On the Line / Marketing / Restaurant Specials Ideas: Discounts and Promotions You Can Offer

Restaurant Specials Ideas: Discounts and Promotions You Can Offer

Give your guests something to look forward to.

Specials and Promotions Hero min

DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

Your restaurant seems to be ticking off all the boxes. The food is top-notch, the staff is incredible, and the location is perfect. Your customers know it, but don’t you wish that more diners knew it? 

As a business owner, you’re on a constant quest to grow your business and acquire new guests. This is where marketing, and more specifically, restaurant promotions come in. 

Restaurant deals, daily specials, and promotions are a happy bonus for your regulars, as well as a great way to attract new business. 

Limited-Time Offers and Menu Specials

A limited-time offer gives you a chance to experiment with your menu without having to commit. And specials are an opportunity for your kitchen staff to play with new dishes and showcase seasonal offerings.

According to a Technomic study, 43% of consumers report that it’s “important or extremely important” to them that restaurants frequently offer new or seasonal items on their menus. The study also reported that 26% of the respondents would pay slightly more for those limited-time, specialty offerings.


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Creative Restaurant Promotion Ideas 

Seasonal Menu Items

PSL, anyone? 

As soon as the first end-of-summer chill creeps in, there’s one thing on everyone’s minds: the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. The premium, seasonal, while-supplies-last drink launched in 2003, and has had a cult following ever since. Think 200 million PSLs sold in the drink's first decade...and still going strong!

While they stay tight-lipped about sales of specific drinks, it’s estimated that Starbucks has made up to $1.4 billion dollars from the latte alone, not to mention the variations they’ve debuted over the years. So take a lesson from the latte, by trying something new or seasonal, and watching customer interest grow.

Supporting a Good Cause

How about using limited-time offers as a way to do good in your restaurant’s community?

In 2016, Subway restaurants across Canada donated the equivalent of 303,030 meals to food banks through their National Sandwich Day offer. 

For one day only, when customers bought a sandwich and a drink, Subway donated an equivalent amount of cash to charity. This generated sales and goodwill.

So take action. Pick a historically quiet week and offer up a free, special dessert to customers who bring along a non-perishable donation for a cause. Sweets for being sweet. It’s a simple action that can not only generate business, but help encourage a positive culture and environment within your restaurant.  

You can even integrate these actions into your long-term business plan. Diesel Cafe in Somerville, MA, gives back daily. In August 2018, they joined forces with a Massachusetts-based non-profit called More Than Words. It’s an organization aimed to empower at-risk youth and young adults through business, as a means of personal empowerment. 

Diesel built out a mini bookstore within their restaurant. It’s operated and managed by More Than Words, and all of the proceeds go directly to the non-profit. This space gives More Than Words exposure to Diesel’s customer base and encourages customers to buy a book, stick around, and maybe order another cup of coffee while they read. 

The Eternal Chef's Special

Chef's Table in Brooklyn doesn’t have a menu. Instead, there are rotating selections chosen by the chef each morning. 

Which is to say, you can make the announcement of your daily menu into an exciting event, by promoting it on Instagram, sending it out in your newsletter, or even running a gift card promotion where you give out one free tasting meal on social media every day. 

Loyalty Programs for Discounts

Forbes spoke with Howard Schneider, who’s an expert in the loyalty marketing space. He said that “Customers will remember their experience with a brand long after they’ve forgotten a discount,” which are words that any restaurateur would be wise to take to heart. 

Loyalty program members are your restaurant's best friends. They see value in visiting often, and they’ve also likely opted in to receive regular content (personalized emails, text messages, push notifications) that keep your business at top of mind. 

Loyalty stamp cards are old news, so modernize this promo by syncing up with a loyalty program management tool. You’ll keep things streamlined for your staff and your customers, and the tool will make it easier for your members to earn rewards.

Domino’s Pizza recently invested in their digital loyalty program. They introduced their web- and app-friendly, ultra-simple rewards program, where customers receive 10 points for every $10 spent. When they earn 60 points they receive a medium two-topping pizza for free. This model is scaleable to your restaurant’s size and offerings. By implementing a points system based on dollars or goods, you’ll encourage repeat customers by rewarding them for spending.

Don’t forget that when a customer is close to earning loyalty rewards, they’ll spend 39% more than they usually would. Let your loyalty tool help you track your best customers and uncover what promos motivate them to return to your business.

Always keep your loyalty customers informed about upcoming events, dining deals, and limited time offers, and you’ll set yourself up for success. After all, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers do - so keep them up to date.


Specializing in Specials

As you test out certain promo styles, don’t forget to keep an eye on your POS information. You’ll be able to quickly tell which specials are bringing in customers and dollars, and which are less effective. Refer to this data when you’re gearing up to launch that seasonal, gotta-have-it, pumpkin-spiced masterpiece, and the task of restaurant staff scheduling to handle the crowds of excited customers will be a breeze. And by the way, listen to those customers. The best food deals are the ones that your guests will engage with, so record and implement guest feedback. 

Now that you’re armed with a few new ways to highlight what makes your restaurant special, you’re poised to keep your business growing strong.

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