Every year on the first Monday in September we celebrate the contributions workers make to our country’s health, strength, and prosperity. This year Labor Day in the restaurant industry is going to look a little different, but many restaurants can still leverage their outdoor dining and online ordering to help guests celebrate.
Keep reading for more ideas on how to cash in on the last unofficial weekend of summer, such as:
- Enticing guests with a “last chance” summer menu.
- Offering kid-friendly patio nights for the last celebration before school starts.
- Giving guests a sneak peek at your fall menu.
- Partnering with other local businesses to offer a package deal.
- Offering a coupon for a free fall menu item to keep them coming back.
- Marketing tips to make sure guests know about all the fun stuff you have planned.
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 – and that’s especially true during a pandemic.
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:
- 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).
- Hold a kid-friendly back-to-school night for families. Most parents will agree that transitioning back into a school routine (whether in-person or virtual) can be rocky, so why not relieve some meal prep pressures with a family Labor Day promotion?
- 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. While that method doesn’t work for COVID protocols, try offering in-house guests an individual sample (think amuse bouche size) of a dessert, drink, or new beer on tap to drive sales.
- Partner with a nearby business for an end-of-summer date night deal. 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!
- 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.
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 Labor Day Restaurant 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.