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5 Effective Restaurant Promotion Ideas to Increase Orders

Chefs enjoying a meal

Whether you’ve just launched your restaurant brand or your existing brand needs a little boost with customers, you need to offer your customers a good deal. In either case, restaurant promotions tend to create some very promising results.

Here’s a Classic Example:

Coca-Cola came up with the first-ever discount coupon in 1887, which granted a free glass of the popular beverage to those who came upon it. Following this promotion, Coca-Cola managed to pull in 8.5 million customers.

Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to increase the number of customers using your online ordering system. You might worry that restaurant promotions and specials might hurt your bottom line, but if you’re on the right track, promotional offers can be quite lucrative in bringing customers in and keeping them coming back for more.

Even if Coca-Cola’s example seems too generic of an idea for this day and age, modern consumers still expect to see discounts in the online age.

  • RetailMeNot found that 80% of online shoppers are bound to order from a restaurant if they come across a promotional offer.
  • Similarly, Valassis published that 57% of all millennials search for restaurants that offer coupons online.

There is another lesson to be learned from the Coca-Cola example.

Restaurant promotions shouldn’t be thought of as one-off campaigns to attract new customers in the short term. Instead, these promotions should be so effective that they help to retain quality customers and also increase the lifetime value of your brand identity.

If you’re interested to read about the most effective restaurant promotion ideas, keep scrolling through and find the most suitable one for your restaurant.

1. Discounts

Direct discounts come in many shapes and sizes. They can either be ongoing or seasonal and they can be offered to either existing or new customers.

The simplest form of discounts are called time-based discounts and they work by offering a certain percentage off the actual price of a meal during a specific period, such as 6- to 9-pm.

Percentage based discounts typically deduct of a percentage sum of the total amount of the order. In contrast, flat discounts just deduct a fixed sum of the entire restaurant bill. In either case, restaurant owners can choose to promote their discounts via email or SMS campaigns to increase reach and adoption, thereby promising increased sales.

2. Loyalty Programs

Restaurants have been cooking up loyalty programs ever since the early ’80s, the shift of restaurants to a digital medium has magnified the effectiveness of these promotions. Fast-paced independent restaurants have already started enticing interested customers in loyalty programs and with great results.

You see, loyalty programs give online customers a sense of achievement and recognition and they are especially effective on loyal customers. If you’re relatively new in the restaurant industry, loyalty programs wouldn’t be as effective in bringing in new customers as discounts.


You’ve probably come across BOGO deals, free desserts and happy hour specials. Even if some deals don’t apply to your restaurant, you can always use free desserts and ‘buy one get one free’ offers in your restaurant’s promotion strategy. In fact, studies suggest that deals such as happy hours have the potential to boost a restaurant’s sales by more than 50%.

Here’s a pro tip to inspire you: if you’re collecting data with your online ordering platform or online POS, you can measure the success of your deals and find room for improvements. These improvements can be from both, the customers’ perspective or from your restaurant’s perspective.

3. Events

Imagine seasonal events, holiday themes and chef’s specials. These specials are the perfect idea for restaurant owners that would like to experiment with their dishes or to present those scrumptious meals they are especially known for.

While these seasonal events will grant customers a sneak peek into the best that you have to offer, think about how your restaurant will be able to set itself apart from its immediate competitors. This particular promotional idea tends to be doubly effective if restaurant owners and managers involve their chefs in the process.

4. Referral Programs

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.” – Shiv Singh

The Wharton School of Business published that a restaurant’s lifetime value gets a 16% higher boost when they introduce referral programs as opposed to non-referrals. When customers are recommended to a particular restaurant, they seem to automatically trust your brand and have a higher chance of returning for more.

In addition, restaurants can always integrate their referral programs with loyalty programs or perhaps even use their social media campaigns to amplify their benefits.

5. Combos

The restaurant industry keeps experimenting with creative bundle offers and the best examples of these can be seen in traditional restaurants like QSR’s or Berco’s and massive restaurant chains such as Taco Bell and Burger King. Who says independent restaurants owners can’t reap the benefits of combo deals as well?

By experimenting with your own bundle offers, you can work out a way to find a way to offer your customers some value for their money, while also boosting your cash flow. The next time you’re planning on editing the meal section in your online menu, consider mixing and matching dishes that complement each other and might be sought after by loyal customers.

How to Craft an Effective Restaurant Offer

Naturally, an idea for a promotion isn’t going to cut it. You should also be well-versed in the best practices for coming up with and communicating the best promotional ideas for your restaurant. Here’s how you can get started:

Understand Your Customers

It goes without saying that restaurant promotions are only effective if they get customers interested. To craft an effective restaurant offer, start asking questions like:

  1. What kind of customers does your restaurant cater to? Does it attract families, mothers, office workers, etc? For instance, Crepe Fe had determined that their main target market were homemakers, which mostly consisted of mothers.
  2. What makes your target audience happy? What draws them to your online menu?
  3. Where do your ideal customers like to hang out? Since we’re dealing with online ordering systems or online ordering platforms here, a better question would be: ‘Which social media platforms do they prefer to use?’

Research Effective Promotions in the Industry

The restaurant industry you operate in is enormous. Therefore, whenever you’re researching the industry for inspiration on promotions, try to stick to your niche only. For instance, try researching delivery restaurants in your areas or the specific genre of food you offer, such as pizza or waffles.

Once you have gathered enough insights from all of the strategies laid down by your competitors, you will be able to whip up the best strategy for your own menu.

Gather Insights From Your Business Data

“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” – Roy H. Williams

Now that you’ve weighed in the external factors, it is time to consider internal data as well. The following are some questions that could help you draw up some highly effective restaurant promotions:

  • ? Which days of the week tend to have the highest and lowest number of orders?
  • ? Which dishes on your menu are the most popular?
  • ? Which platform attracts the most customers to your online restaurant?
  • ? Which menu items do the most people bundle together?
  • ? How many of your customers are loyal to your restaurant? How often do they place orders?
  • ? What kind of margin would you like to maintain?

Integrate With Social Media

Zagat found that 75% of internet users that browse through photos of food on social media, tend to choose the next place they would prefer to order from. This is why it will be beneficial to utilize multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Social media engagement can also really boost the effectiveness of a restaurant event or brand new menu items. What’s even better is that social media promotions are very easy to implement. All you need to do is choose the right visuals and messages. And, of course, don’t forget to mention your restaurant promotions!

This Restaurant Web Application Can Take Your Restaurant Promotions to a Whole New Level

“In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” – Doug Warner

Restaurant promotions offer independent restaurants a competitive advantage and their conversions are bound to spread positive words about your brand. MenuCRM offers a full-features web application that simplifies customer loyalty programs for small business and independent restaurant owners.

MenuCRM can be your restaurant’s website, online ordering system, CRM, restaurant loyalty app, and customer communications toll, all packed into one. By adopting MenuCRM, you will not only be able to increase your foot traffic and orders in less than 45-days but also streamline meal purchase processes without the need for internal restaurant maintenance.

So what’re you waiting for? Partner with MenuCRM and relish the opportunity to take your restaurant promotions to the next level.

Posted By Heather Stoudt | 9/15/2023