October 13, 2021

Unique Restaurant Promotion Ideas

The back of a man with a hat looking at the menu in a coffee shop.

If you’re like most restaurant owners, you’re always keeping your eyes on the bottom line. You’re asking yourself how you can get, retain, and grow your business.

Restaurant promotions remain a tried and true method for increasing revenue. It can sound counterintuitive at first. Giving things away for a discount or free doesn’t seem like the secret formula for making a profit.

But studies show that people are often more likely to buy more items overall if they receive discounted prices. Other incentives, such as loyalty programs, lead to word-of-mouth referrals, more money spent per meal, and an increased likelihood of choosing your restaurant over the competition.

However, not all promotions have the same level of efficacy. Implementing these 13 unique restaurant marketing ideas well can take your business to the next level. Let’s get started.

1 – Specific Menu Item Discounts

It’s important to use discounts wisely. On that note, everyone loves a good appetizer or side dish. If you’re going to run a discount promotion, you can’t go wrong with these items because most people aren’t going to have chips with dip and call it a day.

The discounted items catch customers’ eyes and entice them to walk through the door. Once they start enjoying themselves, odds are they’ll add a couple more items to their bill. It’s a good idea to stack this promotion with other incentives like happy hour. Bars and restaurants that have a happy hour see an average revenue increase of about 26% during this time.

Consider adding a discounted beer with a purchase of a promotional side item. Strategic foods like spicy wings may cause them to have a few more drinks.

2 – Loyalty Programs

Nothing helps you retain existing customers like loyalty programs. A marginal increase in customer retention can drive revenue increases of around 75% for your business.

Loyalty programs also encourage repeat visits and lead to word-of-mouth referrals.

The best loyalty program will offer real value to the customer without cutting too heavily into your profit margins. Free menu items after a certain number of visits work well in this regard.

3 – Weekday Theme Specials

Everyone loves Taco Tuesday and Thirsty Thursday. Besides being fun, these themes stick in customers’ minds and drive business during the slower business days.

Weekday specials work best when you keep the food and drink specials varied for each day of the week. Get creative with your marketing team and see which items draw the largest crowds. For example, TGI Fridays implemented “Day of the Week” deals and promptly saw its in-store traffic increase by 3%.

Alternatively, you may find that you only struggle to get customers through the door one day out of the week. Offering a daily special could be just what you need to solve this problem.

Make sure to promote themed specials during your busiest hours for maximum results. Businesses familiar with consumer behavior instruct their servers to discuss Monday promotions on Saturday nights.

4 – Special Events

Keep an inventory of all the events going on in your area. Develop promotions around concerts, festivals, and sporting events to generate excitement in your customer base.

Locals will be looking to grab a bite to eat on their way to or from these venues. To entice them further, you can work with your chefs to create custom dishes themed around the event.

Gameday deals draw crowds without fail. Just make sure you’ve got enough monitors to accommodate everyone. And don’t forget your Fantasy Football players - 20% of the American population participates in at least one Fantasy Football league. Try offering specials for draft parties throughout August and early September!

5 – Exclusive Discounts

Here you can A/B test several options to see which gives you the most traffic. Promotions like a free appetizer can be a great way to attract new customers.

Likewise, if you’re not ready to develop a full-blown loyalty program, you can offer return customers a one-time coupon for their next visit.

Even pop-culture sensations can be leveraged to attract customers. McDonald’s Philippines offered a limited-edition menu item called the BTS Meal (later in the U.S. as well), which was named after a wildly popular South Korean boyband. This move resulted in a 1000% increase in average daily nugget sales.

Make sure to get your customer’s contact information to promote these discounts. Putting them on email or SMS outreach campaigns helps you stay front of mind when they’re mulling over where to eat next.

6 – Web-Based Promotions

Now that we’re living in the digital age, more people are ordering food online than ever before. What’s more, the increase in remote work further incentivizes consumers to enjoy restaurant-quality food from the comfort of their homes.

If you haven’t already, get your restaurant onto a popular online ordering platform. Free delivery promotions are a surefire way to reach customers who have been on the fence about trying your food.

Even if you don’t want to go through the rigmarole of hiring delivery drivers, services like Uber Eats and DoorDash can help you expand your take-out revenue.

7 – Combo Deals

Regardless of your restaurant price tier, you can utilize this tried and true practice initiated by fast-food chains. Simple as it sounds, bundling prices together to include sides and a drink helps franchises sell 100 million extra meals.

Take which menu items your customers tend to order together into consideration when building your combo deals. Food pairings take some of the leg work away from your guests. They’ll order faster, and you’ll be able to service more tables throughout the day.

8 – Food Influencer and Critic Events

Millennials are increasingly gaining exposure to new dining spots through social media. Indeed, many high-profile Instagram accounts focus on food reviews.

Take a quick peek, and you’ll see it’s common for them to have over 100,000 followers. Inviting local influencers to try out your menu can be a great way to generate buzz for your restaurant.

Professional food bloggers tend to take excellent pictures and write well. You can rest assured they’ll present your food in a positive light if you impress them.

9 – Holiday Specials

Think of the foods you enjoy eating the most during the holidays and incorporate that into your dinner specials ideas. Pairing Holiday-themed menu items with some quick changes to your aesthetic will lead to higher traffic as the big day approaches. Even during COVID-19, restaurants saw a 306% increase in dining before holidays.

Bear in mind that you might want to close your business for national holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In these cases, try offering promotions for the week leading up to them.

Make sure the menu items you promote jive well with the holiday theme. Cheese and wine pairing work well for romantic Valentine’s Day dinners, while beer specials are ideal for the Big Game.

To maximize your profits, remember that Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day remain the busiest days for dining out. This data comes from studies conducted by the National Restaurant Association.

10 – Charitable Causes

Studies show that around 90% of your customers would like to know how your business supports charitable causes.

Besides being a good thing to do, working with a charitable organization will increase your restaurant’s brand reputation with customers.

Focusing on an issue in your local community can help you network with other businesses and further expand your customer pool.

As a bonus, charitable events may be tax-deductible for your business. If you’re not sure where to start, consult Charity Navigator.

11 – Raffles

Restaurants have been using fishbowl raffles for a long time. Raffles are easy to set up. You just need to designate some receptacle for business cards and announce the date you’ll pick out a monthly winner.

Since not everyone carries a business card, you can also have guests fill out small sheets of paper with their names and contact info. If you get their permission to include them in your contact lists, you can keep them coming back with ongoing promotions.

12 – New Item Promotions

Build some hype every time you add a new item to your menu. If you’re making use of digital signage, display your new item on as many screens as possible.

Use your customer contact lists to excite them about the new product’s release date. Include enticing photos and well-written descriptions to pique their curiosity even further.

Create some scarcity by offering your new item for a limited time only. Be sure to launch a social media campaign around any new items to attract the younger crowd.

13 – Return-Visit Coupons

Always leave your customers wanting more. Return coupons offer many of the same benefits of a loyalty program without the same level of commitment on your end.

Statistics around coupons reveal they are some of the most important deals for restaurants in consumers’ minds. Roughly 54% of diners decide where to eat based on whether or not the establishment offers a coupon. Coupon users eat out around 7 per month as compared to 4.8 for non-coupon users.

Even small incentives like 20% off their next meal will make customers more likely to return after their first meal.

Market Well for Success

We hope this list has given you some new and useful ideas for expanding your customer base.

The best restaurant promotion ideas in the world hinge on proper marketing for success. Atmosphere’s digital signage options create a perfect synergy with any promotion to catch customer attention and maximize profit.

We’ll help you promote your specials rather than showing commercials that could advertise competing brands to your client. You’ll be able to custom design graphics that fit with the overall look and feel of your restaurant concept.

The money you’ll save from making the switch away from print material goes back into your pocket so you can grow your business.