Military Veterans Holding Flags in Parade

On Nov. 11, thousands of companies will extend a “thank you” to the men and women who have served in our country’s armed forces with promotions, freebies, discounts and deals. While gestures of goodwill from businesses have increased over the years, there is an opportunity for you to stand out by offering more than just a discount to military veterans and their families. There are over 20 million veterans in the United States, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing just under 10 percent of the total U.S. adult population. Depending on where your restaurant is located, that could be around 10 percent of your customer base.

With Nov. 11 quickly approaching, we have some tips on how you can attract the veteran population and their families by finding them where they are and making a meaningful a connection.

This map shows the percentage of the veteran population residing in every state:

percentage of veterans among the adult population map

How to Reach the Veteran Population

Authenticity will shine on Veterans Day, so that’s why it’s important to be mindful of any communications you send out to your customer base. Leave the overly patriotic images and messaging in the dust and take a tactful approach to reaching those who have bravely served our country. Using empathetic communication is crucial when trying to reach veterans. It helps show you understand the special issues veterans may face and the sacrifices they made.

Get in Touch with Your Local Veterans Associations

Veterans Service Organizations offer a wide range of free services to veterans and their dependents. VSO can provide assistance with benefits, advocacy, career counseling, mentorship, temporary financial assistance, family support networks, advice on medical issues and more. By getting involved with organizations, you can relate to veterans and understand their specific needs.

Leave the overly patriotic images and messaging in the dust and take a tactful approach to reaching those who have bravely served our country.

Use Social Media to Learn about Veterans

Social media gives anyone the opportunity to reach and connect. This will give you the opportunity learn about the needs of the veteran population and how they communicate with each other. If you want insight into how to reach them using language other than “Support the Troops” on Veterans Day, social media will be your best friend. Follow veteran-focused hashtags, such as #vets, #veterans, #MilitaryMonday, #SOV (Support Our Veterans), and #MilFam (Military Family). Join veteran groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Soon enough you will have the pulse on what matters most to vets, their families and supporters.

Communication can vary based on the type of military service (reserve or combat) and their branch of the military, so it’s important to educate yourself on the struggles of veteran groups so you can show them just how much you value their service.

Old military combat boots with dog tags and two small American flags. Rocky gravel background with copy space. Memorial Day or Veterans day concept.

Restaurant Marketing Ideas for Veterans Day

Here are a few ways to get your business involved in showing your support for the veteran population.

Restaurant Discounts for Veterans and their Families

Whether you choose to offer free or discounted meals for Veterans, or hold a special vet-focused event, starting your promotion ASAP will help ensure success. Even if you already offer veterans an ongoing discount for dining in your establishment, bump it up in honor of Veterans Day to show some extra support.

Keep elderly veterans in mind during your discount period. With half of the veteran population represented by those age 65 or older, you might want to think about some early bird specials if your business can accommodate the early dinner crowd.

There is no limit to the support you can offer the veteran population, and their need for support isn’t limited to Veterans Day.

Restaurant Promotions

For your non-military customers, create a promotion that has an impact on the lives of the Veterans honored on Nov. 11. Think about possible American-themed cocktails or appetizers to promote and donate a portion of the proceeds to your charity of choice. Whether it’s red, white, and blue cocktails or an all-American appetizer, have some fun with the options to offer your caring customers.

Sponsor a Local Event

Is there a Veterans Day event in your community, such as a parade or an event where city officials will be honoring veterans? Showing up for veterans events is a great way to show your support. Get involved as a sponsor at a local veterans parade or community event by providing funds, helping out or just having a presence.

American Flag waving

How to Show Your Support for the Veteran Community

If you want to go above and beyond offering discounts to veterans or showing your support at a local event, we have a couple more ways you can get involved in the lives of veterans and their families.

Support Veteran-Owned Businesses

In 2017, Restaurant Insider connected with vets who have gone on to have successful careers as restaurant owners and chefs after their tours of duty were finished, and got their takes on why it’s important to support veteran-owned establishments.

Carrie Roeger and her husband, Ralph, are both former Marines; she a Russian linguist, he a combat engineer. After completing their service, they were inspired to officially check an item off their bucket list when they visited a Marine-only bar and restaurant in Las Vegas—soon after they opened Semper Fi Bar & Grille in Woodstock, Georgia.

“Supporting veteran-owned business provides that tangible way to take care of our veterans.”

“As a veteran, and knowing many veterans and their stories, we were willing to sign a blank check, with the ultimate price of our life, to protect the freedoms our country offers to all citizens,” Roeger says. “For most in our country, there isn’t a tangible way to say ‘thank you.’ Supporting veteran-owned business provides that tangible way to take care of our veterans.”

Check out the rest of our stories about veteran restaurateurs to learn about how they have used food to connect with their communities (both veteran and civilian) after serving our country, and why it’s so important to support veteran-owned businesses.

Volunteer at Your Local VA

Veterans associations always need help. If you want to make a big impact on your community, get in touch with your local VA and see where they need assistance. They will be able to connect you with veterans and their families, where you can volunteer your time when needed. For instance, you might be able to help elderly veterans paint their homes or do yard work, or work with disabled veterans. In addition to getting your employees to volunteer, you can also recruit customers to get in on the action.

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

Donate to a Veteran-Focused Charity

If you don’t live in an area that has a high population of veterans but would still like to show your support for them, donate a portion of your proceeds from your Veterans Day sale to a local or national veterans organization. You could also offer to match customer donations or spotlight a certain menu item and donate a certain amount of money when someone orders it off your menu. Partner with the charity of your choice long-term to provide ongoing support to veterans in need.

Looking for charities to get involved with? Here are a few to consider:

Choose an organization that’s close to your heart, active in your community or meaningful to your customers or staff. Find more charities that help veterans at CharityNavigator.org.

While Veterans Day technically focuses on former military members, reaching out to both current and former members of the military will widen your potential customer base. If you live in a community with a high percentage of current and former military, marketing to this demographic is a smart move year-round. There is no limit to the support you can offer the veteran population, and their need for support isn’t limited to Veterans Day. If you’d like to support veterans year-round, implement a few of these support strategies into your ongoing restaurant marketing strategy and keep showing some love those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

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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.