Why Most Promotions Fail
Most restaurant owners have tried running a promotion at some point.
The process often looks like this:
- Create a discount.
- Highlight the discount in the restaurant and online.
- Run the offer for a while.
- Wonder if it worked.
There are some major problems with this process:
- There is often no strategy behind the promotional offer.
- The offer is not sent to the right people and places.
- There is no fixed time window for running the promotion as a test.
- There is no system to track and measure advertising results.
There are several ways to solve these problems, but to give you an idea, here's one type of successful advertising campaign we run with many of our Owner.com restaurant partners:
- Create a limited time offer for each customer based on order history.
- Send them an SMS or email with the offer details.
- Send a follow-up message the next day.
- Track who's redeeming these offers online and offline.
The Owner.com platform does all of these things automatically through our software, but you can also do it manually.
It is important that at the end of this campaign you know exactly how successful your promotion was.
- Did your customers spend more than usual?
- Have your regular customers brought in new customers?
- Was the campaign profitable despite the discounts?
These are the types of things you should evaluate when running a promotion.
When done right, great restaurant promotions will get people in the door AND keep them coming back.
It takes all of the hard work you already put into your restaurant business - all that branding, marketing, customer service, menu optimization, etc. - and makes it significantly more profitable.
We have seen manyour Owner.com restaurant partnersDouble your monthly revenue within a year by adding the right advertising strategies.
If you're willing to experiment with some of these ideas, test their effectiveness, and then double down on what works, you could see some incredible growth numbers over the next 12 months.
Viral advertising ideas for restaurants
The goal of a restaurant promotion is to attract attention.
Most of the ideas in this guide focus on taking simple actions that lead to modest increases in attention. Many can be run repeatedly and take minutes to set up.
In this section, however, we're swinging for the fences. These viral advertising ideas require a little more creativity, time or investment. These are things that most restaurants are not willing to do, and hence they have the potential to lead to massive growth for your restaurant business.
1. Threaten to burn your customers' mouths
Did you know that sometimes threatening your customers can be really profitable?
Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.
In 2012, pizza chain Hell Pizza received international media coverage for launching the "Pizza Roulette" challenge, where customers could request that 2 drops of Ghost Pepper Chili Sauce be added to a slice of their pizza.
Hell Pizza had its biggest sales day ever during this promotional event and saw an overall increase in sales at a time when the local economy was struggling.
It also put the chain's name on the map internationally, making it a future tourist stop for millions of people who had heard about the event outside of New Zealand but were unable to attend during the two-month promotional window.
This is a great example of how hosting a challenge event for your customers can grab attention and increase sales. They don't have to be extreme, but the attention your event attracts is often directly proportional to how outlandish you're willing to go.
2. Name a menu item after "Mexi Papa"
If you're unfamiliar with the term "micro-influencer," it simply means someone who has a relatively small but very passionate niche following.
We're not talking about people who are household names or even newer influencers that your kids may have heard of. We're talking about someone like "Mexi Papa" who tries out local restaurants and has 137,000 Instagram followers.
To be honest, with over 100,000 followers, Mexi Papa might not even be considered "micro". You can get great results with influencers that have well under 100,000 followers. At the same time, these types of accounts tend to grow so fast that 100,000 followers is considered quite small these days.
The rise of food bloggers and micro-influencers has been a mixed bag of experiences for restaurant owners. Every two weeks we hear a new story about eligible influencers running around demanding freebies.
But in reality, the vast majority of these individuals are just regular people who are passionate about food and work hard creating content to build what is essentially a media business.
And regardless of your opinion on the matter, we can all agree on one thing: food companies that understand how to work with these influencers often achieve incredible marketing results.
The key to this kind ofRestaurantmarketingis understanding how to target your incentives to the influencers you want to work with.
You want to:
- contact with new customers
- Presence that drives real sales
You want to:
- Contact with new followers
- Quality content that strengthens your brand
One of our partners named Leo Mattias – owner ofCilantro Lime in downtown Los Angeles– summed up this formula.
He reaches out to micro-influencers like Mexi Papa and offers to name a new menu item after them while inviting them on a fully filmed behind-the-scenes tour.
This is a type of access that most restaurants are not willing to offer, and it allows the influencer to get really great content for their brand while giving the restaurant a great exposure. In many cases, such collaborations just cost the restaurant some time and effort.
These campaigns have garnered Cilantro Lime a lot of attention on Instagram — they've helped them grow their own Instagram account to 60,000 followers — and more importantly, they've brought in many new customers who wouldn't otherwise have known about his restaurant.
3. Create an 80,000 calorie lasagna
What can we learn from 33 million people watching a video of random guys turning fast food into a giant lasagna?
The answer: people love spectacle.
One of the great things about social media is that you no longer have to guess what's getting attention. All you have to do is look around to see what gets people excited.
Hundreds of brands like Epic Meal Time have created multi-million dollar media empires with over-the-top, mind-blowing food creations that are more about the spectacle than the food itself.
And while you don't have the luxury of just focusing on the spectacle when you're creating something that people will pay for, creating something flashy and quirky is a great way to garner viral attention.
Is there a showstopper dish you could create in-house that could really get people talking? Sit down with your chef and see what you can come up with to make a splash on social media.
4. Bring a favorite guest chef
This restaurant promotion idea can potentially combine the benefits of a showstopper meal and a micro-influencer.
20 years ago, hiring a popular chef meant hiring a celebrity and required a huge budget.
For 99% of restaurants, this was not a practical option.
Today, thanks to sites like Youtube, Tiktok, and Instagram, there are millions of amateur, semi-pro, and professional chefs with large online followings. A large percentage of these chefs are online content creators only and have never worked for a restaurant. They struggle to monetize their following, and many of them are looking for ways to establish their cooking legitimacy offline.
It's hard to overstate this urge to establish yourself offline. This desire is palpablein this video where Youtube megastar "Binging With Babish"— a multi-millionaire content creator — spends time working in a commercial kitchen to test himself in a more traditional cooking environment.
This is a great opportunity for local restaurants to partner with popular online chefs looking for offline brand-building efforts.
Here is a very realistic scenario of what this might look like:
- Find a social media chef in your city with 50,000 or more social followers.
- Invite her as a guest chef and create a limited edition product for your menu.
- Offer them a percentage of sales for that menu item.
- Plan a start date and promote it like crazy.
This type of advertising has a lot of advantages and very few disadvantages, and I would imagine in five years it will be a staple strategy for restaurants.
5. Let customers flip a coin for a free meal
In a low-margin industry like restaurants, the best promotions maximize perceived value while minimizing costs.
This is a concept the gambling industry has perfected and we can take a page from their book with a house always wins promotion.
The idea is super simple: offer people a 50/50 coin toss to win a free meal or menu item.
This is an incredible advertising technique:
- It has the same appeal to customers as offering a free item.
- Only half of the entrants win, so you only pay half the cost of completing the offer.
- As part of the offer, you offer your customers a lot of entertainment value.
It's like slots, but you win more often and get free food!
I ran a Flip for a Burger campaign like this for a restaurant called JJ's Grill. It ran every Monday night, and we would let people drive up to 2 hours to come in and have a drink, watch Monday night football, and turn around for a free burger.
Remember, your customers don't know how much a promotion will cost you. There are many ways to offer something that feels like a lot of value but doesn't cost you much at all.
6. Have your customers repeat something funny
Imagine saying to a grown adult, "Captain's berry is crunchy today, isn't it?"
...and then watching hundreds of adults walk into your restaurant and say that phrase out loud at the to-go pickup while diners watch and giggle as they eat.
This is what's called a "whisper" campaign, where you promote a funny phrase that customers can say to receive a discount or freebie.
In this case, we wanted to draw attention to the restaurant's milkshake line, and anyone who said that phrase while picking up a fully-paid takeout order received a free Captain Crunch Berry Blast milkshake.
Promotions like these are fun, funny, and endearing, and they add excitement and entertainment rather than feeling like a sales technique.
7. Stealing your competitors' loyal customers
If you check your wallet now, you probably have a handful of loyalty cards from different restaurants, cafes, or other businesses.
Most people do.
These cards are an opportunity to steal your competitors' customers.
All you have to do is offer an inexpensive freebie — like coffee — in exchange for loyalty cards from local businesses. They might even offer better freebies for maps that have been marked with points.
This is a fun way to steal even loyal customers from your competitors while making the customer feel like you are offering them quality food instead of cheap freebies.
8. Setup and a selfie station
One of the defining trends of social media is that people don't just want an experience, they want to DOCUMENT that experience publicly and visibly.
There are a variety of reasons for doing this, but if you as a restaurant can facilitate this documentation, you will receive thousands of dollars worth of free advertising from the people who visit your restaurant.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to set up a selfie station.
A selfie station is an aesthetically pleasing backdrop designed and placed so that people can easily sit or stand in front of it and take photos of themselves (or have others take photos of them).
Here's a great example ofCafe La Jefa in Palm Springs, CA.
These photos (and hundreds more if you keep scrolling) were all taken by clients and posted to their own individual Instagram accounts. This is for a very small local coffee shop with just over 4,000 Instagram followers, and that one small wall generates hundreds of free ads for their business.
With a little frugality, you can do the same for less than $100.
9. Buy a food truck
A food truck is the perfect way to show up wherever there's a buzz and introduce your brand and food to new people in your area.
Food trucks are also relatively inexpensive, extremely lucrative, and double as a continuous, mobile source of advertising for your restaurant.
in oneStudy 2017, 85% of food truck owners surveyed said they make more than $100,000 net each year from their truck. Imagine bringing in that extreme income while ALSO getting a bunch of those repeat business customers at your restaurant.
That's what I call a win-win situation.
10. Offer a secret menu
Continuing with the secret phrases, why not offer a secret menu too?
In-N-Out is famous for its incredibly loyal following and brand awareness in territories where the chain doesn't even have a presence. There isn't a single In-N-Out location east of Texas, and yet nearly everyone on the East Coast has heard of the chain.
Perhaps most importantly, they are an example of a brand that has leveraged a strong local following to become a national chain.
Two of the defining characteristics of the In-N-Out brand are that their public menu is incredibly small and simple AND their 'secret' menu is well documented and seamlessly accepted by staff just like the public menu.
How to turn a secret menu into something special. It's treated like a normal menu BUT you only find out about it when a regular at the restaurant tells you about it or you see it being talked about in online communities.
You can also make this part of a loyalty program where secret menu items are only announced to VIP members and even decided by them.
11. Create branded items
Genius? Also yes.
One of the best ways to turn a local fanbase into brand ambassadors is by creating branded merchandise that they then wear everywhere.
What do you think of when someone says Hard Rock Cafe? The T-Shirts.
What's a big reason people on the east coast have heard of In-N-Out? The T-Shirts.
People love to wear clothing associated with their favorite brands, and while merchandise is unlikely to become a primary revenue driver, it's a great way to turn local fans into national brand ambassadors... for free!
12. Give something huge and expensive as a gift
Offering small freebies is a basic promotional strategy and we'll cover it in the next section, but it won't make you go viral.
If you really want to attract attention, you have to offer something big.
Well, Chick-fil-A grew into one of the largest privately owned companies in the world by offering free food to the first 100 visitors at each new location for a full year.
Every time a new location opened, people camped out the nights before it opened, hoping to be one of the winners. This phenomenon was widely covered by the local press and has resulted in millions of dollars in free advertising over the years.
This constant reporting continues to this day.
The key to running these types of promotions is that the price has to "sound" expensive... doesn't have to BE expensive.
You don't have to give a "year of free food" to 100 people to run a successful giveaway. You can only make one winner instead
How much does it cost to gift 52 free meals to one person?
How much does a typical lunch cost? $5? $8?
5 x 52 = 260 $
8 x 52 = 416 $
You can give someone a chance to win a grand "Year's Supply of Groceries" prize for as little as $200-$400.
This is a really compelling offer that doesn't actually cost you that much money.
13. Surprise a small business in your community
Almost half of all workers are employed in small companies. That includes thousands of potential customers in your area.
A great way to get in front of these customers and create viral buzz is to just show up and offer food for free.
- Employees will love it and will most likely tell their friends and family about the free surprise meal.
- Those who like the food will probably visit you several times during the lunch break.
- The act of surprising workers with food will resonate well on social media.
- The act could be picked up by local news as an interesting story.
You could provide lunch for the entire workforce of most small businesses at a very low cost. Try to just show up with enough food for 20 people or if that causes problems try calling ahead and arranging things with the owner or office manager.
Start with small businesses, but you can also aim to give back to the community while gaining more visibility by providing food to teachers, nurses, and other staff groups who are highly respected in the community.
14. Give back to your community
On Giving Back: One of the best ways to get attention in your community is to give to that community.
Humans are reciprocal beings. We like to give back to people who give us something.
Regular and visible donations to the community and respected groups in the community are a great way to make people feel like you're part of their team, rather than just trying to benefit from their patronage.
This idea can also build on our previous strategy.
For example, you could bring lunch to a local teachers' association meeting and announce a major gift or donation or offer that you are providing to teachers in the area.
The key here is to be authentic and offer something that feels meaningful. It's important that the group you give to feels honored and not used as a marketing stunt.
15. Call your local media
Just like advertisers, journalists are always looking for a good story. Call your local newspaper or TV station and see what stories they are looking for.
You are an established part of the community and there is usually a goodwill desire to help you succeed. It's all about finding an interesting focal point, so don't hesitate to reach out and work through a few ideas to find an angle that works for both you and the reporter.
If a high-priced hot dog can find cover, so can you.
Basic restaurant advertising ideas
Sometimes the simplest things work best. These promotional strategies are simple, proven, and can be used over and over again.
16. Offer a percentage discount
It's as simple as it gets, but percentage discounts are consistently the most profitable campaigns for our restaurant partners here at Owner.com.
Here is an example ofDeen's Cheesesteak and Pizzain Houston, Texas.
These types of campaigns work for every restaurant and customer type.
The key is to run ads with strong text that grabs attention and ask the user a question that the customer will answer "yes" in their mind:
- Are you hungry?
- do you love free food
- Do you love saving money?
You also want to create some urgency by saying that the number of offers is limited and that it's on a first come, first served basis AND the promotion is only for a limited time.
From there it's all about growing discount customers into larger order values, which our checkout system does for you automatically and very effectively.
17. Offer personalized discount based on order history
While percentage discounts offered through Facebook ads were our top choice for bringing new customers to the door, there's another strategy that's so effective at re-engaging previous customers that we put them right into the Integrated into the Owner.com platform.
The strategy is to offer a personalized discount based on the customer's order history.
Forour restaurant partners on the Owner.com platform, every online purchase is tracked, sourced and matched so you can get a database of all your customers and see what they have ordered from you in the past, their contact information and what marketing channels they originally sent to your restaurant.
Our platform then automatically sends periodic offers to each customer based on their order history.
For example, let's say a customer orders chicken parmigiana about once a month and hasn't tried any other dishes. At this restaurant, people who order Chicken Parmigiana often order the Creamy Garlic Chicken Pasta as well.
Our software takes note of this and then automatically sends the customer a discount offer for the Creamy Garlic Chicken Pasta about two weeks after their Chicken Parmigiana order.
The goal is to increase visit frequency by about 50% and it works like crazy.
Kirk's Steakburgerin Campbell, California, grew monthly website sales from $10,000 to $14,000 in less than 2 months after adding this re-engagement advertising strategy.
Here are their October sales:
And here are their January sales:
Although you can theoretically do such things manually, it's a lot of work and impossible if you lose your customer data to third-party delivery apps. Owner.com is specifically designed to address those frustrations and grow your restaurant business.
18. Create a limited edition menu item
Promotions are all about getting customers to take action, and few things motivate action like a deadline.
Limited edition menu items are an ideal promotional strategy for several reasons:
- You bring people in the door without losing margin on discounts.
- They let you experiment with your menu more easily.
- They play well on social media
- You can use them to include local media coverage like in the example below:
The regular offering of limited edition items also opens the doors for additional promotions in the future.
You can run polls where customers can vote on which items to return (and potentially turn the vote into a benefit of your loyalty program), or you can just take popular items and give them a bonus.
19. Offer a happy hour special
Happy hour specials are a niche staple that should be a near-universal practice for restaurants that are open in the afternoon.
They provide an affordable first point of contact for new customers and an easy one-stop shop for ongoing social media promotion.
When done right, happy hour ticket prices are often higher, on average, than lunch tickets. The key is in the strategic alignment of the food you offer alongside the drinks.
The number one reason people go to happy hour is NOT for the discounted drinks:
If you run a more upscale restaurant, try offering scaled-down versions of your dinner menu at an enticing price while keeping drink prices close to retail.
20. Offer a BOGO deal
While BOGO (buy one, get one free) offers are more associated with fast and casual restaurants, they can be used effectively by virtually any restaurant.
The key here is that you need to get the customer's contact information as early in the process as possible.
Thefollowing campaignresulted in the restaurant receiving email addresses from 2,400 local consumers, bringing 841 actual customers to the door and generating $28,968.68 in net sales AFTER the discount was applied.
While the net sales from this campaign were great on their own, that only accounts for a fraction of the campaign's success. The restaurant now has 2,400 people it can reach with additional offerings AND a large portion of those 841 customers are very likely to return.
The reach you get from offering a compelling promotion extends well beyond the actual people redeeming the offer.
21. Offer a special menu
70% of US householdshave pets.
40% of US householdsHave children.
Offering a special menu for the pets and/or children your customers bring is a great way to show care and attention and create an emotional connection with your customers.
Those menus, and any little freebies or specials you throw on them, are also an evergreen source of publicity. Check out this great example from Shake Shack:
Get brands that connect on an emotional level200% more word of mouthfrom their customers, and while there are certainly other ways to make an emotional connection, it's hard to think of anything easier or more reliable than simply creating a dedicated menu that caters to the most important little creatures in someone's life.
22. Offer a Freebie (No Purchase Required)
What pleases people even more than a discount?
Free appetizer campaigns are another type of promotion that work really well for our Owner.com partners, but require a little more effort and intention. We've had a lot of success with this type of campaign for Deen's in Houston, in addition to the percentage discount mentioned earlier.
The key is finding a menu item that costs little and brings in a high margin — think fries and queso, fried pickles, fried onions, mozzarella sticks, salads, desserts, breadsticks, egg rolls, etc. If you can find something sustainable can be gifted so you can consider the promotion for an ongoing promotion.
You can also limit the amount of free items given out to create urgency to take advantage of the offer before it expires.
23. Offer business card giveaways (with a modern twist)
Business card giveaways are an old strategy, but like many of the strategies in this category, they're still effective today.
The process is simple: Offer customers a chance to win a free meal if they toss their business card in a bowl.
I like to up the ante a bit.
Make the prize a free meal for TWO, then advertise choosing a new card from the bowl every week.
We want as many cards as possible because our modern twist takes advantage of every card we're dealt. Rather than just notifying the winner, we will email all entrants and offer them a discount in return for joining our loyalty program or simply our email list if we don't have a full program.
When done right, email marketing packs a punch3.700 % Capital leases, and it's one of the main reasons why our restaurant partners often double their online sales within a year of joining.
24. Offer special meals to share
Family-sized meals have been a staple in the toolbox of fast food and quick service restaurants for decades, but this concept is underutilized elsewhere in the restaurant spectrum.
As we mentioned earlier, people value the experience of dining out, and that experience is often closely tied to the people they dine with.
When a person sees a discount offer, they think about the price.
When a person sees a meal for two offer, they consider sharing that meal with someone they know.
Offering shareable meals and preset multi-course menus for specific group sizes is a great way to get people thinking about the experience they want to create and imagining having a great time with the people they love at your restaurant spend.
25. Offer tastings outside of your restaurant and around town
It's one thing to put up a sign with a picture of your food. Putting that food straight into a potential customer's mouth is a whole different thing.
Offering samples isa great way to increase sales.
According to The Atlantic, free samples at stores like Costco can help boost sales significantly. "When we compare it to other in-store media...in-store product demonstration has the highest [sales] increase," says Giovanni DeMeo of Interactions, the company that operates Club Demonstration Services, Costco's sample provider. In fact, in 2014, Interactions beer samples increased sales by an average of 71 percent at many national retailers, and frozen pizza samples increased sales by 600 percent.”
If you have a dish or two that customers always love, have an employee outside the restaurant offer passers-by bite-sized samples.
If you haven't opted for the food truck, you can also take some samples to events around town and promote your restaurant with the tastiest promotion of them all.
26. Collaborate with other restaurants
At first glance, working with another restaurant may seem counterproductive.
Why would you help a competitor?
And that's a mistake, because the vast majority of restaurants aren't really your competitors.
When someone is in the mood for Indian food, they usually choose their favorite Indian place. Other curry- or rice-based dishes might come to mind as alternatives, but you don't run the risk of losing them to Burger King, DJ's BBQ, or King's Seafood House.
Your real competitors have the same or similar cuisine, the same or similar atmosphere and the same or similar location.
Restaurants that don't fall into these categories can be excellent partners for collaborative marketing and cross-promotion.
There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Participate in a dish that you offer in both restaurants
- Partners on a merger popup
- Social Media Partners
- Partner at Restaurant Week or a similar event
- Offer discount coupons for each other's restaurants
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so be creative. Stepping in front of a new audience of restaurant patrons almost never has a downside.
27. Cross-promotion with local vendors
Local ingredients, food and craft drinks tend to be more expensive but are also very well received by local customers.
Selecting local suppliers, loudly promoting that fact and working with them provides a great focus for ongoing promotion.
The key is to make those decisions public, whether it's something advanced like a full partnership or something simple like tagging each other on Instagram.
If you already source local ingredients, food or drink, contact the supplier and invite them to collaborate. Pro tip: Getting something off the ground will be a lot easier if you have a clear game plan to propose from the start.
28. Cross-Promote With Other Local Businesses (With a Twist)
In addition to non-competing restaurants, there are countless non-competing local businesses in your area that would love to cross-promote with you to grow both businesses together.
This isn't an unusual idea per se, but the way it's implemented is usually pretty boring.
You can do much better than trade flyers.
A creative idea is to work with companies and organizations that need a meeting room after business hours or even after business hours. This brings people in the door who are probably interested in coming back later to try your food.
They can also arrange to serve food to the group as part of the agreement, either as a promotion or as a paid service.
The point here is to be aware of your merits and how you can use those merits to draw attention to your core business.
29. Participate in Restaurant Week and other local events
Despite all this focus on non-competing companies, sometimes it even makes sense to work with your direct competitors.
Restaurant week and similar local events are a great time to put the competition aside and celebrate all the restaurants in your area. This is where the saying "a rising tide lifts all boats" is truly embraced.
Restaurant weeks are very popular and are usually covered on both social and local media.
Hand out flyers, offer discounts, and encourage people to stop by and try a dish made by people in their own community.
30. Reward employees for outstanding performance
To say that your employees are your ultimate source of promotion is an understatement.
If your restaurant is a great place to work, the entire network of wait staff in your city, as well as all of their friends and family, will know about it.
You know better than most how difficult it is to find truly great employees, and that's why one of the best things you can do to promote your restaurant is to consistently recognize, reward, and nurture excellent employees.
While things like employee of the month, social media shoutouts, and employee discounts are better than nothing, if you want to be celebrated by your employees, go beyond the bare minimum.
Engage your employees to provide ideas for improving the restaurant, and then leverage those ideas. Whenever possible, offer individual and team bonuses. Be conscientious about planning and allow veteran artists extra flexibility.
If you really want to go beyond that, find out what would be personally meaningful to your top employees and try to give them that as best you can.
You get the benefits back 10 times.
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Holiday promotion ideas
Holidays can be a tremendous source of new business, but they also bring their fair share of competition. Every restaurant in your area will be running promotions and special offers to compete for Christmas dinner.
With that in mind, I've selected the most successful promotion I've seen on ten different holidays and listed them for you in this section. If you're looking for a winning promotional idea for one of the big holidays, look no further.
31. Offer a bottomless Mother's Day brunch
Mother's Day is THE most popular day of the year to eat out, with an average of 75 million guests a year.
And unlike other holidays, no one goes into Mother's Day to skimp on a cheap meal. This is a day to pull out all the stops and celebrate someone incredibly important and special. It's a day when people are happy to pay for the right experience.
With that in mind, you don't want to offer discounts on Mother's Day. You want to provide a great experience and charge a price that will make this an incredibly successful day for your restaurant.
One of the best promotions I've seen that hits the mark here is the bottomless brunch.
This expression is intentionally vague but implies a limitless supply of alcohol. Mimosas or wine are great options here, allowing you to provide a large amount of drinks for a relatively small budget.
Add a fixed menu to make it easy for your staff and customers, and you have the makings of a well-received Mother's Day brunch experience that'll bring in tons of income, turn heads, and attract new people to your restaurant after the holiday is over .
32. Offer a grill-it-yourself packed lunch for the 4th of July
July 4th is a big holiday, but not one that tends to fill the average restaurant.
Most people grill at home.
Instead of ignoring or fighting this, why not take advantage of it? Create a grill-ready take-home package that people can order to make their cookout easier AND more premium at the same time. It's a win-win situation.
Here is a perfect example ofMKT kitchenin Florida.
You can even offer to grill it yourself for people who want the grilling experience without having to do anything.
With this kind of offer, you can meet all the demand on the 4th of July, even if people don't want to come to the restaurant.Besitzer.comeven allows you to promote this type of deal and offer commission-free in-store delivery and pickup so you don't lose your margins in the process.
33. Offer a fixed-price menu for Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is another day when guests focus on treating someone special to an incredible experience. However, the populace for this celebration tends to be a bit younger, and while guests are willing to spend money, cost is still an issue.
A fixed price menu is perfect for this holiday. It allows your customers to have an upscale experience while providing a fixed price they can commit to before they arrive at your restaurant.
Here is a great example of advertisingCrush Wine Bar & Restaurantin Texas.
While a fixed-price menu can help some of your diners stay on budget, many are open to additions and upsells, so it's important to always have these available.
Offer upsells like wine pairings, entree upgrades, or specialty desserts to increase your average ticket size and earn more money from your restaurant's affluent visitors.
34. Collaborate with a local brewer for Father's Day
It's probably a bit stereotypical, but dads love beer.
Dads also love to learn about local brewers and then talk about them way too much.
If you're not already connected to local brewers in your area, talk to your staff and regulars and find out which breweries they like. Reach out to as many as you can and find someone interested in working with you.
If you're collaborating, it's important to ensure your incentives are aligned with the company you're working with. Look for a mutually beneficial collaboration that will help both companies grow together and make sure both companies contribute to the promotion and appear in any advertising you both run for the event.
35. Add a wine pairing to your menu for New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is the perfect time for wine pairings.
It's an evening associated with drinking and celebration, and allows you to create a special experience while charging a premium fee. Customers love the convenience of just walking in and experiencing the menu without having to make wine decisions with each course.
Here is an advertisement example ofBlue Water Grill & Raw Barin North Carolina.
If you've never offered a wine pairing menu, it's not difficult. Start by choosing two or three signature dishes, then choose either a glass of wine or a bottle that best complements the meal. For example, your menu might include three glasses of champagne along with a description of what dish they go with and why they go well together.
36. Add a special children's menu for Easter Sunday
Easter is a family celebration.
Those who celebrate it usually do so with the whole family, and you can encourage families with children to choose your Easter restaurant by offering them a special kid-friendly menu that is intentional and not an afterthought.
Here's a great example ofWarren City Clubin Atlanta.
The key here is to go a step beyond the normal kids' fair of chicken fingers, fries, burgers, and pizza. The kind of family that would choose your restaurant specifically for the children's menu will ensure that it is a special experience where their children can enjoy something higher than what they normally receive.
Offer something out of the ordinary that is still accessible to young children, and then promote it heavily in the run-up to the event.
This is a particularly good promotional opportunity for restaurants looking to attract families year-round.
37. Host a Fun Halloween Event (or Four)
Halloween is all about fun. It's a great opportunity to host a fun Halloween event and sell some food.
Or if you likeTavern im VogueIn California, you can host four events in one week!
Halloween events are more about decoration than anything else. You can host the same types of events you would host at other times of the year, like trivia, karaoke, contests, and more—as long as you really put some effort into decorating.
You can also make things like puns with menu items, random candies, fall-themed desserts, and more. If ever there was a vacation to just go crazy and have fun, this is it.
38. Introduction of Irish drink specials for St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day is usually the day when people head to the nearest Irish pub and grab a few drinks.
The best way to meet this demand is to open your own little Irish pub in the restaurant. After all, you don't have to be a pub to offer Jameson Shots, Heineken Drafts, Paddy's Cocktails and a selection of Irish Stouts.
Hearthstone kitchen & basementnails this action in the following flyer.
They can also offer smoothies, milkshakes, and mocktails for guests who don't want alcohol on St. Patrick's Day.
Just remember to stock your bar appropriately for this introduction!
39. Conduct buy-one, give-one, Thanksgiving Day donations
Thanksgiving is a celebration of gratitude and, for many, a time to think of those less fortunate. People want to give back and you can help them with a buy-one-give-one promotion.
This is similar to a BOGO offer, but instead of offering customers a free meal with every purchase, this purchase results in your restaurant donating a meal to those in need, usually through a partnership with a local charity.
Here's a great example ofEat my lunch NZin New Zealand.
This holiday season, empower your customers to take care of their community through your restaurant's buy-one-give-one fundraiser.
40. Give your customers a Christmas present
Everyone loves gifts, especially around Christmas time. Offering a free gift in December is a great way to harness that Christmas energy.
They can offer a free appetizer. You can give away branded items such as Christmas tree decorations or cheap T-shirts. Or you can do something as simple as B. Giving away a free item or two along with a linked purchase.
Here's a very low-key example of that from the national chainwing stop.
The idea here is to offer everyone something low-cost. You can always host a single win giveaway with a more notable prize. At Christmas, we want it to feel more like a gift than a raffle.
Campaign ideas “Week special”.
It's great to have something to look forward to, and whether most people want to admit it or not, they really do want some level of positive routine in their lives.
One of the best ways to get repeat customers is to have a weekly special that they love and look forward to that shows up week after week.
This is an incredibly pivotal advertising category — it can single-handedly define a restaurant's brand — and so I'd like to devote an entire section to exploring some of the best weekly specials.
41. Spin the Wheel Discount Night
People love to play games and they love a good spectacle.
One of the best strategies I've seen for a weekly special is a "spin the wheel" night, where guests spin a wheel if they pay their bill and have a chance to win prizes.
The bigger the wheel the better...no, seriously.
Prizes can include anything from free drinks to gift cards to branded t-shirts or whatever you have available. The night can also be enhanced with other types of games or anything that creates a gaming or carnival-like atmosphere.
42. Crazy Discount „Loss Leader“ Nacht
A Loss Leader is an item you offer at a loss to get people in the door.
You are already familiar with these types of promotions:
- $1 rib night
- Half price burger or pizza night
- Free appetizer night
You're offering something at such a crazy, attention-grabbing discount that it's going to make you lose money.
This is a phenomenal way to attract people to your restaurant, but there's a slight catch.
If you're offering freebies as a one-time promotion to lure people in the door, plan to recoup that cost with repeat orders at full price or at a small discount if you're still making a profit.
If you're offering Freebies or Loss Leaders as a weekly special, it's important to make a profit that night because your goal is to keep the same people coming back each week. You want to be strategic when it comes to the loss-making item and make sure it depends on additional orders that you can enjoy.
For example, $1 ribs and half-price burgers are common choices because they are rarely enjoyed by themselves and customers are usually willing to buy high-margin side dishes and drinks to go with the meal.
Think outside the box here and see if you can offer something that people don't usually see.
43rd Craft Beer Night
The craft beer market has blown up over the past five years, evolving into the family-friendly version of traditional alcohol-centric nights out.
Appreciated by a wide variety of people, craft beer can be paired with a variety of foods, making for a fun and interesting weekly experience.
To make your beer night extra special, choose a different selection of beers each week and include a description of why you chose them.
As an added twist, once a month you can select exclusively local beers and turn it into a Local Craft Beer night. This will address some of the promotional ideas mentioned earlier and allow you to leverage community pride and advertise with local breweries.
Another great addition is the provision of branded mugs or glasses for customers to order. Charge $20-$30 for the mug and get a $1 discount if they bring it to Craft Beer Night.
44th Customer Challenge Night
People love to be challenged.
"I'll bet you $30 you can't eat a 3 pound burger in one sitting."
How to get people to show and order $30 mega burgers.
This is also a way of getting people to eat 226 ribs in one sitting.
There are two directions you want to take with a Weekly Challenge or Competitive Night.
You can choose either accessibility or inaccessibility.
Challenges that are nearly impossible are more spectacular and more likely to grab viral attention. Combine these with a remarkable price. The Alamo Burger Challenge rewards customers with a free meal, a branded t-shirt and their picture on the winner's wall.
Accessible challenges are more fun and more likely to create regulars. Offer smaller prizes that most people can win.
45th Live Entertainment Night
Creating a desirable experience is a big part of growing a restaurant, and that's why few things have the potential to define your brand quite like adding weekly live entertainment.
Live entertainment can take many different forms. Depending on your concept and the demographic you want to reach, some ideas are:
- Live Music
- live comedy
- live magic
The key here is to measure performance and either tie the entertainer's compensation to sales or ensure that the increase in audience justifies the cost.
46th Interactive Trivia Night
Trivia Night combines a lot of what people love about game nights with what they love about live entertainment. If you have a good host, it's part interactive game and part comedy show.
Trivia nights are a great way to attract repeat guests and can often spend more money than other types of activities.
They're also a great way to get people through your doors for a weeknight meal, and they're incredibly easy to use thanks to well-designed apps that automatically ask questions, take answers from attendees, and calculate points.
Some ideas to make these nights extra special are changing themes, food and drink prizes for winners and runners-up, and small discounts for all active participants.
Remember to use these evenings to promote new menu items, special offers on other days, and anything else that could use a few extra eyeballs.
47th Chef's Choice Night
Sometimes it's really nice to just show up and let someone else make all the decisions for you.
A Chef's Choice Night is a weekly special where the chef creates a set, multi-course menu and customers simply show up to enjoy the trip.
Because these nights often sell out ahead of time and can be created in bulk, you can usually offer them at a compelling price point, further adding to the attraction and encouraging customers to come back regularly.
This type of weekly special is also a great opportunity to invite guest chefs with unique menus. The more variety you can offer from week to week, the more likely you are to get repeat customers.
48th Charity Proceeds Night
We're sure you have a cause at heart, so why not let your customers know and invite them to participate?
By designating a weekly evening where a percentage of profits goes to a specific charity, you can attract customers, give back to your community, and support great causes at the same time. It's also really easy to use and doesn't require any extra work on your part.
And while supporting a charity doesn't seem like a huge attraction,73% of Americanssay they consider a company's charitable contributions when making a purchase.
Charity proceeds nights are all positive and not negative.
49th Cooking Class Night
Your chefs may be employees to you, but to many foodies they are rock stars.
Invite your customers for a cooking lesson with your chef and we promise you'll have a customer for life while you bill them for the experience.
While this will likely work better as a monthly event for some restaurants, depending on your location and clientele, this could be the perfect weekly event.
Cooking classes are great for a date night, a night out with friends, or just a different twist on the normal dining experience.
You can even try a hybrid class, where you combine a light cooking lesson with a more typical culinary experience, giving guests the best of both worlds.
50th Customer Appreciation Night
Highlighting your customers is a great way to build a relationship and make them feel like family.
This practice also makes for a great weekly special.
Dedicate a day of the week to celebrating your customers all day including:
- Re-sharing customer social media posts that tag or mention your brand
- Posting content that highlights customer achievements or milestones
- Thematic discounts linked to your customers
- Giveaway to a randomly selected regular guest
Most restaurants host these events once or twice a year and try to make something big.
But I think it's worth trying this once a week or once a month and doing something more in line with a weekly special.
Maybe even combine it with a standard promotional offer. For example, you could make Wednesday nights a “Customer Appreciation Night” and offer a BOGO deal as a gift to customers.
BOGO deals are generally perceived as a better deal than a percentage off or even a free appetizer. So if you only offer this offer during Customer Appreciation Night, it will end up feeling like... real customer appreciation.
Loyalty program strategies
Regular customers are the backbone of your business. The trick to creating a great loyalty program is finding something that will lure more people from occasional purchases to frequent purchases without losing all margins in the process.
Here are some great ideas for building your restaurant's loyalty program.
51. Create a "part of the club" feel
The best way to get people coming back on a regular basis is to make them feel like they are 'part of the club' and we want to make that feeling as accessible as possible.
Don't make entering the club a challenge. We want to get people into the club as quickly and easily as possible, and then get them reaching for the biggest rewards.
A good way to do this is to use email or text signup as the entry point for membership. Getting contact information is a huge marketing asset for remarketing purposes and it's really easy and cheap for the customer.
The key here is providing that information and joining "the club" needs to feel like a big deal.
For this reason, you should try to combine disproportionately large opportunities with this first membership level. Take promotional events that you would otherwise just offer to the public and make them members-only BUT all people have to do to become a member is simply sign up using their email address or phone number.
This creates a feeling of exclusivity while making that feeling accessible to all.
You can apply this concept to the rest of the ideas in this category and to virtually all of the ideas in this guide. Think about what promotions to run for all customers and what to add to membership to encourage more people to sign up.
52. Offer point-based rewards
You've seen this before. You might even be using it right now.
The strength of a scoring system lies in its simplicity. It's really clear to the customer when they're being rewarded with a freebie or discount.
At least...it's clear when you actually tell them how it works.
Many restaurants that use a points system forget to tell their customers exactly how it works or help them track their points, ultimately defeating the purpose of the system.
Help customers track their points with either a physical item like a punch card or regular emails showing them how many points they've earned and what those points mean.
We've built a points-based system right into oursBesitzer.complatform and automatically sends emails like this to your customers after each purchase. Visualizing the point value of each action encourages customers to take more actions, and that's the whole point of a loyalty program.
53. Create a referral program
Regardless of which ideas you implement from this list, it always pays to combine your loyalty program with a referral program. We like to encourage our most frequent guests to spread the word about our restaurant and even get people involved.
The keyword there is “Incentivize”.
Many referral programs don't do a good job of making rewards instant and compelling.
If you use a points system, set it up so that successful referrals result in a large point bonus that you email and celebrate to the customer. We want this experience to feel really great. We want to encourage this repeat customer to keep referring people to our restaurant.
If you offer any type of the exclusive VIP rewards we talk about elsewhere on this list, make referrals a key entry point to the top rewards.
54th night of the tour behind the scenes
People love to get a behind-the-scenes look at the places they frequent, and restaurants are no exception. This is especially true for gourmets who already enjoy learning about the origins of various foods and how to prepare them.
A great way to reward your loyal guests and engage your local foodie community is to host recurring evenings of behind-the-scenes tours, where you can introduce customers to your story, tell them how you do some of your favorite dishes and they give away an idea of what it takes to run your restaurant on a daily basis.
If you have an open kitchen, let people watch from nearby tables so they can see their meals being prepared.
This is also the perfect advertising opportunity for cross-promotion with other companies who want to get their name out there, such as: B. Local farmers or specialty manufacturers you work with. Consider inviting these partners to your tour nights so customers can learn more about their offerings, too.
The rotation of local partners at the event also keeps it interesting for customers who want to return several times.
55. Give your customers an incentive to tag you online
Having your customers tag you on social media while they visit your restaurant is a great way to reach new customers.
Make a habit of re-sharing these types of posts from your restaurant account, and include a small note on your menu that says you often give non-cash prizes to people you tag while they're at the restaurant .
A few times a week, randomly select a customer who tagged you and surprise their table with free drinks or a free dessert.
You can also do this more as an ongoing photo contest.
Either way, this is a great strategy for reaching new customers AND getting loyal customers who will be happy to come back to your restaurant.
56. Celebrate those around you
This is less about an offer you run and more about how you present your brand. It's all about the emotional connection with your customers.
Hang up some local memorabilia, such as For example, old sports photos, photos of local celebrities, or famous stories from your community's past. You can also take photos of your customers and post them on the walls.
You might even dig up the first photo you took of yourself outside of your restaurant.
It's all local history that your customers can relate to and creates a connection that goes deeper than a transaction. That kind of deeper engagement is an important part of creating genuine loyalty from your customers that goes beyond the food they're buying.
57. Host exclusive events for members
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, creating the right experience is incredibly important to the growth of a restaurant.
Just as you can experiment with a popup to create a new experience, you can achieve something similar while strengthening customer loyalty by hosting exclusive member dining events.
The goal here is to create special, exclusive experiences that people rave about and look forward to.
If you have a smaller customer base, try what we talked about earlier and attach these events to the lowest membership tier where anyone who signs up by email or phone number can join in the fun. These types of events will really make members feel like they are “in the club”.
When you get to the point where inviting everyone would bring in more customers than you could handle in a single evening, move event access to the next membership tier. Quarterly or biennial events are the perfect VIP bonus for outstanding repeat customers.
58. Ask your customers to turn down an old dish
Each of your customers has an opinion about your menu.
And I can promise you that they would love to get involved and influence the direction of this menu.
Providing ways for customers to interact with and influence your business is both a great promotional tool and a great way to build loyalty.
One of my favorite ways to do this is by inviting customers to turn down an old dish.
If you already use limited menu items as a promotional tool - which I highly recommend - this becomes really easy and even systematic. You can regularly take previously-run items and invite your customers to vote on what to bring back.
Add this to the entry level of your loyalty program to encourage more people to sign up, but only if you do so regularly.
If you don't offer limited edition items, rummage through your old menus and look for dishes that were popular back then. It could even be something retro like fondue.
Then you can start a poll on social media and ask your customers to vote for their favorite dish from the past.
This is a great way to do word of mouth online, and customers will feel more emotionally connected to your business after they've had a chance to influence a real, concrete decision you make about the restaurant.
59. Surprise your loyal customers
There is something very special about a surprise.
The vast majority of the promotions you run depend on whether the customer expects them. The promotion only works if you create the expectation in order to then motivate the customer to take action.
And that's why it can be so special to add a completely unexpected surprise here and there.
There are many ways you can do this:
- Throw in an unexpected free item on their second delivery order through your website.
- You can send a surprise gift on members' birthdays.
- Head upstairs and say hello if you've noticed them coming into the restaurant a few times and then assembling their dessert.
- Throw a surprise night "on the house" where customers get an item from their order for free without warning.
You can do this sporadically, but finding a more systematic way to do it based on your customers' first experiences with the restaurant can greatly increase loyalty.
It's important to make the surprise really obvious. For example, if you're packing free items in a delivery box, wrap that item in a flyer that says "surprise" and specifically states that they're getting a free item as a thank you.
60. Create a website-only delivery offer
One of the biggest problems restaurants face today is delivery commissions for third-party apps.
30% fees usually wipe out your margins and even worse, the delivery companies steal your customer details instead of giving them to you so you can't even follow up on those customers and get the money back through repeat business.
This was the original reason we created Owner.com, which allows restaurants to make commission-free deliveries through their website while also leveraging third-party driver networks.
Yes, seriously, it's as great as it sounds.
Whether you use Owner.com or have set up direct orders on your site through some other method, getting people to actually use your site instead of the third-party apps can be difficult.
We've found the best way to address this is to offer direct order incentives.
When a new restaurant partner joins us, we design and print 1,000 flyers that they can package into deliveries ready for third-party app orders. These flyers offer the recipient a discount that can only be redeemed through the direct order system.
Once they enter the restaurant's website, we use a very smooth, sophisticated checkout experience to sell them additional items and enroll them in the restaurant's loyalty program.
This is how we consistently turn third-party app users into loyal, commission-free customers of our restaurant partners.