View of a veteran saluting the flag of the United States.

Memorial Day is more than just an extra day off from work or school. It’s an opportunity to show your appreciation for those who sacrificed their lives for our country. According to FiveThirtyEight:

  • There are close to 1.4 million people currently serving in the U.S. military—that’s 0.4 percent of the American population.
  • As of 2014, the Veterans Association estimated there were 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population.
  • 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.

Some people celebrate in their backyards with a BBQ. Some prefer to get out of the house and spend the day at their favorite restaurant. The last weekend in May is a time for relaxation, traveling, and enjoying a three-day weekend. We have a few ways to attract hungry (or thirsty) diners into your restaurant or bar on Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day Food Ideas

There’s no better way to draw customers into your restaurant than with great food. Ramp up your Memorial Day food menu by putting your own twist on classic American dishes. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and other summer staples allow a lot of room for creativity. Offer your own take on a timeless dish to attract customers that want a special bite on Memorial Day.

Once you have your menu locked down, it’s time to start planning promotions. 

Is your summer menu ready for the warm weather? Our Smart Menu Builder can help you make data-driven decisions that your customers will love.

5 Ideas for Memorial Day Restaurant Specials

Create Specials for Veterans & Active Military

It’s important to stay focused on what Memorial Day is really about. The best way to honor our heroes is to keep veterans and active military at the center of the celebration.

There a few ways that you can give back to the military and their families on Memorial Day weekend. They will appreciate a small token of appreciation for their service. Consider offering a free or discounted meal, a free drink or appetizer, or a dessert special with a military ID.

Open Up Your Patio

As the unofficial start of the summer season, Memorial Day is the perfect opportunity to open your patio. If you have an outdoor dining space, now is it’s time to shine. If there’s nice weather in the forecast for Memorial Day weekend, start thinking about cleaning the space and getting it set up for the end of May.

Kick off the season with some decorative lights and festive decor to get your customers excited for what the summer has to hold. If you show them how incredible your patio is now, they’ll be sure to return all summer long.

Consider creating a special menu for your patio to give your customers a reason to step outside and enjoy the sunshine. With a tableside mobile POS, you can quickly place orders and take payments in the palm of your hand. This provides a more efficient system for serving patio customers, without having to run inside to your terminal every time you take an order.

If your restaurant is located along a parade route, set up some snacks and complimentary water for viewers.

Military Veterans memorial day

Keep It Kid-Friendly

Not only do adults have Memorial Day off from work—kids have the day off from school. This means that children will likely be tagging along with their parents on Memorial Day weekend. This is often a holiday that people spend drinking, but it will be helpful to keep kids in mind when planning your Memorial Day promotions.

Make sure you’re stocked up on high chairs, coloring pages, and crayons. To encourage families to visit, consider offering a promotion on children’s meals or creating a special America-themed treat.

Give Back to the Veteran Population

As of March 2019, the veteran unemployment rate is 2.9 percent. Many veterans need assistance, and Memorial Day is the perfect opportunity to give back to the veteran community. Here are a few ideas to collect donations and support those who served:

  • Contact your local Veterans Association to find out exactly what types of donations they’re looking for, whether it’s food, clothing, or money.
  • Check in with nonprofits or VAs and ask what items they need to support veterans. Ask customers to bring in a nonperishable food item or an article of unworn clothing in exchange for a discount on their bill.
  • Donate a portion of your Memorial Day proceeds to one of over 7,000 nonprofits that help veterans and military families.

Leverage Social Media

No matter how you choose to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, be sure to spread the word on your social media accounts. Post about your patio opening or the specials you’re offering to veterans and your Instagram or Facebook accounts to get the message out. This will help you communicate with your audience and gives them the power to share your promotions with their friends.

Even if you choose not to offer special promotions, be sure to post on your accounts on Memorial Day to honor those who have served our country. Giving back and showing our appreciation for their sacrifice is important for maintaining strong connections to your community.

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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Holly Everett is a five-year restaurant industry veteran turned small business marketing specialist. After working at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island throughout college, she entered the world of marketing where she led B2B marketing initiatives at companies focusing on growing small businesses. At Upserve, she integrates her passion for the restaurant industry and knowledge of the needs of small business owners to help make restaurants wildly successful.