Restaurant Promotional Ideas For Every Holiday

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

Restaurant Promotion Ideas For Every Holiday

You may know that holidays can be huge opportunities for restaurants but are you making use of any restaurant promotional ideas? You can utilize restaurant promotions strategically to increase restaurant sales and traffic. Not sure where to start? We’ve got some restaurant promotional ideas that you can use for any holiday!

Use Decor To Attract Attention

A holiday is a prime opportunity for you to dress your restaurant up and make it stand out. Make it obvious to someone walking by that your restaurant is celebrating any given holiday so they know that they can expect something special from you. This gives you an opportunity to draw in foot traffic who may have otherwise passed you up.

Decorating your restaurant for a holiday creates a fun and festive feel. Both adults and kids love Halloween so you can’t go wrong with going all out on your decor. Decorate your restaurant with cobwebs, bats, jack-o-lanterns, and Halloween-themed lights. You can even have your servers dress up to add to the festive atmosphere. After all, who wouldn’t love being served by a vampire or zombie? You could even host a costume contest and offer a prize for the best costume. Running a costume contest restaurant promotion is a great way to get your restaurant patrons to participate and it incentivizes them to step it up with their costume. Take advantage of that competitive spirit!

Stay Open & Be Loud About It

It may seem obvious, but there are a LOT of restaurants that close on holidays like Christmas, New Years Day, or Thanksgiving and they miss out on opportunities to serve customers who are looking for somewhere to eat. There are many Americans that don’t celebrate Christmas or would simply prefer to have someone cook a delicious meal for them on Christmas or Thanksgiving day instead of slaving in the kitchen for hours.

If you’re planning to stay open for holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, be loud about it! Your customers are actively looking for restaurants that are open on these holidays and if you haven’t explicitly stated that you will be open on your website and on social media, they’ll assume you’re closed. This also gives you an opportunity to be featured in articles that list which restaurants are open on Christmas or Thanksgiving. There is nothing worse than staying open on a holiday and having it not be worth it so you really have to take the bull by the horns and promote what you have going on and that you’ll be open.

If you’re not sure which holidays are worth staying open for, refer to the statistics. Surprisingly, some restaurants write off New Year’s Eve as a slow day, but the numbers show the exact opposite. The National Restaurant Association found that 42% of American adults planned to either order from or go out to a restaurant or bar on New Year’s Eve, and 28% said the same about the following morning.

If New Year’s Eve is slow for you, it may be because you haven’t done anything to stand out! What can you do to draw attention and stand out? What restaurant promotions can you run to give people a reason to come to your restaurant instead of another one?

It may surprise you to learn that Easter is in the top 5 most popular holidays for eating out in the US. 46% of those surveyed by the National Restaurant Association planned to go out for lunch on Easter, while 44% said the same for dinner. That is an enormous number of people planning to eat out and that’s not even including the 17% of Americans that don’t identify as Christian that might want to eat at a restaurant on that particular day.

If you want to stay closed for a particular holiday, don’t be quiet about that either. Let your customers know in advance that you’ll be closed to let your staff celebrate the holiday. When you do this, you make a point that you care about your staff and that will evoke a positive feeling from your customers. Customers love when a business shows that it cares about its employees, just let them know in advance so they don’t suddenly find out that you’re closed when they walk up to your door.

Offer Unique Take-Out Options or Catering

Many people don’t want to cook a big meal on Easter, Christmas, or Thanksgiving but they still want something delicious to eat. You could run a promotion where you offer a complete Christmas dinner in a box. Customers can place their orders well in advance and you can have their orders ready for them to pick up. Plenty of people want to enjoy the holiday in the comfort of their own home curled up on the sofa with their family and going out to each is just not enticing. This is especially true for people with small children because it’s more of a hassle for them to go out.

If you offer catering, why not promote that you can cater office Christmas parties or a done-for-you 4th of July cookout? Holidays always have opportunities for you to generate new business, you just have to get creative!

Offer Gift Cards

For holidays like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Christmas where buying gifts is customary, run a promotion for your gift cards. You are selling gift cards, right? Well, gift cards are an easy gift for someone who can’t decide what to get for a family member or their dad who has everything and is impossible to buy for. It makes sense to give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant (that’s yours!) because they know it will be something the recipient enjoys.

In a study by First Data, 72% of gift card shoppers spent more than the original gift card value when redeeming their cards. That means you stand to bring in even more revenue than the initial value of the gift card! It makes sense when you think about it, people are sensitive when spending their own money but with a gift card it feels like free money so spending a little bit more is no big deal.

In order to give you some ideas for when you can promote that you have gift cards available, here is the breakdown of reasons why someone buys a gift card for someone according to Blackhawk Network 2018 Spring Summit Research:

“Birthday (67%), Winter Holidays (44%), Thank You (25%), Graduation (22%), Mother’s Day (21%), Congratulations (21%), Just Because (20%), Wedding (17%), Anniversary (17%), Valentine’s Day (16%), Reward for Someone (14%), Father’s Day (14%), New Baby (13%), Housewarming (7%), Work-related Reward (7%), Easter (7%), Back to School (5%)”

Some of these events have specific dates like Mother’s Day while others tend to have seasons like Back to School or Graduation. These are all opportunities for you to run special promotions to remind your customers that you offer gift cards.

Remember, you don’t need to have just physical gift cards in order to capitalize on this. 55% of consumers surveyed report being interested in giving or receiving digital gift cards that can be added to a mobile app or digital wallet. Does your POS make this easy for you?

Offer Themed Meals

It may make sense to go off-menu and create a themed meal that will draw people into your restaurant. Whether that’s offering a traditional Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, Halloween themed food/drinks, or a festive Cinco De Mayo Mexican spread, offering something different gives customers new and old a reason to come in.

If your restaurant caters to parents with children, running a “kids eat free” promotion for Mother’s Day with the purchase of a full-priced adult meal will attract them but keep in mind that it may also repel people who don’t want to sit around a bunch of kids. This promotion is one you need to consider carefully to determine if it makes sense for your restaurant.

Celebrate Random Holidays

You don’t have to limit your holiday promotions to traditional holidays. You can embrace the more random holidays like National Burger Day or National Beer Day to promote specific food or drinks. Your chefs or bartenders can come up with interesting menus for National Bacon Lovers Day or National Potato Day. People love to celebrate random holidays in little ways like this and it means you aren’t competing against every other restaurant running a Christmas promotion.

Promote Your Promotion

Social media works best as a promotional tool when you have something unique and specific to market that people will get excited about and holiday-themed meals or special offers tied to a holiday have the potential to be very effective as a social media topic. Share photos of menu offerings and decor and share any holiday-specific deals or offers directly with your social media followers.

If you have an email list, reach out to them to let them know what you have coming up for the next holiday! Write with a sense of urgency so they understand that the holiday is coming up quick and ordering their special take-out or making their reservation won’t be available much longer. The people on your email list want to know what you have to offer, just make it clear how they can get it and when the offer expires or when they need to act (in the case of making a reservation).

Your timing is important so don’t leave promoting your promotion until the last minute. According to the National Retail Federation, 51% of American adults celebrated Valentine’s Day in 2019, but that percentage is decreasing. By promoting early you can maximize the number of people that choose to come and eat at your restaurant. Start taking early reservations for Valentine’s Day and you’ll find that people will happily book early. No one wants to be the boyfriend or girlfriend who neglected to make plans!

Which restaurant promotional ideas will you utilize to increase restaurant sales?