The Do’s and Don’ts of Running Restaurant Promotions

Jul 10, 2018

restaurant promotions

This article was updated in December 2021.

We know that saving money is the #1 concern for restaurant owners and managers everywhere. Facing notoriously low profit margins, it’s easy to shy away from the idea of selling your food for a smaller profit. In reality, running a promotion can not only help you stand out and be memorable, but it can give your customers an incentive to purchase more than they would have normally! Take a look at some of our “do’s” and “don’ts” of running restaurant promotions, designed to help keep your customers coming back for more.

Do this:

Do keep your restaurant promotions simple.

restaurant promotions

I don’t know about you, but the discount code “123get50percent0FF456” wouldn’t necessarily have me reaching for my phone to place an order. The key to promo codes is keeping it short, sweet, and relevant. Is there a holiday coming up? Think “GREEN” for St. Patrick’s Day. Running a percentage discount? Try “25OFF” to be specific. The easier the code is to type in, the more likely the customer will be to use it.

Do stay current and on-trend.

Look to cultural moments, sporting events, or “viral” trends that you can leverage! Creating menu specials for Valentine’s Day or a home team game day are easy ways to get your community excited about celebrating with you. Or, if there’s a certain fall-themed latte that’s popping up on everyone’s Instagram, create your own, with a twist. Having fun with marketing moments can get your order volume to spike in a short time. Plus, you can use these moments as experiments to see what kind of marketing resonates with your audience, and what you can adapt for next time.

Do leverage your social media.

An effective and creative way to market your restaurant is to run a contest on Instagram. Promoting a new dish? Try posting a photo of the item with clear and concise rules for a giveaway or contest. Followers can compete with their own images and tag your restaurant to enter. The winner gets that new dish for free! The idea is to stay relevant and give your customers more of a reason to be excited about your brand.

Don’t do this:

Don’t keep your restaurant promotions secret.

restaurant promotions

Make sure that no matter where your customers look, they’ll find information about your current offer. In addition to email and social media marketing, there are plenty of places to promote your current deals: on your restaurant voicemail; at the bottom of your printed receipts; on handouts with every order; or through push notifications on your mobile app.

There are endless ways to grab your customers’ attentions with your promo–just don’t be shy about it!

Don’t rush your customers.

Time is of the essence! Promote your next special at least two weeks in advance, since future party plans could involve a huge order from your restaurant. Promoting a deal on short notice won’t capture the intended audience in time for you to see the expected results, especially if your promo is centered on a holiday or big event (e.g., the Superbowl). If customers are planning to place a big takeout order for a party, more likely than not, they already have a restaurant in mind during the week of the event.

Don’t devalue your menu.

restaurant promotion food

We understand! You want to save money by giving away something that doesn’t cost you much, but let’s face it – by offering promotions that aren’t attractive, you’re not only devaluing your menu items but you’re wasting your resources by offering something that customers won’t care about. Would a “5% Off” promotion excite you if you found out the order minimum was $300? Look for the balance that sounds interesting enough for your diners, but still covers your bases.

There are many effective ways to promote your restaurant that will increase revenue and create loyal customers. If you’re doing some of the “Don’ts”, don’t sweat it! It’s never too late to change those into “Do’s”.


If you’re a ChowNow restaurant client and want some feedback on your upcoming promotion, schedule a call — we’re happy to help. If you don’t already have online ordering at your restaurant, now is a great time to get started. Get a free ChowNow demo from one of our experts to get started today!