Food Holiday Marketing & Promotion Ideas for Restaurants

By: Lindsay Jow


How to Ace your Marketing for Food Holidays

The Super Bowl has just passed and before we know it, one of the other big days of the year for many pizza brands will arrive to the delight of math lovers everywhere, Pi Day! What better time to discuss some best practices around holiday marketing to help you get the most out of your initiatives around the many, many food related holidays throughout the year. And all of the other ways that we humans love to celebrate life annually on our lovely planet as well.  

The Benefits of Holiday Promotions for Restaurants 

Before we dive into the best practices for restaurant holiday marketing, let’s address the point of running marketing initiatives around these holidays, other than keeping up with trends and the classic “well, everybody else is doing it!” Here’s the key reasons you should consider marketing around major food holidays relevant to your brand: 

  • Increased Visibility through Media: These holidays often result in additional media exposure with national and local news outlets featuring lists of brands who have special offers and events around specific food holidays. If you’re not participating, you’re losing out on easy to snag earned media opportunities.
  • Increased Visibility on Social: Any promotions you run around the holiday are also more likely to get more awareness on social media as many consumers and brands post about the holiday, boosting any content specific to the holiday due to the trending nature of content.
  • Loyalty Program Acquisition: Many consumers like to seek out offers and as a result may be more likely to try a new brand if that brand is participating in the holiday. Brands that require loyalty signup in order to receive and use any offers have a major opportunity to grow their programs and their customer base.
  • Keep Existing Loyalty Members Engaged: The content cycle is rapid these days. Any fun things you can do to maintain a regular communication cadence and engage your loyalty members is a great idea to keep the highest percentage of your loyalty program members active as possible.  

Now that we’ve talked about why this is so important, let’s get into how to make the most out of your efforts to promote your business around any upcoming food holiday from both a marketing and operational perspective. 

Get Creative with your Loyalty Program Offers

Holidays offer a lot of opportunity to get creative with the types of offers and incentives that you give to loyalty members or your wider customer base. So have fun with it! We get more into exclusivity later in this blog post, but it doesn’t hurt to keep any offers exclusive to loyalty members to encourage new signups.  

Many restaurant brands experience a boost in sales during these major holidays, so if you’re not feeling the urge to give something away for free, there’s probably not a lot of need to do so honestly. Smaller discounts, or discounts that require additional purchase are a good way to go. This also reduces the number of customers coming in for the holiday that you may never see again because they’re loyalty only to what’s free.  

For guests who sign up for your loyalty program on the holiday but don’t use the special offer for that day, consider sending a ‘belated celebration’ follow up offer to engage them and maximize the opportunity that new loyalty members present.

The number orientation of Pi Day makes it particularly fun, and easy to give smaller discounts to customers, like $3.14 off any size pizza. You could also make a specific pizza size discounted to $3.14, this seems to be the most popular choice we’ve seen amongst restaurant brands. For percentage discounts, instead of a 3.14% discount, consider a 31.4% discount – you could market with messaging like “we’re bad at math, and that’s good for your wallet.” And finally, you could also consider a point multiplier of 3.14 if you’re feeling particularly generous from a points perspective. Or if you’re feeling cheesy, a Buy 3 Get 1 4 Free. See below for some restaurant holiday marketing examples:

Get Creative with your Loyalty Program Offers - Pi Day

Maximize your Restaurant Loyalty Program Acquisition

Holidays that attract a lot of attention to your brand and in-store traffic are an ideal time to multiply your loyalty program acquisition. Certainly this happens somewhat naturally on the holiday itself, but you can also encourage signups in advance of the holiday.   

One way of doing this is with a special sign up campaigns a week or so ahead of time to give your loyalty offer in advance. The Punchh restaurant loyalty program platform makes it possible to give the offer in advance while also configuring the offer to only work on the day itself if you wish, This creates anticipation in your new loyalty program members while allowing tight control over the offer usage. 

Additionally, you can use this opportunity to encourage existing members to refer extra friends during this time by providing an additional bonus offer to anyone who refers a friend or family member into the loyalty program. This has multiple benefits – you’ve got an extra reason to remind existing members about your referral program and an extra reason to remind them about the upcoming holiday to encourage them to participate. Not to mention the additional incremental new restaurant loyalty members and revenue you’ll get along the way from the referrals themselves.  

Develop an Exclusive Loyalty Program Offer 

Creating a feeling of exclusivity is a great incentive to drive that additional loyalty program acquisition we discussed earlier. Anything you can do to focus your efforts on loyalty members, while extending the marketing of those efforts to the wider public is a great play. The more you can use holidays to drive program acquisition, the better the return on your investment in these efforts will be because you’ll now have more customer data at your fingertips.

Develop an Exclusive Loyalty Program Offer Pi Day

How to Create Exclusivity in Restaurant Loyalty Programs

  • The easiest and most obvious way is to only give the offer for the holiday to loyalty members, encouraging those who aren’t currently program members to join in order to reap the rewards.  
  • If you don’t want to entirely limit the discounts you provide to loyalty members, you could also offer exclusivity through early access or extended deals and only grant discounts to non-loyalty members on the day of the holiday itself. 
  • Special events, the ability to cut the line, fun merchandise that only loyalty members can purchase, and members-only menu items (or pizza toppings) are also a great way to create exclusivity.  
  • Being a member of a loyalty program also feels like an emotional investment into a brand – like being part of a club. Send a summary email to your members a couple of days after the holiday that showcases the celebration from the day and talk about how much their participation means to you every year. Include the best social posts, and any content you have approval to share like photos taken in-store from staff at the end of the day.  

Be Loud and Proud – Multichannel Restaurant Loyalty

We keep saying this, but these special holidays are great for acquisition and engagement. To get the full value out of the investment, go big! Spread the news far and wide using every channel at your disposal within budget.  

  • Consider holding a contest via social media that matches with your brand and coincides thematically with the holiday. Some great examples of this in the past come from Pizza Hut and MOD Pizza: 
    • In 2016, Pizza Hut invited fans to crack Pi Day math problems with famed mathematical genius John H. Conway for a chance to win free pizza for 3.14 years. Check out this article from QSR for more details. 
    • In 2022, MOD Pizza embraced the popularity of duets on TikTok for a Pi Day Challenge where participants would post a duet with the original MOD Pizza video for a chance to win one of 10 gift cards for $314 to MOD. Want to see the original TikTok video? You can check it out here, and see this webpage for details about the Challenge and Rules

Loud and Proud Pi Day

  • If you already regularly work with social influencers, use them to help spread the word about any special promotions or events you have happening around the holiday. Be sure to plan for this early as competition can be tight for influencers with high reach, and make sure that you’re the only brand they’ll be representing that day for that purpose.  
  • If it’s in budget, consider integrating restaurant promotions about the holiday into other channels you regularly use like In-Store Signage, Billboards, Radio, Youtube Ads, etc
  • Don’t forget to market this special day and what you’re doing to your loyalty members and remember to send them multiple reminders as the day approaches. Make a big deal out of it! Utilize all the direct communication channels you have available to you: email, push notification, rich message, and if you have it, SMS. 
  • Consider creating unique branding imagery around the holiday that’s a bit different than the typical marketing that you do to capture extra attention of your guests who may breeze through marketing communications otherwise so they don’t miss it.

How to Manage Restaurant Operations to Prepare for Marketing PromotionsPi Day Papa Johns

While marketing is extremely important when it comes to these holidays, you should also dedicate 50% of your efforts on operations. All your beautiful marketing efforts can very quickly be nullified with a few operational disasters on the day of. Taking time to prepare well ahead of time is critical.  

Start with your sales data from previous years, at the overall business level and at the individual location level. Use this to influence how you will prepare accordingly. Keep in mind that many events are reaching pre-pandemic numbers or even surpassing them, so you may see the same phenomenon with any holiday oriented promotions. Prepare accordingly!  

Another thing you may want to consider is comparing your total loyalty members this year to the same time last year as a way to help estimate the percentage increase in potential foot traffic in addition to looking at sales data.  

Things you’ll want to keep in mind operationally: 

  • Have enough staff members scheduled to handle the increase in traffic throughout the day. If there’s any day where someone calling in sick could make or break you, it’s these peak traffic days. Make sure this is being taken into account with staffing as well.  
  • Many locations run out of food for major brand oriented holidays, so make sure you’ve got enough inventory to make it through the day and until your next delivery to keep business as usual going smoothly after the holiday as well.  
  • In order to accommodate the faster pace of the day, any additional food prep that can be done in advance will help everything go more smoothly. This may mean extra staffing in-store 1-2 days prior to the holiday to help with prep as well. 
  • Major holidays can be tough on your store management and staff. Providing some training ahead of time on crowd management, handling difficult customers, maintaining a positive work environment during a hectic day will be important for your store managers. Additionally, a refresher training for staff on efficiency around food preparation, food safety and the loyalty program is a good idea. 
  • Consider and prepare your locations if you will be extending in-store hours during the holiday, and be prepared to make those adjustments to your location listings online before and after the change in hours.  
  • If you have the ability to scale the available delivery drivers for your brand, this is another operational consideration especially for businesses, like pizza, where delivery is a popular ordering option. 

Create a Website Landing Page

If this holiday results in a lot of traffic for your brand, we highly recommend creating a landing page on your website, even just a blog post, that explains what you’re doing for the holiday and includes FAQs. You can point to this in your marketing, and your in-store teams can refer customers to this page as well if they have questions. Blaze Pizza does a great job of this every year and already has the page for their 2024 Pi Day up on their website – take a look 

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to keep in mind and coordinate as you’re preparing for one of these major food holidays. The last thing you want to worry about is if your loyalty program technology can keep up. At PAR Punchh, we continue to invest in our ability to scale to the needs of our customers to meet the volume of activity that flows through our platform. Revisit our infographic from Pi Day 2023 to see how we successfully support PAR Punchh customers in their holiday marketing endeavors.  

By incorporating these loyalty program considerations, you not only make Pi Day (or any other upcoming holiday that’s around the corner) more exciting for your customers but also strengthen the connection with your loyal fanbase. If you’re strategic in your approach, the effort will be well worth it and can be a major contributor to the growth of your loyalty program, as well as increase customer retention and satisfaction. 

Interested in learning how to creatively execute more food holiday campaigns? Take a personalized demo to see how we can help you gain next level customer engagement.  

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