Valentine’s Day is, even in these rocky times for restaurants, the biggest day for dining out all year. While you’re focused on making sure customers choose your restaurant for the special holiday over your competitors, don’t lose sight of the other days worthy of marketing promotions that pack a punch.
To help drive customer traffic and increase restaurant sales throughout February and March, these marketing ideas for promotions celebrate everything from the biggest stars to the small business owners that help keep the restaurant industry humming.
February 2: Day of the Crepe
Also called Jour des Crêpes, this is France’s version of National Pancake Day. But unlike most American “foodie holidays,” there is actual historical significance for this event. To celebrate the Feast of Candelora, the French would hold a coin in their dominant hand and flip the crepe in the pan with the other. If the crepe successfully flipped in the pan, it meant prosperity for the family all year.
Help bring some prosperity to your restaurant and make all of your customers’ crepe wishes come true by offering both savory and sweet varieties as menu specials. Crepes are deceptively easy to make and prepare in large quantities, but you can also give the impression of offering a wide variety with a range of fillings. Bananas and Nutella are a classic crepe pairing, as are mushrooms and goat cheese on the savory side. For something a little more unique, crepes filled with chicken curry is one of my favorite varieties!
February 12: Grammy Awards
The Grammys this year are shaping up to include a start-studded lineup of performers, including Adele, Metallica, and Carrie Underwood. Host your own event for the “Purpose” of drawing customers to your restaurant or bar to watch the awards. Make sure the TVs are turned “All the Way Up” so your customers can hear the performances, and you can even host a contest to see which guest can correctly guess the most winners.
You can also get your team into “Formation” with food and drink specials inspired by this year’s nominees. “Lemonade” is a versatile ingredient to incorporate in a drink, but you can also use it in cakes or as a glaze for chicken. “Broccoli” might be a little risqué for some restaurants, but I’m “Confident” you’ll think of some creative, “Cheap Thrills” for your menu. Now get to “Work” (work, work, work, work) and say “Hello” to increased sales!
February 26: Academy Awards
Bring the glitz and glamor of the Oscars to your restaurant with themed promotions celebrating the stars of the silver screen. Whip up food and drink specials inspired by this year’s nominees – tastefully done, of course. A fish special labeled Manchester by the Sea? Not so Oscar-worthy. But a jazzy lemon cocktail called Another Day of Sun, inspired by La La Land? I’ll take two, please!
And what goes better with movies than popcorn? See how you can incorporate popcorn into a new dish, or offer a bowl as a complimentary appetizer for your customers. Similar to the Grammy event, you can also host a viewing party for the Academy Awards at your restaurant, complete with ballots for your guests to predict the winners and compete with their friends to see who really knows the best films of 2016.
February 28: Mardi Gras
Listen, folks – it’s not called “Fat Tuesday” for nothing. This holiday is the ultimate food cheat day, so attract customers looking to indulge at your restaurant in a feast fit for a Mardi Gras king or queen. As ethnic cuisines continue to trend, Cajun flavors are actually becoming more mainstream, appealing to a larger consumer base. Specials like jambalaya or po’ boys can help keep the good times rolling – and traffic rolling into your restaurant.
Bars can also jump on board with specialty cocktails like Hurricanes or promotional giveaways like beads and chocolate coins. This event isn’t just limited to New Orleans-inspired promotions, though. You can also look for inspiration from the samba dancers of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro or the elaborate masks of Venetian Carnevale. As a Chicagoan, I look forward to bakeries offering paczki, a Polish pastry similar to filled doughnuts, on Fat Tuesday.
March 7: National Cereal Day
Last year, when Kellogg’s opened its all-day cereal cafe New York City with help from Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi and Per Se’s Anthony Rudolph, cereal was elevated to a foodie favorite. This year, you can use this holiday to help get your foot in the door with this trendy treat for any time of day. With its sugary content, cereal makes for a perfect pairing in desserts like confetti cakes made with Fruity Pebbles or a French silk pie with a crushed Cocoa Puff crust.
Cereal also makes the ideal garnish for the trendy Freakshakes. You can also look for ways to incorporate cereals into your savory specials, like Corn Flakes fried chicken or mac ‘n’ cheese with a Rice Krispies crust.
March 17-18: St. Patrick’s Day
You could just stick to the corned beef specials and Guinness, but why limit your creativity this year? For drink specials beyond the green beer and Jameson, consider other Irish-themed offerings like Magners Irish cider or Irish car bombs. Mix up some unique treats in the kitchen too, with ingredients like green food dye, Irish cream, or even Lucky Charms to extend Cereal Day a little longer!
If your restaurant typically isn’t open in the wee hours of the day, consider hosting an Irish breakfast on the 18th, when partygoers will be looking to fuel up before their daytime celebrations. St. Patrick’s Day is also a great event for live music in restaurants and bars. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an Irish performer, but booking someone who can get the crowd going with some Irish drinking songs will pump up the festive atmosphere.
March 29: National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day
While restaurants across the board experienced traffic slowdowns in 2016, independent restaurants are still attracting customers with their “unique offerings, local orientation, and strong value propositions,” according to Technomic Managing Principal, Joe Pawlak.
And with 90% of full-service restaurants in the U.S. being independently owned, this is a day to celebrate all of the hard-working, small business owners who support the restaurant industry. Increase the traffic to your restaurant with promotions that tout the uniqueness of your business and your ties to your community.
Create a special highlighting ingredients from the local producers or host a fundraiser for an organization in your community. You can even share your story as a restaurant owner on your social media channels to help attract customers who value supporting small businesses.
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