An enticing promo code offer can be the determining factor between someone ordering takeout from your restaurant or slapping together a PB&J sandwich and calling it a night. But before you can set that restaurant promo code live on your website, you need to consider the type of promo you want to run, when you want to offer it, and how to promote it.

5 Types of Restaurant Promo Codes 

1. Percentage off the entire order

When offering a total percentage discount with a promo code, it’s common to require a minimum order amount. This encourages guests to order more than they normally would, so they are spending a bit more or the same amount even with the discount. 

Example: “Receive 15% off your entire order when you spend $50 or more with promo code 15OFF.”

2. Percentage off specific items

If you received too much inventory, use a restaurant promo code to get it moving faster. 

Example: “Buy one chicken dinner, get the second 50% off with promo code BOGOMEAL.”

3. Dollar amount off of orders

Rather than a percent off the total order, you may opt to offer guests a promo code for a flat dollar amount instead. It’s especially important here to require an order minimum so that you are not left giving food away for free.

Example: “Get $10 off your order when you spend $60 or more with promo code TENDOLLARS.”

restaurant online ordering from a couch

4. Dollar amount off particular items

Like the percentage off specific items, this is good for moving specific inventory or items. You can offer a promo code for a dollar amount off each item or offer it when guests bundle items.

Examples: “All large pizzas are $5 off with promo code 5LARGE.” or “All large pizzas are $5 off when you buy three or more with code 5LARGE.”

5. Free item deals

Rather than give a monetary discount, some restaurants may want to offer promo codes for add-on items for free. This can be a dessert or an appetizer offered with entree purchase, free drinks, a free upgrade, or something else you want to move out the door.

Example: “Spend $50 or more and get your choice of a free California roll or dumplings with code FREEAPPS.”

Learn more about OLO: Download our Complete Guide to Online Ordering

When to Offer Restaurant Promo Codes

Short answer: you can run a promo code whenever you want! However, you don’t want to run them all the time – once guests start to notice a pattern and expect discount codes regularly, they’ll never pay full price again. Instead, try offering discounts during special occasions, as prizes, or to reward customer loyalty.

Seasonal Restaurant Promo Codes

There’s no need to run a promo for every single holiday that comes around, but you should be planning ahead for the ones that make sense for your restaurant. If you specialize in family-style meals, run online ordering promotions for the big gathering holidays like Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. A BBQ joint, on the other hand, will definitely want to get their promos on the big cookout weekends like Labor Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July.

Use Restaurant Promo Codes to Launch a New Menu Item

For regulars and new guests alike, trying something new may be out of their comfort zone. But throwing a discount their way on a brand new menu item may entice them to try something they otherwise wouldn’t and help them find their new favorite dish.

Move Inventory With Restaurant Promo Codes

Like we mentioned above, there are a few different discount code options that will help you move excess inventory. By offering discounts on certain items, you can push more customers to order a dish they might not otherwise consider and get your inventory out the door before it is no longer sellable. 

Use Restaurant Promo Codes to Create Higher Ticket Averages

Are you not seeing the ticket averages you want to? Encourage guests to order for the whole family with a tiered discount on items – the more they order the more they save. You can do this as a total order percentage or dollar amount discount. For example, “Spend $50 or more, get $5 off. Spend $75 or more, get $10 off. Spend $100 or more, get $20 off.”

Reward Loyalty With Restaurant Promo Codes

By using the analytics and loyalty features in your restaurant POS, you can identify guests who spend the most money at your restaurant. Reward them periodically by emailing them a personalized promo code for either a discount or a free item.

Use Restaurant Promo Codes as Prizes

Run a contest on social media to help spread the word about your business and boost your engagement. Offer a promo code for a free meal or other item or a generous discount for the winner.

How to Successfully Run a Restaurant Promo Code Campaign

Double-Check That the Promo Makes Financial Sense

Before hitting the “send” button on that promo email, double-check the math on your prime cost for each item or group of items you are offering the discount for. There is a fine line between making sure you still turn somewhat of a profit and low-balling your guests with a mediocre offer.

Set the Terms and Conditions

Make the conditions of your offer very clear to avoid anyone finding any loopholes that allow them to take advantage of your offer.

  • Set a firm end date of when the offer expires.
  • Set clear minimum or maximum limits. (“Limit two per person” or “$40 order minimum.”)
  • If you don’t want promos used on your highest-volume days, indicate the days the promo is good for. (“Not valid Fridays or Saturdays.” or “Not valid on weekends or state and federal holidays.”)
  • Adding a disclaimer, like “while supplies last,” creates a sense of urgency and also informs the guest that once you are out of a certain item, you are not obligated to let them use the promo code.
  • Reserve your right to change, edit, or update the promo terms and conditions as needed to suit your business.

Test Out a Small Sample Group

If this is your first time working with a promo or discount, send it to a small group of your top customers first. Think of it as a “soft opening” – you and your staff get to test out how popular the promo is and work out any kinks before sending it out to the masses.

Get the Word Out

Let new and returning guests know about promos via your social media accounts, email list, and/or print and radio advertising. Click here to learn more about running a successful social media campaign.

The popularity of online ordering is on a meteoric rise. How important is providing online ordering for your digital customers?

Download our Complete Guide to Online Ordering to start boosting profits with an online ordering solution today.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.