Marketing Restaurants

Local Restaurant Promotions Guide: 12 Best Promo Ideas

Unsure about using restaurant promotions to attract customers to your local restaurant? That’s understandable considering you can lose a little in profits initially but the returns can open up streams of continued business over time.

Rest easy with this comprehensive restaurant promotional guide freshly updated with the 2020-2021 climate in mind.

First, let’s quickly go over some general pros and cons of offering restaurant promos.

Why Are Restaurant Promotions Important?

Restaurant promotions can be manifested in many forms but the end goal remains – to bring in more business. Additionally, restaurants create an opportunity to attract new guests and win them over as regulars. With a great overall experience, they may want to spread the word to their friends and family, doing wonders for brand awareness.

So why do promos work for getting new diners through the door? We’ll let the data speak for itself:

  • 30% of consumers will be swayed to try a new restaurant from their usual casual dining choices when presented with an attractive deal (Valassis)
  • 80% of diners are highly likely to consider a new restaurant if there is a deal (RetailMeNot)
  • 57% of millennials seek out restaurant coupons (Valassis)

These statistics show the psychology behind why they work and why restaurants successfully attract new customers with specials, all year round.

Even more of a reason to offer restaurant promotions is the active eco-system of coupons available on the internet. The internet is littered with coupons for just about anything and their convenience is pushing physical coupons to extinction. The expectation to find good deals online makes local restaurant promos an absolute necessity.

Are There Any Disadvantages?

If promos bring restaurants more business in the future, then the short-term loss from reduced prices becomes miniscule.

A concerning disadvantage however lies in the fact that online promos can be harder to regulate. Physical coupons are becoming less common as more promos are being distributed digitally. As a result, restaurants don’t know who sees their deals online and can’t restrict who grabs it in many cases.

The restaurant’s goal may be to attract a new customer but they can’t control it from getting into the hands of a long-time customer.

Additionally, offering too many promos can dilute a restaurant’s brand image by losing its value from being perceived as a “discounter.”

So to recap, the pros and cons of restaurant promotions are:

Pros and Cons of Restaurant Promotions

Solutions to Restaurant Promotion Limitations

Build real relationships with customers. Give them an amazing dine-in experience and have a loyalty program to give them a reason to come back.

Many restaurants are even launching their own apps for loyal diners to download. Having your own app will allow you to offer exclusive deals and send reminders through push notifications.

ChowEasy is also a solution that allows restaurants to attract new local diners with custom promos without the risk of looking like a “discounter”. With the ChowEasy app, restaurants anonymously enter a special deal on the app for local diners to bid on. Once the diner commits, the restaurant’s name is revealed.

Best Local Restaurant Promotion Ideas:

Don’t Let Events Go Wasted

Is your city hosting a big sports game? Is there a live show or major convention? Often times, big events like these bring tons of people from out of town and many are looking to dine at local restaurants.

Use these moments to your advantage by offering specials before the live concert, exclusive promos for ticket holders to a convention and many more. For example, 10% off for all season ticket holders.

Work with Influencers

Perhaps one of the currently top trending restaurant marketing strategies involve influencer marketing. Some local “foodies” have garnered unbelievable numbers of followers on their food blog or on Instagram.

A food blogger who runs their own Instagram page may visit your restaurant and take pictures. They will then post flattering photos of your food with an enticing caption for their thousands of followers to engage with.

Some food bloggers may mention your restaurant in a blog post that gets read by passionate enthusiasts of the cuisine you serve.

This is publicity at its finest without a huge budget. Often times, local restaurants will either pay an influencer or offer them a meal for free in exchange for a social media post or blog post.

Rewards for Gift Cards

Many restaurants during the 2020 lockdowns pushed gift card sales to stay afloat. After all, if a customer is a regular, they might as well spend more upfront and “save” their future meals for later.

To help boost restaurant gift card sales, restaurants started offering additional rewards with the purchase of the card.

Here is a short list of many examples we’ve seen:

  • Applebee’s – $50 gift card purchase gets you an extra $10
  • IHOP – $25 gift card gets you an additional $5 coupon
  • Joe’s Crab Shack – $25 gift card gets you a scratch-off ticket for a mystery prize
  • AMC Theaters – $30 in giftcard puchases gets you $5 in concession bucks

Restaurant Giveaways

You get a car, and you get a car! Okay, you may not have cars to give away like Oprah, but maybe you have a new bike you don’t use. Whether you choose to invest in a giveaway prize or giveaway something you own, giveaways can get people in the door.

Set up a raffle or a competition for the prize. Bonus tip: with raffle tickets, you can easily acquire email addresses and add them to your restaurant’s email list.

Time of the Day

Is lunch from 12-2pm or Mondays your notoriously slow times for dine-in traffic? Instead of offering different deals all the time, create a lunch special to bring in more traffic for a reduced price. If used right, this can be very effective to combat slow days.

Examples: Reduced prices on drinks on Wednesday nights, lunch specials

Seasonal Events

Seasonal events and holidays create a unique opportunity to make diners feel like they are missing out on a great deal. Since seasons and holidays quickly pass by, diners will want to take advantage of limited time deals before they miss out.

Cinco de Mayo is one such example where you can you offer Mexican beers at half the price. Diners are also likely to visit in groups for holiday specials and that’s always great for business.

Everyday is a Holiday

Did you know that January 25 is National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day? Many businesses use everyday holidays to plan their social media posts. If you haven’t checked out the holidays before, you’ll be surprised to see so many days dedicated to cuisine. Take advantage of this to come up with endless promo possibilities any time throughout the year. Check out for inspiration and get creative!

Examples: National Pizza Day, National Gumbo Day, National Gluten-free day, National Buffet Day, Drink Wine Day, etc.

Local restaurant promotional discount during appreciation day or national holiday
Source: PDQ via Facebook

Happy Hour

Yes, this classic marketing term is still used by many restaurants today for it’s effectiveness. Offer discounts on alcoholic drinks, menu items, and free appetizers during strategic times in the day like right as people get off work.

Day of the Week Special

Offering specific deals based on the day of the week really does stay in the mind of consumers. Some classic examples include: margarita Monday and taco Tuesday. When old Joe is feeling indecisive and sitting at home on Tuesday night, he’ll remember that it happens to be taco Tuesday.

Here are some more catchy examples:

  • Meatloaf Monday
  • Tequila Tuesday
  • Wine Wednesday
  • Wing Wednesday
  • Waffle Wednesday
  • Thirsty Thursday
  • Stir-fry Friday
  • Fish’n Fries Friday
  • Spaghetti Saturday
  • Sandwich Sunday


Offer combos that consist of appetizers, the main meal, side dishes, dessert and a drink for a reduced price.

Multi-Buy Promotions

Upsell by launching multi-buy promos like buy 1 get 1 free or buy 2 get 1 specials. For example, offer free soda with order of two large pizzas.

The incentive doesn’t always have to be free. You can offer something like $1 on draft beer for two orders of buffalo wings.

Now…Time to Maximize Profits From Promos

The purpose of offering restaurant promotions and discounts is to get more business in the end. Just because you’re offering deals doesn’t mean you have to act cheap.

Here are some ways to maximize profits from restaurant promotions:

Train Staff to Upsell, Upsell, and Upsell Some More

The reason why dine-in customers bring in the most profits for a restaurant is because of upsell potential. The customer may have walked in to get a burger with fries but maybe he/she orders an appetizer or dessert alongside it.

There are always upselling opportunities and guests need help deciding. Training servers to form the habit of consistently recommending menu items, combos, and drinks to customers could raise margins drastically.

Leverage Social Media

Share your promotions on social media for your dedicated fanbase to see. If they follow or like your restaurant page, they most certainly would love to see great deals come from you. They may even bring a friend who just might be your next loyal customer!

Build a Loyalty Program

Start a loyalty program if you don’t already have one. Let’s face it, not everybody who visits the first time through a promo will return. A loyalty program will help plant a seed for the diner’s next visit well after their first time.

Example: Starbucks loyalty program

Final Thoughts

As you can see, restaurant promos are an essential tool to attract customers and can be offered in many ways. If you have some promos in place or are at least thinking about it, good for you! This indicates that you are growth-focused and are planting opportunities that will yield more business over time.

If you would like an easy way to grow your local restaurant business, please consider the ChowEasy app. You can offer promotions to diners in your local area who are in the mood for the cuisine you serve. Unlike other deal sites with hefty costs and brand dilution, ChowEasy enables you to offer promos on your terms in as little as 60 seconds. Try it now!

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