Known for its clever attention-grabbing stunts, Smith & Wollensky is at it again – this time, offering to change the name of one of its restaurants to salute devoted customers.
The company – Fourth Wall Restaurants and the restaurant – the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan. Each day from October 3rd through the 31st, a faithful customer of Smith & Wollensky will see his or her name replace the “Smith” on the brand trappings of the restaurant including signs, awnings, matchbooks, cocktail napkins and waiters’ jackets.
The promotion is airing with the following description: “Pledge allegiance to us and we’ll change our name to yours.” Information can be found on the restaurant’s Web site, smithandwollenskynyc.com.
Visitors to the site are directed to a section labeled “pledge” where they are asked to avow their fealty to the vittles dished up by Smith & Wollensky at Third Avenue and 49th Street.
The pledge is a list of tongue-in-cheek promises like “Smith & Wollensky is MY steakhouse.” “I will have no other.” and “I will not go to Del Frisco’s.”
Those who wish to take the pledge are asked to hit a button reading, “Commit and make a reservation.” The restaurant will then compile a list of names of customers who take the pledge and reserve a table for sometime in October.
From those names, 29 will be randomly drawn to replace the “Smith” in the restaurant’s name from October 3rd through 31st.
“If your name is Smith,” the small print reads, puckishly, “congratulations! You’ve already won.”
The promotion is the most recent in a skein of stunts from Fourth Wall, all created by an agency in New York named Walrus.
For instance, last year there was a “stock for steak” promotion for Smith & Wollensky that involved accepting stock certificates in exchange for meals.
And in 2009, another Fourth Wall eatery, Maloney & Porcelli, offered a promotion called “expense a steak,” centered on an online tool that generated fake expense receipts for would-be dodgy diners. (The Web site for that promotion, expenseasteak.com, is still live.)
There can be a fine line between a stunt that is applauded and generates publicity and one that is dismissed as silly.
The promotions for Fourth Wall “have always pushed the envelope,” Frances Webster, owner and managing director of Walrus, said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“There is a line,” she added, “but I don’t think we crossed it.”
Offbeat promotions are required, Ms. Webster said, because “competition is fierce” in the steakhouse category in New York. As a result, she added, “you’ve got to do stuff to stand out.”
Why is “Smith” being singled out for temporary banishment rather than “Wollensky”?
The first name in a two-name brand is “easier to replace,” Ms. Webster said, and the Wollensky part of the name is “well-known” compared with the generic Smith.
Also, having the customer’s surname first in the name of the renamed restaurant is “more attention-grabbing,” she added.
Source: The New York Times