For a restaurant to thrive, it's imperative that it engage directly with its patrons.

It is no secret that owning a restaurant is difficult. Cornell University and the National Restaurant Association found that 60 percent of restaurants fail in the first five years of operation. To keep business running, a restaurant owner must craft a compelling story around the experience offered instead of just promoting delectable entrees. Guests want to feel as though they are investing in something that benefits them—as well as getting a steal of a deal. Today’s customer base struggles to remember a time before Google. Restaurants are therefore forced to adapt to create different promotions encouraging guests through their doors.

In my experience, there are plenty of restaurant promotions that are quick and inexpensive to implement, while others can take more time to plan. So, without further ado, let’s delve into four tried-and-true restaurant promotions.

Discount Promotions

Discount promotions are two-fold—they let you run a trial offer, and when implemented correctly, they can help boost your sagging cash flow. The “buy-one-get-one-free” (BOGO) offer generates the most use by guests. The “buy one and get the second one at 50 percent off” is also a strong option, although the Restaurant Group finds that the net cash flow is actually greater in the BOGO promotion. With the BOGO option, the trick is to offer menu items with low food costs to keep your cost of goods down while filling your empty seats.

To give you an example, the Olive Garden recently ran a well-executed discount promotion. They initiated a “Buy One, Take One” campaign where guests started with unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks, with the choice of a variety of delicious entrées. At the end of the meal guests picked a second entrée to take home for later.


Hosting events around sporting events, themed dinners, or wine tastings can entice people out instead of cooking at home. Events require planning, and use in store merchandising like table tents, posters, and banners. When hosting an event, the atmosphere of your restaurant will drive the evening. Creating a space of engagement and appreciation will keep customers coming back. When promoting your event(s), it is important to use social media to raise awareness and generate buzz.

Trivia, live entertainment, or karaoke are all special events that can be hosted on a regular basis. This boosts community engagement by encouraging patrons to interact with your business and other patrons. Most restaurants can fill their seats on the weekends. Creating a trivia night is ideal for slow Mondays or Wednesday nights. Trivia nights boost sales and can bring in new clientele. Food Service Ware House explains the setup of a successful trivia night. Goldberg’s Famous Delicatessen hosts live entertainment every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They also offer happy hour specials. Customers enjoy cheap drinks, good music, and spend money on entrees—ultimately helping the restaurant’s bottom line.

Food and Beverage Offerings

Pairing food and beverage offerings is a great way to fill your seats. Host “Tequila Tuesdays,” for example, where all Tequilas are half-off with $3 Tacos. Tequila Tuesday promotions can be held during happy hour, drawing in the after-work crowd. This provides an opportunity to upsell customers who come in for half-off tequila and tacos.

Agave Cocina & Tequila, a client of the Restaurant Group, implemented Tequila Tuesdays, offering all the tequilas in the house for half off every Tuesday. For an additional $2, you can make it a margarita. They also do Margarita Mondays and Well Wednesdays, which are great opportunities to drive guests through the door.

Social Media Discounts

Social media discounts can be used to attract customers through Facebook, Twitter, Google Ads, and so on. A restaurant can create an online presence letting people know about a special, limited-time offer. They can run for a single daypart, an entire day, or a week. It is important to update your offers regularly to keep things fresh and keep guests coming back for more.

Regardless of your methods, a steady stream of revenue is the key to keeping your doors open. To start the flow of revenue, customers need to know about your restaurant. With so many ways to promote your business, it can be difficult to pick the most effective way. By implementing one of these four promotions, you can attract more customers and work to avoid becoming one of the 60 percent that fail.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

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