The brand hopes to encourage consumers to visit as many locations – and as many times – as possible in 2014 with an initiative on its website that extends its existing photo program.
Benihana, which calls itself "the nation's leading operator of Japanese theme and sushi restaurants," is celebrating its 50th anniversary by launching its Passport Challenge promotion.
The brand asks guests to visit as many Benihana locations as possible in 2014 and/or as many times as possible and add digital Benihana photos from each visit to a digital passport.
The promotion ties in Benihana's picture program, in which guests receive one complimentary digital photo per group per visit, says Jennifer Evans, Benihana's director of marketing.
According to Evans, the picture program is "something very unique to the restaurant brand."
"It's something we do for special celebrations like anniversaries, birthdays or a student who got an amazing grade on their report card," she says. "Within 30 seconds, we provide a digital printed photo in a frame and they can it take home."
The front of the photo has a unique ID and password that guests can enter on the Benihana website, so they can share the photo on Facebook and Twitter. With the launch of the Passport Challenge, consumers have the additional option to click on a link and add the photo to their virtual Benihana Passport to receive additional contest entries, Evans says.
"The more photos they collect and add throughout the year, the closer they come to winning the other prizes in the contest," she adds.
The guest who visits the most Benihana locations within the U.S. in 2014 wins a grand prize trip for four to Tokyo and a $1,000 Benihana gift card; the guest who visits the same Benihana location most frequently wins a trip for two to the Benihana U.S. location of their choice and a $1,000 Benihana gift card. Additional prizes are also available.
Evans did not know precisely how long the picture program has been in place, but estimated it to be about six or seven years.
"Obviously in honor of our 50th anniversary, which is what we're celebrating in 2014, we wanted to honor and recognize the guests that have made us part of their history and lives," Evans says.
The promotion is open to guests 18 and older.
Evans says the brand hasn't started a hashtag promotion tied to the Passport initiative yet because it is running an Instagram contest through the end of January and doesn't want to confuse users.
The Instagram program asks consumers to post "classic Benihana photos" in a nod to the popular #TBT or #ThrowbackThursday hashtags, Evans says.
In addition, Benihana will add a leaderboard to its website in February so fans can see how they're doing in relation to each other in the Passport Challenge, Evans says.
As of January 6, more than 1,600 consumers had signed up for the promotion, Evans says.
Benihana has 161,000 likes on Facebook, 7,600 Twitter followers and 12,000 followers on Instagram.
Benihana has 72 locations in the U.S., Evans says.
In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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