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Spring Break 2023 Trends and Insights to Help Boost Sales

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Spring Break 2023 is here. The vacation season kicks off in early March and runs through mid-April. Over these weeks, tons of Americans will venture across the country.

Our recent survey found 69% of respondents have travel plans for Spring Break 2023. These travelers are prime customers for restaurants in popular destinations. Many of these businesses may even depend on spring break to make up a large chunk of annual sales.

It’s essential for restaurants to come up with spring break deals and specials to take advantage of the season — for in-store and off-premise orders.

Toast conducted a blind survey on February 6, 2023 of 1384 consumers in the US to understand their spring break travel plans and dining habits while on vacation. Read on to see key learnings and insights that can help boost sales for spring break 2023.

Top Spring Break 2023 restaurant takeaways

  1. Affordable menu prices are the most important factor influencing restaurant decisions, followed by online ratings and reviews and then wait times (for in-store and off-premise orders) 
  2. 97% of 2023 spring breakers plan to dine-in, drive-thru, or order takeout or delivery over their vacation — with 34% planning 3-5 restaurant orders per week and 27% planning daily 
  3. 82% of travelers say they increase their restaurant spending while on vacation — with 43% saying they increase their spend by 25% or more 
  4. 60% of 2023 spring breakers plan to order most from traditional, sit-down dining — followed by cafes/coffee shops (48%) and pizzerias (47%) 
  5. Florida (16%), California (12%), and Texas (6%) are the most popular destinations for spring break 2023 plans

Restaurant Marketing Plan

Create a marketing plan that'll drive repeat business with this customizable marketing playbook template and interactive calendar.


Spring Break 2023 travelers have BIG restaurant plans

It makes sense that tourists away from their homes and kitchens would increase their restaurant ordering and spending.

That’s very much the case for 2023 spring breakers as 18% plan daily orders and another 9% plan multiple orders per day.

This increased ordering leads to substantially more restaurant spending than normal for the travelers.

Two-thirds of 2023 spring breakers plan to increase their restaurant spending by at least 10%. 43% plan to increase restaurant spending by at least 25%. And 20% are expecting over a 50% increase in spending.

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Menu prices, online review, and wait times influence 2023 Spring Break dining decisions

Restaurants continue navigating food inflation and adjusting menu prices accordingly. And consumers are generally mixed in their views on the current state of the economy and their economic health. 

That’s the backdrop heading into Spring Break 2023 — and that’s why it makes sense to see menu prices as the biggest influence for spring break diners when choosing a restaurant.

Affordable menu prices are substantially the most important factor for 2023 spring break diners, as 86% identified it as either “extremely important (43%)” or “moderately important” (43%) and only 2% listed it as “not at all important”.

The next closest “extremely important” response was “online ratings and reviews” at 34% — a substantial gulf between menu price affordability. 

It is interesting to see that the most popular individual responses are:

  1. 44.73% (424) spring breakers listing “online ratings and reviews” as moderately important

  2. 43.88% (416) spring breakers listing “wait times” as moderately important

  3. 43.46% (412) spring breakers listing “affordable menu pieces” as moderately important

While regional cuisine and the ability to make reservations aren’t as relatively important as the other three options, respondents still identified them as influential when deciding on a spring break restaurant.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of spring breakers listed regional cuisine as “extremely important” or “moderately important” — with 51% doing the same for reservations.


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Traditional, sit-down dining is listed as most popular for Spring Break 2023 diners

There are tons of innovative restaurant service models available in the industry today. We wanted to understand which types of these restaurants spring break diners are most likely to patronize.

Diners are most interested in dining at traditional, sit down restaurants for spring break 2023. This isn’t surprising when you consider the escape traditional, full-service restaurants provide for hotel-goers on vacation. Sit-down restaurants can get them out of their rooms, allow them to stretch their legs, and place them amongst fellow vacationers and the action of the day.

Next up are coffee shops/cafes (48%) and then pizzerias (47%). Coffee shops and cafes make sense given the lack of an at-home coffee brewing set up and need for breakfast. And then of course pizzerias are near the top  — a classic and often affordable option for spring breaker young and old.

Help your restaurant capitalize on Spring Break 2023 and beyond

It’s critical that restaurants in tourist-heavy locations have their operation set up to capitalize on the busy season. Operators can think about this in terms of boosting sales, or revenue, and in terms of maximizing the profitability of that revenue.

Boosting sales and revenue during your busy season

Restaurant operators have tons of tactics and technology that can help capture more spring breaker orders (boosting sales) and increase the value of each (boosting revenue.)


Our data shows wait times are a critical factor when diners choose a restaurant. And the data also shows traditional, sit-down restaurants are projected to be most popular with spring breakers. Both these insights align perfectly with Toast’s New Steps of Service

Toast’s New Steps of Service is a technology-driven, modernized approach to front-of-house operations — made up of the strategic combination of mobile POS, kiosks, and diner-led ordering and payment via QR codes. These Toast systems can help empower operators to do more with less by:

  • Serving more guests with fewer staff by enabling guests to start and add to the tab. Restaurants using Toast Mobile Order & Pay™ typically see an average 10 percent increase in revenue.1

  • Simplifying the checkout process to help save time. On average, checkout using Toast mobile payments can save servers 4 minutes per table compared to traditional methods2 and on average guests tip on 9 percent more on transactions when they pay through Toast mobile payments vs. traditional checkout methods.3

  • Streamlining counter service via more empowered employees and additional order and checkout options for guests. On average, QSRs with Toast Mobile Order & Pay™ typically see 8% higher revenue per labor hour.4


Off-premise ordering and revenue generation — takeout, catering, and owned and third-party delivery — can be just as primed for a busy season splash as in-store dining. And technology is just as essential in helping restaurants capitalize on the tourists.

Toast TakeOut can help you increase sales and meet your guests wherever they are — take control with commission-free takeout and delivery designed to help you increase sales, save money, and turn first-time guests into regulars. Check out our helpful ROI calculator to see what you can save.

It’s critical that operators optimize delivery processes to ensure the sales channel is a worthwhile venture rather than a meager margin maker. Toast Delivery Services™ can help operators reach toward that optimization by: 

  • Enabling you to stay in control of delivery orders made online or via the Toast Takeout App until they make it to their final destination. 

  • Offering the ability to adjust minimum ticket sizes. 

  • Providing access to reporting and analytics that summarize delivery trends so you can adapt operations based on guest behavior.

Generating buzz and short-term retention

Restaurant marketing tools can be a great lever for getting past diners to return to a restaurant. These tools are how to help amplify and level up any spring break deals and specials. And while tools such as dedicated email sends, loyalty programs, and more are commonly a slow-drip process, they don’t have to be.

Tactics for driving repeat diners can be applied week-to-week over the course of spring break. Why not target diners on Monday of spring break with a 10% off deal if they return tomorrow or the next day. 

The same goes for any customers earned during last spring break. A marketing send the first week of March could put your restaurant back on their radar — even without any spring break deals and discounts.


Restaurant Marketing Plan

Create a marketing plan that'll drive repeat business with this customizable marketing playbook template and interactive calendar.


Optimizing costs and menu prices to help maximize profitability

All the restaurant sales and revenue in the world won’t mean much if the operation doesn’t have its cost under control. Even if you have a decent handle on your prime costs (cost of goods sold + labor), you can probably go deeper with recipe costingcalculating plate costs, and optimizing labor costs to truly maximize your margins. 

Cost of goods sold

Cost control tools can be essential for understanding, tracking, and optimizing margins on a restaurant’s cost of goods sold (COGS) — particularly those rooted in invoice automation that digitize invaluable order details to help monitor ingredient costs.

The invoice automation component is critical. It can track ingredient price fluctuations with each new invoice processed and automatically updated COGS. This somewhat real-time data enables for accurate cost analysis that can then inform menu price updates to maintain margins for individual items and protect overall menu profitability.


Restaurant Cost Control Guide

Use this guide to learn more about your restaurant costs, how to track them, and steps you can take to help maximize your profitability.


Labor costs

The ongoing restaurant labor shortage is impacting staffing levels and increasing wages — and it shows no end in sight. Operators can get creative to help overcome staffing woes and generate retention amongst existing employees

Taking a systematic approach to tracking restaurant payroll on a regular basis can provide a strong foundation. From there tip pooling and even implementing service fees can encourage more retention and help unlock the wages needed to attract top talent. 

Your restaurant employee scheduling strategy is another essential driver for keeping costs in check. Toast’s free Restaurant Scheduling Template can help visualize and tweak schedules for operators, managers, and staff. And if you wanted to go a step further, Scheduling, powered by Sling provides a live look at schedules, the ability to make updates on the fly, and real-time notifications to alert staff of any updates.

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Restaurant Scheduling Template

Use the Restaurant Scheduling Template to easily schedule your restaurant staff's shifts.


Tools, tactics, and tweaks that extend beyond the busy season

All the revenue-generating and cost-controlling strategies listed above can help you truly capitalize on spring break 2023 and future busy seasons — and they’re all just as applicable to a Tuesday in January as they are a Saturday in March.

Taking advantage of restaurant technology can help you grow your revenue and protect profitability all year long. Make it easier to reason with the seasons with tools built especially for your restaurant. Request a demo and learn more today

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1Toast restaurants who add Toast Mobile Order & Pay™ typically see an average increase between 10% and 12% in Toast processing volume. Based on the average impact seen across different Toast restaurant segments. Based on at least 12 months of Toast internal data. Individual results will vary.

2Based on Toast internal data from August 2021 among restaurants using Toast mobile payments. Individual results will vary.

3Based on Toast internal data from 2021 among restaurants using Toast mobile payments. Individual results will vary.

4Based on Toast internal data from 2021 among restaurants using Toast Payroll. Individual results will vary.


Toast conducted a blind survey of 1384 U.S. adults ages 18 and older on February 6, 2023. Respondents were not made aware that Toast was fielding the study.  All respondents indicated they have travel plans for spring break. Using a standard margin of error calculation, at a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error on average is +/- 4 - 5%.

Forward-Looking Statements

This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which are not guaranteed, and are subject to risks, uncertainties, and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict. Forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and assumptions, which may not prove to be accurate. These statements are not guarantees and are subject to risks, uncertainties, and changes and we assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, except as required by law. Specific factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the effect of economic conditions in the United States and globally, general industry conditions and the other important factors disclosed previously and from time to time in Toast’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein.

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