How many mozzarella sticks or boneless buffalo wings can hungry diners wolf down in one sitting? TGI Friday's is betting it's not so many that it'll lose its shirt on the new "Endless Appetizers" deal. The promotion—believed to be the first of its kind from a national restaurant chain—allows diners to have all they can eat of one of the chain's most popular starters for $10, and while diners aren't supposed to share, servers will not be strictly enforcing the rule. "At the end of the day, our servers aren't policemen," the chain's chief marketing officer tells USA Today. "We're not going to slap someone's hand if they reach over and share someone else's mozzarella sticks."
But with larger casual-dining chains struggling in the wake of the recession, the promotion tastes like desperation to some industry experts. "I hope for their sake they don't run it long-term," the director of the University of Denver's Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management tells CBS. "It's a loss-leader. They're not going to make money on it." Chains like TGI Friday's have been scrambling to offer deals that will boost traffic, he says, but "this is like the next step in the death spiral, because there's no money to be made in driving traffic that doesn't produce profit." (One customer the chain might not be pleased to see is Molly Schuyler of Nebraska, new holder of a steak-eating record.)