Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey with pumpkins and sunflowers on wooden table

Thanksgiving is the start of a hectic time of year, one in which people don’t have as much bandwidth to make plans. That’s why it’s a great opportunity for your restaurant to be a place where they can relax and de-stress, while still creating new holiday memories that they will never forget.

Your customers might have Black Friday deals on the mind, but there’s an opportunity for you to grab their attention throughout the month of November. Whether it’s with your tasty dishes, discounts or deals, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for restaurants to draw in customers who want a break from cooking, shopping, or both.

Seven Thanksgiving Marketing Tips for Your Restaurant

If you haven’t started cooking up some ideas for how to boost your sales on Thanksgiving and the busy weekend that follows, we have a few ways that you can draw customers into your restaurant or get some extra love on social media this Thanksgiving.

Your customers might have Black Friday deals on the mind, but there’s an opportunity for you to grab their attention throughout the month of November.

Prepare to Host

Start stocking up on turkeys and ingredients for your signature stuffing—many restaurants open their doors on Thanksgiving Day to welcome their customers for dinner.

In 2017, Chapel Grille in Cranston, Rhode Island offered a special Thanksgiving menu for the holiday, offering an à la carte menu of soups, appetizers, pizzas, salads, pasta and a variety of entrees including roasted turkey with all the fixings, wood grilled baby lamb chops, seafood-stuffed sole, crispy Mediterranean salmon plus many other options.

Whether you offer items a la carte or keep it simple with a prix fixe, your anti-cooking customers will appreciate your restaurant opening its doors as a Thanksgiving dinner destination.

Cater to Your Customers

Whether you have busy customers that don’t have the time to prep Thanksgiving dinner or regulars who have never turned their oven on, there’s an opportunity for you to boost your sales and make your customers’ lives easier by offering a special catering menu for Thanksgiving.

If your mashed potatoes are everyone’s go-to side or your pecan pie is second-to-none, allow your customers to share with their families. Take the stress off of your customers’ shoulders by putting together a Thanksgiving-themed catering menu for the holiday, complete with delivery to their door or pickup options for families on the go. Create different packages based on portions or styles of food to fit every customers’ needs. Whether you offer only side dishes or a full meal, your customers will be thankful!

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for your restaurant to be a place where they can relax and de-stress, while still creating new holiday memories that they will never forget.

Promote a “Friendsgiving” Event

Because so many people are wrapped up in family obligations over the holidays, they don’t get to spend much quality times with their chosen families. Provide groups of friends with an opportunity to celebrate Friendsgiving at your restaurant. Offer your traditional menu or create a specialized menu in honor of the event. Providing an on-site photographer and an Instagram-worthy backdrop is a great way to draw in young friend groups that want their night captured on camera.

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Hold an Instagram Contest

Show your customers how thankful you are for their loyalty by holding a contest on Instagram. Ask them to share what they are most thankful for, create your own hashtag and keep track of which customers use it to select your winner. You’ll see a growth in your follower and engagement numbers while leveraging word-of-mouth marketing from your loyal customers.

Give Back to Your Community

It is the season of giving, after all. Whether you choose to collect food donations, volunteer your time at your local food pantry or donate a portion of your sales to your to your favorite charity, now is the best time to think of others in need. If you aren’t sure where you’d like to donate your time or money, try posting a poll on Facebook or Instagram to get feedback from your customers and learn about their favorite charities.

Offer Retail Relief

According to a survey released by the National Retail Federation, about 69 percent of Americans intend to shop at some point during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. Black Friday is expected to remain the busiest day, with about 115 million people planning to shop on the day after Thanksgiving.

That means that about 115 million people will be out shopping the day after Thanksgiving (or the day of, in some states) and you have an opportunity to offer a sanctuary among the holiday madness. Many people will have the day off from work, so be sure to offer some lunch specials for those who aren’t interested in leftover turkey after a full day of shopping.

small business saturday

Don’t Forget Small Business Saturday

Retail giants aren’t the only companies that can benefit from consumers looking for the hottest deals of the year. Leave Black Friday to the big guys and celebrate your small business on Saturday, Nov. 24. Your restaurant can participate if you’d like to get in on the action, whether its with discounted food and drinks or special promotions on gift cards.

In 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday in an effort to support local shops that were suffering from an economy in recession. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year, the day encourages people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses. American Express even has a Shop Small Studio, where you can create custom materials to let customers know what makes your business unique, and encourage your community to Shop Small.

Small Business Saturday isn’t just for retailers. Use your custom materials from American Express to spread the word about your Shop Small deals on your social media accounts. Have your servers and bartenders spreading the word as well as they make conversation with customers and let them know they should stop by and support their favorite local eatery.

How to Prepare for Thanksgiving in Your Restaurant

Now is the time to launch your planning for Thanksgiving weekend. Here are key things that you can take action on right this minute in order to begin preparation:

  • Come up with your specials. Bring your team together and start thinking about holiday-themed promotions, specials or events you’d like to offer to your loyal customers.
  • Brainstorm the menu. Outside of the traditional fare, start thinking about out-of-the-box ideas for your menu. You’ll then have a few weeks to think about it, and experiment ahead of time.
  • Plan to take reservations. If your restaurant doesn’t offer reservations, think about how you can pull it off on Thanksgiving weekend. Look at the space you have, staffing requirements and restaurant technology solutions to manage the reservation schedule.
  • Order more gift cards. If you’re running a gift card promotion on Small Business Saturday, this is a no brainer. However, for those who like to start their holiday shopping earlier than Thanksgiving weekend, you’ll want to be sure that you have enough to make it through the holidays.
  • Assess your inventory. Take potential spikes of foot traffic into consideration when planning for the holidays. You might be pleasantly surprised by more customers over the holiday weekend, and we’d hate to see you run out of one of your best-performing dishes.

As you and your team is preparing for the holiday, don’t forget to share any promotions or special events on your social media accounts.

Written by   |  
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.