Restaurant promotions are a great way to attract existing and new customers to your business. Effective promotions can help turn casual customers into regulars and promote repeat business. Read on to learn how to bring more sales to your restaurant and create an effective promotion strategy.
1. Provide Loyalty Offerings
Loyalty offerings are a unique type of promotion to increase restaurant sales, incentivizing and rewarding your customers for repeat visits to your restaurant. A loyalty rewards program for restaurants can offer various discounts, special offers or points toward future transactions. A loyalty program can also help your restaurant use customer data and technology to foster personal relationships with individuals and provide them with customized offers.
Point of sale (POS) technology has made creating loyalty programs more efficient, allowing you to gauge the success of your offerings and boost profits. While each loyalty program is unique and can be catered to your specific restaurant, the most basic steps include the three E’s:
- Enrollment: The first step is to have your customers sign up for your rewards program. You can help them enroll when they visit your restaurant, or you can even have them join your rewards program digitally through your restaurant’s app or website.
- Earning: Every time a customer visits your restaurant and completes an order, they earn points or rewards to use in future purchases. Rewards may include future discounts or a free menu item, encouraging your customers to make repeat visits.
- Enticement: As guests continue to make visits and use the rewards program, you can provide more personalized offers based on their purchase history, making them more likely to return to the restaurant and redeem the rewards.
While a restaurant rewards program may sound simple to implement, you may want to consider certain tips and tricks to maximize its effectiveness.
Consider a Gamification Program
Gamification loyalty programs are popular and highly successful. Gamification describes any tool used to apply gaming mechanics in a non-game context to bolster engagement or sales, such as a restaurant’s points-based rewards system. Providing your rewards program with a points-based system can engage and entice customers.
A gamification loyalty program allows your customers to feel more engaged with your rewards process, receiving a sense of achievement when earning points for making a simple transaction. If a customer goes to a coffee shop every day for a morning coffee, the rewards program can become a fun, exciting way for them to earn rewards.
To maximize repeat visits, some restaurants may provide special point days where a customer can earn double points if they visit a certain number of times in a week or spend a certain amount. Another great incentive is a referral program where both the current and new customers are rewarded with points, strengthening existing relationships and fostering new ones.
Continue Engaging With Customers
Building stronger relationships with your customers can increase their loyalty to your brand. While an individual’s relationship with your restaurant may be viewed initially as transactional, fostering this connection plays an important role in the likelihood of them continuing to visit you. A relationship requires work to grow, strengthen and lead to brand loyalty.
Most consumers are likely to be more loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred communication channels. Email marketing and personalized texts can entice people with special offers, happy hours and other promotions. Your restaurant can use customers’ transactional history to understand what they are most interested in or how much they usually spend. You can then send a specific promotion to your customers who are most likely to act on the offer.
The most important aspect of text or email marketing is to provide a meaningful exchange. If your customer enjoys your restaurant and menu and trusts your company with their personal information, like their email address or phone number, it becomes your responsibility to provide them with meaningful interactions and promotions that will likely resonate with them.
Collect Relevant Customer Data
In addition to gamification and communication, collecting relevant data is essential to effective rewards programs. As you get to know your customers and understand their preferences, you can foster meaningful relationships and personalize their experiences with your restaurant. To do this, you will need data.
You can collect many forms of data as your customers visit your restaurant, like how much they spend in a visit, how often they visit and what menu items may be their favorites. Other important data may include the time of day or week a customer visits, dietary restrictions and a preference for takeout, delivery or dine-in services. You can even collect a customer’s birthday for special offers.
An effective loyalty program can also provide insight into how people respond to your promotions and offers. For example, if someone continues to redeem certain offers, you know this offer is effective for them. On the other hand, if a customer is not redeeming any offers, you may want to reconsider the promotions you send them and see if these are relevant.
2. Run Holiday and Special Event Promos
Another idea to bring sales to a restaurant is to run holiday and special event promotions. While many people may think of large holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, there are holidays and special events each month that you can hold unique promotions for. You can even celebrate national food days, such as national pie day, national soup day and more, to offer exceptional items and entice customers.
Holding a special event can also draw attention to your restaurants. You can hold a trivia competition, board game night or host a viewing for a popular show or movie to encourage people to visit, dine and partake in an original, engaging experience. One of the best things about holiday and special event promotions is that the more creative they are, the better.
While customers care about food and quality of service, they are also often looking for memorable experiences. Special events are usually more likely to draw a group of friends or a family than just one customer. Special events and promotions are a great way to introduce new menu items, attract a wider audience and encourage customers to visit your restaurant. When creating a special promotion, you may want to consider these tips.
While a 10% discount on an order or a buy-one-get-one-free deal can be effective, try to think more creatively about special event promotions. Unique ideas can increase restaurant sales and gain more traction with customers, helping your restaurant stand out from others offering similar discounts or promotions.
It also can help to think beyond the food and drink your restaurant serves. While this is truly the foundation of your business, many customers seek a dining experience rather than just the food or drink. People want to create lasting memories with friends and family while enjoying their food. Special events and promotions can be a fun, exciting way to spend the evening with loved ones while enjoying food.
Partner With Local Businesses
Another great tip is to partner with local businesses or retail stores to increase brand awareness and boost sales. One way to partner with local companies is to turn your holiday menu or special offer into a coupon or flyer a customer can receive after spending a certain amount in a store. For example, if someone spends $100 at a store, they can be eligible for a free drink or appetizer at your restaurant, encouraging them to visit.
In general, you should partner with a store in the same shopping complex or general vicinity, making it much more likely that a hungry shopper may use the coupon on the same day and drop into your restaurant.
Create Custom Menus
A unique menu is essential during the holiday season or special events. Again, your customers are often looking for an unforgettable experience at a reasonable price, especially during this time of year. In autumn, many people may be looking for cranberry, spice or pumpkin flavors. Wintertime often calls for flavors of eggnog, peppermint, gingerbread and more.
These flavors can help set the holiday mood and raise the spirits of your restaurant customers. When creating a seasonal menu, make sure these dishes stand out and are clearly displayed on your website, social media, third-party ordering apps and, of course, your own menu. Many restaurants make smaller separate menus for special events and holiday seasons.
Leverage Spirits and Cocktails
While food is an essential aspect of your restaurant, many guests are also looking for delicious and unique cocktails, especially as sharing these experiences on social media has become so common. Try creating a seasonal drink with visual appeal to entice customers, making it more likely that they will recommend the drink or share their experience on social media.
You can also encourage customer involvement by creating a competition for them to name a new menu item or seasonal cocktail. A naming contest can help guests feel involved in the holiday celebration and make them more likely to partake in your restaurant’s festivities. If you run a naming competition, you can allow other customers to vote for their favorite one, encouraging them to share their name suggestions on social media and ask friends for their votes.
3. Run “Get Them in the Door” Promotions
Get them in the door promotions are a strategy to increase restaurant sales that encourage customers to get in the door in hopes that they will also order other items. Typically, restaurants employ a strategy of discounting certain items on their menu that are not usually eaten alone. For example, a restaurant can heavily discount appetizers, soups, salads or sides.
While these items are quite popular, they usually are not eaten alone and are not the restaurant’s main source of income. These promotions aim to encourage customers to come in and enjoy the discounts but also order from other sections of the menu, such as entrees.
If you are considering running a get them in the door promotion, consider these tips.
Understand Your Customers
One of the most important and fundamental steps to creating an effective promotion is to identify and understand the wants and needs of your existing customers and target audience. To start, you can answer simple questions. Does your average customer tend to be older or younger? Do you cater largely to families or adults? Are many of your customers looking for gluten-free options?
Answering fundamental questions like these can help you better understand your customers and what they are looking for when visiting your restaurant. You can also create more effective promotions and offers that your guests are more likely to redeem.
Know Your Margins
Another essential aspect of creating an effective promotion is understanding each item’s margins on your menu. Understanding the margin helps you know what items you can offer a sale or discount on while still making money. In general, you should aim to provide promotions on menu items with a high profit margin. Knowing your margins can help you make informed decisions and create an effective promotion.
There are seemingly endless offerings, special events and promotions you can use to entice customers. Additional ideas to attract existing and new guests include:
- Host community events: You can allow local organizations to use your restaurant space to hold special events. One benefit of this is that the organization will spread the word about their event, which directly promotes your business and restaurant. For example, some restaurants hold charity nights for local organizations. While much of the proceeds will go to the charity, the restaurant gains valuable exposure and improves its image.
- Launch new items: You can time promotions and special offerings around the launch of new menu items or even new restaurant services, such as takeout or delivery. If you are opening a new location, promotions are a great way to spread the word. Invite some of your most valued customers to a soft opening and let them preview new menu items, strengthening your bond with them and getting your audience excited for the new location.
- Engage virtually: Virtually engaging with your customers can increase your social media presence and effectively share current promotions and offerings. Personal insights into your menu, recipes and food preparation techniques can increase a customer’s emotional investment and bond with your restaurant. For example, your restaurant can hold live segments or video tutorials on how a fan-favorite dish is made while offering a coupon or promotion on the item when the customer visits next.
- Host pop-ups: A pop-up or food truck can help spread the word about your restaurant and encourage new customers to try some of your most popular menu items, which entices them to visit your restaurant. You can also showcase your food at a local brewery, winery, food festival or farmer’s market.
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