Rethinking Food Promotions

By Rich Parubrub
Group Creative Director/copywriter

When it comes to enticing guests to come in and eat, most restaurants default to predictable, tried and true food promotions. Like discounted pricing for a specific dish, some type of value combination meal, a variant on all-you-can-eat entree or appetizers, a free drink or dessert and Happy Hour specials. 

While they may work, they typically appeal to just one type of guest: the value-conscious diner. 

Sometimes restaurants also push specific food-focused holiday promos, like pumpkin-spiced desserts/drinks during Halloween. The drawback to this type of special is that it’s geared to increase traffic only during a certain time of year.

But there's another untapped category of food promotion that holds a lot of potential for success – one that reframes the deal away from price and food, to one of social connection.

Here are three examples. 

Family Potluck Meals

In the not too distant past, many families made it a tradition to all be present at the dinner table. To sit, talk and eat together... as a family. Fast forward to today’s reality. With the hustle and bustle of modern everyday life, career-minded parents and sports- and hobby-focused kids rarely get a chance to all get together over a meal.

So why not create a food promotion that brings the entire family to table? Restaurants can offer family-sized portions of a main dish (limited to a few dishes that they already offer or specialize in), two popular sides dishes and an appetizer or dessert. Food amounts and pricing can be tiered for families of three, four, five or more. Diners may initially balk at the seemingly expensive price, but the menu could include a reminder of the higher total if a comparable meal was made up of individually ordered plates. 

Wine Down The Week

Both working women and full-time moms need time to blow off steam. And personal face-time with girlfriends is much-needed way to maintain sanity in a world filled with crazy. 

A great to celebrate these sessions of talk, laughter and understanding is with a promotion that ties in a little vino. Thursday to Saturday specials on individual glasses of wine, half carafes and bottles, paired with one or multiple appetizers will win over groups of women to your restaurant. Hopefully for regular meet ups.

First-Date Specials

Every day, men and women across the country go out on the proverbial first date, which usually entails a meal of some sort. That makes this promo attractive to a large target audience. 

If a restaurant acknowledges these sometimes awkward first encounters with a drinks and appetizer special, or perhaps a round of drinks as the appetizer itself before the meal, that restaurant could become the welcome, go-to spot for first dates. Restaurants can further embrace this concept with simple "icebreaker" collateral, like cocktail napkins that feature get-to-know-you questions that grease small talk.  

_____

By reframing food promotions away from food and price to one of interpersonal connection, a restaurant can remind guests that dining out is so much more than eating good food or saving money – more than satisfying hungry stomachs.

It’s about enjoying the company of family and friends over a great meal. Strengthening relationships. Nourishing that part of us that wants to feel connected to the people that matter. 

And that's something practically everyone will find appetizing. 

Li Brown