Let’s face it, we get in a rut sometimes, we get comfortable and find ourselves stuck doing the same old things year after year. Eventually the newness wears off of your marketing promotions as well as their effectiveness.
Well here are four unique restaurant promotion ideas that are sure to give you a nice boost in sales!
I first read about this idea in a popular restaurant magazine. This guy used their anniversary celebration as a customer appreciation day to give away free food. Yes, completely free food for his customers. He admitted they gave away several thousand dollars’ worth of food but mentioned that there was a hangover effect of goodwill and would see increased traffic for several months after the celebration.
The first time we tried this we learned a few things. We tried to do it at a park across the street from our restaurant and set it up like a catering. Don’t do this.
While we saw a bunch of regular customers we also noticed other people who probably never ate at our restaurant and were calling friends upon friends. Needless to say, they were like vultures and trying to take food to go with them. Then they got mad at us when we ran out of food, when they were getting it for free in the first place!
It was also not good as we had customers showing up at the restaurant expecting the deal. Like I said, we learned our lesson.
Since then we only do it our restaurants and instead of offering the food for free we offer a 50% discount. This is still a hell of a deal and weeds out a lot of people who might not be our customers.
We also partner with a local charity and donate part of our sales for that day to them so we are really only covering our food costs but our customers get a great deal and we get donate a decent amount of money to a good cause.
Let me tell you, 50% is still enough of a deal to bring them in. We run this promotion on a Monday and both locations do double the transactions they would normally do on a Thursday or Friday! If you wanted to get even more out of the promotion you can hand out some bounce back coupons all day to the guests that come in to entice them to come back in quickly.
Fraternity/Sorority Catering Campaign
If you are lucky enough to have a college or university in your town, going after the Greek’s with a fraternity campaign can be a great source of revenue. For this promotion, you will want to draft a letter to the president of the fraternity/sorority offering them a free lunch for four and mention all the great catering options you offer. The best way to sell you product is to get people to try it!
Invite them out to your restaurant or offer to bring them out the food. Don’t just give them the food, you need to sit down with them for a few minutes and tell them your story, people love stories! Then find out their catering needs, if they do cater frequently then you can add them to your database and continuously market to them.
They might not order for months or even a year, but at least you know they do order catering and have tried your food at least once. Assuming your food and service was great, this should lead to real catering sales.
We have a handful of fraternities/sororities that we regularly cater tailgate parties or Daddy Daughter day picnics. These are large events as well, they are almost always for over 300 people! Plus the events happen almost all year round except for the summer.
Top 100 Employers
The top 100 employer’s promotion is another great way to get large catering sales for your restaurant. It is very similar to the Greek promotion but we are obviously going after businesses in this one.
You can buy a list of business in your area from InfoUsa. It will have detailed information like the number of employees, annual sales, contact info for the CEO (don’t address your letters to them, you won’t get through!). It won’t be 100% accurate but it will be enough for what you need it for.
You can work your way through this list in two ways with a direct mail piece or by phone. If you don’t have much time than direct mail would be the way to go. If you have time then phone calls or more effective, just not as efficient.
The letter should offer them one of your catering packages for free and in return mention that you want to sit down with them, get to know their catering needs and tell them a little bit about yourself. The idea here is again to get them to try your food and put your face with a name.
If you can schedule these presentations, some of the prospects will order from you just because they feel obligated, and others will genuinely enjoy your service and become regular customers.
We have gained several long term customers this way. Luckily our catering software provider has a huge resource website with direct mail templates that made it easy for us to get this campaign going.
If you going through the list by phone, you need to try and get in touch with the person who handles catering. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it is not. It helps if you let them know at the beginning of the conversation that you are promoting your catering service by giving away free food for businesses that qualify. If you can you will want to try and see how many times a year they order catering and for how many guests. If you like the answers, you can offer them the free deal or you can thank them for their time and send them a menu.
For this promotion, you may want to start with the second 100 businesses in your area so you can get some practice on your presentation skills. That way when you get to the big players you will have your routine down.
These can be potentially huge clients. Some larger businesses might order lunch on a weekly basis for smaller groups and then do a company picnic and holiday party each year for the whole company which could be for hundreds of people. So these are some targets you will want to go after.
Christmas in July
Every year in December you see almost every restaurant promoting gift certificates sales, but why does this have to be only in December? We always run a Christmas in July promotion for the same deal.
Most of the time you will see restaurants giving a bonus certificate for every XX amount of money they spend. A couple years ago I noticed the Bloomin’ Brand concepts doing this a smarter way.
They offer a “bonus card” with the certificates that has an expiration date on it. I thought this was genius because the gift certificates are not allowed to expire but the bonuses doesn’t have to be a “gift certificate”, it is just a bonus.
This not only entices customers to come back in frequently but also creates a situation where they might not even redeem those bonuses. Of course it is up to you whether or not you want to enforce the expiration date but either way it creates a sense of urgency.
This is also one of the easiest promotions to run.
I hope these unique restaurant promotions bring you thousands of dollars in sales! They definitely take more work than just running an ad or coupon somewhere but they quality of sales you get from them will be much higher.