Baskin Robbins 31 cent scoop night: why restaurants offer such deals

Tax freebies. Baskin Robbins 31 cent scoop night. A tough economy is pushing restaurants to step up promotions.

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A Baskin-Robbins crew member handed a Soft Serve cone to an excited Jesse Sarah Demuth in Pasadena, Calif., in this 2008 photo. On Wednesday, Baskin-Robbins stores offered 31 cent scoop night.

"Tax freebies" popped up on April 15, tax day, from the likes of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

On Wednesday, April 28, Baskin-Robbins is hosting "31 cent scoop night," where you can get up to three scoops for less than $1.

It won't stop there. Restaurants are sure to step up restaurant promotions in the run-up to Mother's Day on May 9.

That's due in part to the holiday itself, the most popular day for dining out, according to the National Restaurant Association. The free and half-price deals are also more frequent because restaurants are hurting.

"The past two- to three-year period for the restaurant industry has been one of its most challenging in many decades," says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the restaurant association, based in Washington. "In this tougher operating environment, restaurants have really turned and stepped up their promotional offerings."

The strategy is simple: Restaurants want to remain top of mind with customers. But they can't lower prices that will devalue their brand.

So instead, they offer discounts or free food for a few hours or a day. More customers come in and, the restaurant hopes, will be convinced to come again.

In Baskin-Robbins' case, the 31-cent scoop night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in selected restaurants is tied to its $100,000 donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which assists families and provides safety training.

At some locations Wednesday evening, customers will be able to donate to local firefighting charities (click here for locations).

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