labor day restaurant specials

Ah, Labor Day… the final frontier before summertime gives way to school supplies, oversized sweaters and – like it or not – pumpkin spice everything.

Sophocles once said that “without labor, nothing prospers,” and it’s true. Every year on the first Monday in September we celebrate the contributions workers make to our country’s health, strength, and prosperity. 

However, if you work in the restaurant industry, chances are your celebrations will take place on the job instead of at the lake. 

The question of whether to stay open on a long weekend like Labor Day can be divisive; after all, changing labor laws mean that restaurateurs who choose to keep their doors open will be paying their employees more than if it were a regular Monday. 

The biggest determinant of sales is, of course, traffic. If your analytics suggest last year’s Labor Day long weekend was a bit of a flop, don’t despair! This article is jam-packed with Labor Day restaurant promotions, sales ideas, and marketing tactics to help you have a prosperous holiday.

labor day restaurant specials

When to Start Planning Labor Day Restaurant Promotions

In a perfect world, you’ll be working from a 12-month restaurant marketing plan, but we don’t always live in a perfect world. Planning ahead protects against unforeseen expenses and accidentally blowing your marketing budget, but there’s no harm in changing course – especially if that new direction is shaping up to be a profitable one. 

Getting your ducks in a row early also means you’ll have more time on educating staff on what’s to come when the temperature turns (something we’ll talk about in a minute), sourcing ingredients, testing recipes, and building hype and anticipation for your fall menu redesign or another limited-time offer. 

Ready for a menu redesign? Use our free Menu Builder to make sure yours is optimized to bring the most revenue.

5 Labor Day Restaurant Specials and Sale Ideas

QSR Magazine encourages restaurateurs to adopt a menu maintenance mentality, meaning your menu is your restaurant’s greatest revenue tool, just as your staff is your restaurant’s greatest asset. 

Putting a fall twist on a summer staple (incorporating seasonal produce into a toasted sandwich, for example) or introducing a belly-warming cocktail to replace your patio-perfect frosé will ease customers into the changing seasons. 

Here are five Labor Day restaurant special ideas to get you started: 

  1. Offer customers a “last chance” to enjoy your summer menu. Giving away a free appetizer or seasonal cocktail can be a great way to burn through excess inventory, and the “get it before it’s gone” messaging plays to the popular psychological principle known as FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out).
  2. Hold a kid-friendly back-to-school night for families. Most parents will agree that transitioning back into a school routine can be rocky, so why not relieve some meal prep pressures with a family Labor Day promotion? The more filled seats, the better. Obviously, this one depends on the kind of restaurant you’re operating; toddlers aren’t a great fit for a rowdy pub, but mom and dad might enjoy a special “parents night out” to celebrate their kids heading back to class.
  3. Introduce your fall menu items with free tastings. Some franchises (Starbucks, for example) will circulate the room offering samplers of a new or seasonal menu item free of charge. You might instruct FOH staff to extend the offer at time of ordering too, especially if you’re debuting a new dessert. 37% of diners rarely order dessert, so if you offer a free sample and they like what they taste, they might be convinced to order the full-size version and boost their bill.
  4. Partner with a nearby business for an end-of-summer date night deal. Dinner and a movie is the quintessential date night itinerary, but it’s definitely not the only one. Take a look around your neighborhood – what types of businesses are in the area? Through the power of partnerships, you can offer all sorts of fun date nights to help couples make the most of the warm weather. From brunch and a couples massage, to lunch and an ax-throwing session, or dinner and a pottery class… the options for a romantic Labor Day restaurant special are endless!
  5. Offer a coupon for a free fall menu item when you visit. Your POS analytics will tell the story of which menu items are your top performers, which could use a helping hand, and what times of day or days of the week are the slowest. With this sales strategy, you’ll capitalize on the science of free. As author Mac Slocum puts it, “Getting something for nothing activates a human response that’s different from a normal business transaction – it just feels better.” Our brains are hardwired to love free stuff, and the promise of free will put your restaurant top of mind when it’s time to head out for a meal. 

server carrying a tray of drinks

How to Execute Your Labor Day Restaurant Specials

Now that you’ve decided on which of these strategies is the best fit for your business, it’s time to talk tactics. There are three pieces to this puzzle: staff education, marketing, and monitoring

Educate Your Staff

Education is all about communication. Your restaurant employee scheduling software not only functions as a scheduling tool but as an easy-to-use communication device as well. Make sure everyone is trained up on sales and promotions, and create space and opportunity for your team to ask questions, offer feedback, and share their customer experiences once your Labor Day restaurant promotions are in full swing. 

Market Your Specials

Going to the trouble of dreaming up new fall-inspired menu items is only time well spent if people actually know about them. Here are a few strategic marketing suggestions for your Labor Day food specials. 

  • Social media. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are powerful tools to spread the good word about what’s in store for your restaurant on Labor Day. You might post teaser photos on your Instagram story, share a “test kitchen” video showcasing your brainstorming process, or run a Facebook ad to get your brand in front of new faces.
  • In-store. It can cost up to five times more to attract a new customer than to nurture an existing one. Incorporating a small Labor Day menu insert or installing a sign at each table puts your new specials in front of a captive audience.
  • Outdoors. Hailed as “the best free advertising you’re not using,” outdoor marketing can be a goldmine for restaurants, especially if you’re located in a high-traffic area. Placing a chalkboard sign outside your front door allows you to show off your brand personality in a way that might catch the eyes of passersby and entice them to come and see what’s inside. You’ll want to make sure your Labor Day restaurant specials are best enjoyed under the sun, especially on a beautiful long weekend.

Monitor Your Success

While anecdotal feedback from your employees is unquestionably valuable, you’ll want to keep an eye on some hard numbers too. Your POS system is a quantitative data dream come true – from sales analytics to menu management, you have instant access to see how menu items are performing, traffic patterns, customer purchase habits, and more. 

80% of a restaurant’s food sales come from only 16% of menu items. How do you know which ones? The perfect menu is just a click away with Upserve's Menu Builder.

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Written by   |  
Jessica Reimer is the Content Producer for 7shifts, an employee scheduling app designed for restaurant based in beautiful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She works with the rest of the 7shifts marketing team to help their customers all over the world save time scheduling, reduce labor costs, and improve communication in their businesses. Jessica has authored feature pieces and blog posts for a number of provincial, national, and international publications and specializes in psychology, community engagement, lifestyle, and business communications.