Party Line: Want a balloon with that?

Party Line: Want a balloon with that?

By Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

Along with being our New Year’s Issue, this month we also celebrate this industry and take another look back over 25 years. The basics have stayed the same — people like to celebrate, and to celebrate they need to buy supplies — but things have also changed.

For example, when Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s restaurant near Chicago in 1955, he was better known for selling milkshake machines than burgers and fries. Eventually they came to offer a little bit of everything, as do many other chains that are trying to compete, and are known for upselling with the popular, “Do you want fries with that?”

Billions did, but now they want more.

So after witnessing diners going elsewhere for their beverages, the nation’s largest fast-food chain is now on a multibillion-dollar mission to become a serious beverage force once again. The chain has slowly been rolling out gourmet coffees and iced frappes, with smoothies now on tap.

According to a USA Today article, McDonald’s figures if it can lure folks in for a specialty beverage, it can sell them something to eat while they’re there. And it also figures that if it can get folks to come in for burgers and fries, it can similarly coax consumers to bump up their checks from soft drinks to double-the-price smoothies.

They want to make sure that nobody walks out of their restaurant without a beverage—from them, not from somewhere else. In short, McDonald’s goal is to become a beverage destination.

You may be wondering how smoothies and burgers relate to parties and profits, but the connection is there. Today’s consumer has so many more choices today than they did 25 years ago. No longer do they have to go from store to store to get balloons, plates, gift bags, etc. In most cases, they are looking to get it all in one place at one time.

The last thing you want to hear is that a customer came to you for plates, but went down the street for the rest of their supplies. By always upselling —“How many balloons do you want with that?” and “I have the perfect accessory for that costume,”—you are marketing yourself as not just a store, but a party destination.

Is your store a destination?

Until next time,


Originally posted Tuesday, Jun. 29, 2010