group of friends getting great restaurant customer service

As the holiday season ramps up, it’s important for restaurants to remember each Monday holiday that pops up throughout the year. Many restaurants have a Bill Belichick #NoDaysOff mentality, not giving a second glance at an invite to a Memorial Day barbecue invite or a big Fourth of July bash. However, this isn’t the case for your faithful customers—the Monday through Friday 9-to-5-ers who are just as committed to their laptops as you are committed to your workstation. With 10 federal holidays spread out throughout the year, they could get the urge to dine out on their day off, so you’ll want to be sure you’re prepared.

Columbus Day falls on Oct. 8 this year, and with so much controversy around the holiday these days, here’s a little bit of background on how the day has changed over the years, and a few restaurant marketing tips on how to draw in customers on a holiday weekend.

History of Columbus Day

As one of the most inconsistently celebrated federal holidays in the United States, only 23 states give employees Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Nearly 100 years ago, Colorado became the first state to designate Columbus Day as a state holiday, largely due to the efforts of Angelo Noce, a first-generation Italian immigrant in Denver. The day spread, in large part as a celebration of Italian-American heritage; it became a federal holiday in 1937. Starting in 1971, it moved from Oct. 12 to the second Monday in October.

No matter what your state calls the second Monday in October, restaurants should expect to see an increase in hungry diners on the Monday holiday.

Instead of celebrating Columbus Day, states have given a new name to the controversial day. In 1990, South Dakota marked the second Monday in October as Native Americans Day, an official state holiday. In Hawaii, the second Monday in October is known as Discoverers’ Day, though it’s not an official state holiday. The U.S. Virgin Islands “observes” Columbus Day but emphasizes Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day, which falls on the same day. In Nevada and Iowa, statutes “encourage” the governor to issue an annual Columbus Day proclamation, but do not designate it a legal holiday.

In recent years, Native American groups and other critics, citing Columbus’ own mistreatment of natives and the legacy of European settlement that his voyages initiated, have advocated changing the holiday to something else, perhaps Exploration Day. Minneapolis and Seattle, among other localities, celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead.

Where State Workers Have Columbus Day Off

Holiday Weekend Marketing Ideas

No matter what your state calls the second Monday in October, restaurants should expect to see an increase in hungry diners on the Monday holiday, especially families with school-aged children. For your customers who get a break on Oct. 8 this year, help them end their three-day weekend with a few promotions that will increase traffic and increase revenue.

Try a New Menu Item

Break from tradition with your nightly specials. By taking a chance on some unusual produce at the farmers market over the weekend or trying out a recipe you’ve been hesitant to introduce to your menu, you can challenge yourself and your team, while giving your customers an out-of-the-box experience in your restaurant.

Promote the limited time special on social media to generate some excitement and watch your regulars drop in to see what you’re cooking up in the kitchen.

Don’t Overlook Brunch

An extra weekend morning means that alarm clocks are off and your customers are sleeping in. What better way to draw them into your restaurant for a late brunch than promoting a special menu to celebrate a Monday off of work and school?

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Since kids have the day off, running children-focused promotions on Oct. 8 can give a boost in family foot traffic. Kids menu specials should be your focus here, depending on what your restaurant can handle. Kids eat free? Half-priced kids meals? Free kids meal with the purchase of an adult entree? Bottomless orange juice? It’s your call.

If your restaurant is an adult-friendly atmosphere, get your customers’ creative juices flowing with a build-your-own mimosa or Bloody Mary bar for those brave enough to face a potential Tuesday morning hangover.

Bulk Up Sunday Night Football Specials

Since no one will have to worry about turning off the game on Sunday night so they can wake up refreshed on Monday morning, throw a Sunday Night Football party if you have a sporty clientele. These games for night owls often don’t receive the eyeballs that afternoon games do, so if you’d like to increase foot traffic on a night where your team isn’t playing, this is a great opportunity.

Beer and appetizer specials are a no-brainer for football fans, but you can check out this guide for how to create the best restaurant and bar specials for football season if you need some inspiration.

Friends cheering sport at bar together

Utilize Takeout and Delivery Promotions

For customers going all-in on soaking up every last second of a holiday weekend at home, consider running a promotion on takeout and delivery on their day off. With a fully integrated online ordering system, you can process takeout and delivery orders as you seamlessly as you serve your in-house customers.

Leverage Instagram Marketing

Everyone loves being in on a secret, so leverage your fanbase on social media to provide an extra special promotion for your customers. Utilize Instagram Stories to share a phrase for customers to use at the hostess stand before they’re seated to receive a free drink or appetizer on the house.

If your Instagram account needs a little love, take the promotion a step further by running a contest on Instagram to gain brand awareness and some new followers. Businesses frequently run contests that require a user to follow the account and tag a few friends on the contest’s post to get the word out about a promotion. Your fans will feel the love and you’ll get some attention from potential customers who haven’t heard of your restaurant yet.

The best thing about holiday weekends is that you can choose to celebrate however you’d like. Amidst fall activities like apple picking or pumpkin carving, a Monday holiday in October gives you an opportunity to show your customers a little extra love before the craziness of the holiday season hits.

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Holly Everett is a Massachusett-based writer with an affinity for fresh seafood, Rhode Island's beautiful beaches and Del's Frozen Lemonade. When she's not searching for new breweries and wineries to visit or traveling with friends, you can find her on her couch with her cat, Theo, watching her favorite shows on Netflix and drinking a glass of cabernet.