"We saw Häagen-Dazs as a great fit for San Diego's high-end restaurants because it is made with only the finest natural ingredients, and the local scene is unique because of its many farms and availability of organic, fresh produce," said Sarah Znerold, SZPR's president.
The first program, held last August, was called "Creme de la Creme." Chefs from 10 top local restaurants were each invited to develop a creative and tasty Häagen-Dazs ice cream concoction and have it judged at an event featuring San Diego media and industry VIPs, Znerold said.
"We held the event at a luxury hotel in downtown San Diego and recruited judges such as the CEO of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau and a local dining critic," Znerold said. "One winner was selected, but each restaurant then offered the desserts on its menu for the entire month, and $1 from each dessert sale went back to a local charity. In addition, the winning chef appeared on local TV segments and in print stories that helped spread the word about the contest, the promotion and the participating restaurants."
Znerold said the "Creme de la Creme" promotion won a number of the 10 participating restaurants as regular Häagen-Dazs buyers, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. Just one month later, SZPR began working on an opportunity for Häagen-Dazs to sponsor San Diego Restaurant Week—an annual culinary event that offers diners a chance to enjoy a three-course meal for only $30 or $40 at more than 125 of the area's finest restaurants. The idea was to offer these participating restaurants free Häagen-Dazs ice cream to serve as part of their special three-course meals?with the ultimate goal of converting them to Häagen-Dazs buyers, Znerold said.
To get access to these restaurants, SZPR leveraged its relationship with the California Restaurant Association to send out direct mail and e-mail promotions, as well as to follow up with personal phone calls. In addition, Häagen-Dazs was featured as a sponsor of Restaurant Week in a variety of local ads, including print, radio and TV, Znerold said.
"SZPR also undertook a public relations campaign?including a press conference with the mayor [of San Diego]—with a goal of securing 100 million impressions," she said. "To encourage consumer involvement, Dreyer's sent out an e-mail blast informing local diners to look for Häagen-Dazs on the menu during Restaurant Week."
More than 35 signed up for the free sampling for Restaurant Week, which took place Jan. 7-12, Znerold said. "While the major sales push [is] to convert the restaurant participants into buying customers of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, four restaurants signed on even before Restaurant Week started," she said. "Overall, our goal is to close more than 50% of participating restaurants into new accounts."