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Do's & Don'ts of Running Restaurant Promotions

06 Jun 2024


No matter how good your dishes are, how attractive the options are, or how budget-friendly the food items are in your food joints, if you aren’t making any efforts to reach out to potential diners by doing any restaurant promotions, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to grow. For any business to succeed, you need to engage directly with your customers, whether existing or new ones.

However, the trick here is to focus on the right promotion strategies for restaurants, which is why we have compiled a list of Do’s and Don’t in this article.

Why Are Restaurant Promotions Essential?

Restaurant Offers

Promotions aren’t just about offering discounts to your customers; they are a great way of acquiring and retaining customers. It’s about attracting your customers through lucrative offers that make them want to visit your restaurant. Reaching out to new customers through restaurant promotions who may not have otherwise taken a glance at your food joint, and at the same time, encouraging existing customers to keep coming back for more.

While restaurant promotions are essentials for attracting customers, there is also a limit to hyping up what your restaurant is offering.

Take the example of McDonald’s in the Philippines and South Korea. There is a very popular boy band from South Korean BTS, which has 40 million fans globally, especially in these two countries. McDonald’s in the Philippines introduced a BTS Meal that included limited-edition sauces with 10 chicken Nuggets (specially chosen by the band itself). They were able to sell over 3.5 million chicken nuggets during the first day of promotion! In South Korea, 1.2 million sets were sold!

McDonald’s didn’t have to add anything new to the menu; all they had to do was repurpose existing food items! And the trick here was that they took advantage of the fact that BTS is extremely popular in the Philippines and South Korea. This is an effective marketing strategy that helped McDonald’s to attract more customers.

However, there are also instances where restaurant promotion strategies can fail:

There was a hashtag that started trending #WhyIStayed based on women’s stories of domestic abuse which they posted on the X platform. DiGiorno, which is a popular brand of frozen pizzas in the US, tweeted: “#WhyIStayed you had pizza” and that sparked outrage on social media. This was a bad part of the social media team of DiGiorno who posted without doing any research.

Hence, while working on restaurant marketing, it’s important to ensure that you are doing it the right way, so as not to damage the reputation and sales of your food business.

The Do's of Restaurant Promotions

Restaurant marketing

Here is our list 3 Do’s for restaurant promotions:

Carry Out a Strategic Planning

The first step of doing restaurant promotions is to understand who your target customers are, and their preferences - whether it’s professionals looking to have a quick lunch fix or families looking for cosy dinner spots. This can help you to tailor your promotions to resonate with their needs. For instance, you can create kiddie-friendly deals for families who take their children with them. Students living in hostels would love to get a hold of your special budget-friendly deals.

You need to set clear objectives on what outcomes your promotions are meant to achieve. All restaurant promotions serve a purpose - whether you need to boost foot traffic during off-peak hours or enticing customers to try your new seasonal special menu! This will not only captivate your customers but also encourage them to keep making return visits to your restaurant!

Bring Out the Creativity

As a restaurant owner, you know that creativity in dishes is getting you an increase in sales. You also need to apply the same creativity in restaurant promotions.

Whether it’s a themed event inspired by local culture or a limited-time menu featuring innovative dishes, you should strive to create attractive restaurant offers that capture the excitement of customers.

Howlin’s Ray is a small restaurant in Los Angeles, popular for its Nashville-style fried chicken. Even though it’s liked by many, the restaurant is small so the lines always get pretty long. Sometimes Howlin’s Ray posts on their Instagram page to let customers know how long the lines are. Other times, the restaurant posted a photo with the caption stating that anyone who can come up with the best caption for this photo gets a free pass and gift card. This promotion is effective because customers love free food as well as a fun and engaging activity!

Think of how the marketing of restaurant promotions can align with the current trends and customers preferences. This will help you to not only bring more customers to your restaurant but also foster loyalty among the existing customers.

Promote Through Effective Marketing

Here you can utilize online as well as offline channels to reach a wider audience and generate sales through your promotions.

For instance, Fougito, a food delivery app for customers in Dubai, allows restaurants to partner with them to expose their menu to a wide range of local customers who are looking to explore new dining experiences. By having their restaurant being listed on the Fougito platform, food lovers can check out exciting dining options being offered.

Additionally, you can also leverage social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook to let customers know about upcoming promotions. Offline marketing tactics include flyers which, contrary to what you may have heard, are still useful today. Both these methods will help new and existing customers to learn what your restaurant has to offer!

The Don'ts of Running Restaurant Promotions

Avoid Restaurant Marketing

Now let’s explore what you shouldn’t do when it comes to restaurant marketing:

Don’t Avoid Cost Analysis

Obviously, working on restaurant promotions isn’t cheap. And you need to pay special attention to the restaurant cost analysis through all operations, especially the one where you are carrying out promotion strategies for the restaurant.

Don’t make the mistake of neglecting cost analysis otherwise, it will lead to financial woes. For instance, if you move ahead with launching a promotion without considering the financial implications, you are opening yourself up to vulnerabilities.

Or if you are into running unsustainable options such as deep discounts or providing overly generous giveaways, this will attract customers towards your restaurant at first. Offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on your dishes may also boost traffic, but it’s simply not that reliable for repeat business. It’s a total recipe for disaster because they end up costing a lot more than you expect.

Hence, to avoid such a scenario, make sure that you have taken the time to crunch the numbers before you launch any promotion. The overhead costs should align with your budget and contribute to the long-term success of your restaurant! Prioritise cost analysis so that you can avoid any financial troubles for your restaurant business.

Don’t Make Overcomplicated Offers

If you provide an overcomplicated offer in your restaurant promotions, it can quickly turn what should be an exciting opportunity for your customers into a very confusing mess!

Customers need simplicity and clarity when it comes to promotions, like asking them to submit a photo on social media with a specific hashtag. If you are offering discounts on your special menu, clarify the timings when it’s being offered, e.g. 4 pm to 6 pm on Mondays.

Shake Shack is a popular restaurant chain that is famous for its simple yet delicious menu offerings. They may run a limited-time offer called Shacktoberfest, where seasonal food items are introduced. This deal is simple and straightforward because customers know that it is in reference to the month of October.

Make sure that your promotions are simple, with clear instructions and easy-to-understand terms. This can reduce confusion as well as make it easier for your staff to communicate the details to your customers to ensure they have an enjoyable experience.

Don’t Forget to Track and Evaluate

You need to evaluate and track the performance of your restaurant promotions, otherwise you have no idea if it’s working.

Imagine you launch a promotion with high hopes, only to find out that it fell flat and you have no clue why. You have no idea if the results are turning out as expected or if some adjustments are needed.

Consider this example: A restaurant that offers a 'Buy One, Get One Free' deal on a new menu item. Having no tracking system to monitor how many customers have taken advantage of the promotion or the percent of increased sales, that restaurant is missing out on valuable insights!

This is why it is essential to regularly evaluate the status of your promotions to identify what's working well and what's not. This enables you to make informed decisions and modify changes as needed. Neglecting this crucial step would be a waste of time, money, and resources on your part.

Final Thoughts

Keeping in mind that to ensure your restaurant promotions are successful, you need to harbour a combination of creativity, strategic planning, and smooth execution. The essential do's and don'ts mentioned in this article will help you to maximise the impact of your restaurant marketing strategies and keep your customers satisfied.

Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments!

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