchow, director of national marketing and menu innovation at the brand, said what is usually 25 percent of sales jumps to more than 50 percent throughout the system. He said it’s not just a menu mix shuffle, in many markets it can be a massive sales bump.

“When it’s early in the week, it can be over double the sales for us. When it’s on days like Friday that are usually busy, it’ll still provide a big increase in sales,” said Malchow.

Strange Donuts founder Jason Bockman said he sees an even bigger sales bump when the newly franchised three-location brand leans into the stoner holiday.  

At the original location in St. Louis, the day has become quite a busy one. This year marks the most involved daily deals in the history of the brand's April 20 events. Bockman said the brand would offer six special donuts with toppings ranging from Pop Rocks! to chocolate potato chips, cookie butter and a donut dubbed “Stoner Surprise.” All six donuts will be in a pre-packaged box for $10. He also offers an indulgent banana milkshake and special merchandise to commemorate the “high holiday.”

“The store will be flooded with people and there will be big lines, people come specifically this day for the special merchandise and special donuts,” said Bockman.

He said when he founded the brand five years ago, he did a monthly special, and the April 20 event was by far the most successful. Hence the prepackaged box, which helps speed up the long lines of … we'll call them indecisive customers that Bockman said contributes to a 600 percent sales increase.

Despite that massive surge in business, Bockman said he’s considered not doing the promotion anymore because it can be a sensitive topic. 

While Pew surveys show 61 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, it’s not exactly a family-friendly way to market a brand. And when he appears on the news for the event, it might solidify the stoner branding for more conservative customers. Ultimately, he thinks the brand will continue to do it because it’s clearly what this subset of customers wants. He said there are other events for other customers, like the family-focused National Donut Day and a wrestling event for wrestling fans.

Malchow said Toppers has typically kept direct references to marijuana out of the marketing.

“We just called it Topperstix Day, we put it on April 20. It’s always been subtle, we focus on Worldwide Topper Sticks day,” said Malchow. “It’s always been sort of a quirky joke for us, it’s just a nod.”

This year, however, the brand is being “a little less subtle than we’ve been in the past,” said Malchow (as seen in the flyer to the right).

Like Bockman, Malchow said it’s a balance of personality that resonates with core customers without annoying the rest.

“We don’t want to offend any customers, but we don’t want to water down our own fun personality,” said Malchow. “So we try to focus on what seems to be appealing to our core customers.”

And at least on April 20, they want a huge pile of bread, cheese and dipping sauce.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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