The Arby’s partnership with the Detroit Red Wings has been going on for as long as Jim Arby, Chief Executive Officer of Arby Restaurant Group, can remember.
“My Dad loved watching Red Wings,” Arby told WingsNation. “When I was a kid, he’d get so excited any time one of the players scored a hat trick that he’d take me to our nearest location after the game and buy me some curly fries.”
This is how the famous promotion was born, with Arby Sr. watching the smile on junior’s face as he enjoyed his small curly fries after a Brendan Shanahan hat trick.
In the years since, Arby’s has brought smiles to the faces of kids and adults alike with their promotion that offers free curly fries any time a Red Wings player scores a hat trick.
But this year, the smiles dried up as the Red Wings started their season on a seven game losing streak. Not only were they not scoring any individual hat tricks, they could barely even put up three goals as a team.
“It was tough to watch,” said Dean Delea, an Arby’s restaurant manager in Metro Detroit. “We had people parked outside listening to the game on the radio, just waiting to pull into the drive-thru. When the final buzzer rang, they’d file out sadly one by one.”
Something had to be done, not only for the fans, but for restaurant managers sitting on surplus inventory.
“At the start of the season, we push out additional inventory to restaurants in Metro Detroit,” explains Arby. “To keep up with demand.”
Except this year, the salty curly goodness was sitting immobile in the back of Arby’s restaurants taking up freezer space. So, with the consent of their passionate CEO, the restaurant chain made a change to the promotion, offering free curly fries anytime the team scores three goals.
That’s when it all changed. In the nine games since Arby’s made the promotion change, the Red Wings scored three times in all but one of them, prompting hungry fans to rush to Arby’s restaurants all over the state of Michigan.
“I’m not going to say we had anything to do with them winning,” said Arby. “But the timing is coincidental.”
Paul Daniels is a construction business owner in the city of Detroit and a Red Wings season ticket holder. He’s taking full advantage of this latest stretch of offense.
“I haven’t paid for curly fries in weeks!” Daniels told WingsNation after the most recent Red Wings win. “It’s great. I go after the game and pick up two dozen orders for breakfast for the boys the next day. How many bosses provide breakfast for their employees? They f*ckin’ love me! Go Wings and Go Arby’s!”
Despite the positive publicity for his mediocre chain of restaurants, the 27-year-old CEO urged the Red Wings to “slow down”.
“As a lifelong Red Wings fan, I love seeing them win, but they need to slow down a little bit so that we can keep up with demand.”
Since the Wings started scoring, local restaurants quickly used up their, what they have dubbed, “hat trick inventory” and started dipping into their regular inventory. It wasn’t long before they were all out and had the popular side food on back order.
“Every time I try to place an order for more inventory I get an out of stock message,” says Delea. “So I have to offer my customers regular fries, which nobody wants. We’re Arby’s, not McDonalds! We live and die by our curly fries.”
While he enjoyed the wins at first, every third goal the Wings score in a game has been a pain in Arby’s side now.
“We’re working hard to get our popular curly fries out to every one of our restaurants in Michigan,” Arby assured. “It would be great if the Red Wings could ease up on the scoring just a little bit to help us out.”
When reached for comment, a Red Wings Communications Intern said, “While we sympathize with the current position Arby’s has found itself in, this team cannot and will not sacrifice it’s play on the ice for the sake of curly fries, no matter how salty, delicious, and satisfying they are.”
For the 27-year-old Arby, it’s an internal conflict. “My Dad started this promotion to make people happy, but he could never have predicted that this season’s team would score so much. If they keep it up, they may just run our curly fries off the menu.”
That would certainly be a shame for the long-lasting chain of restaurants because nobody goes to Arby’s for the sandwiches.