Thanksgiving marketing ideas can generate long-term increases in daily business, family and group dining and in-house catering and merchandise sales. Promoting holiday parties and restaurant gatherings also boosts private-party bookings and off-site catering gigs. You can run a Thanksgiving promotion even if you’re closed on the holiday by serving a Thanksgiving menu on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the big day.

Organizing a Special Thanksgiving Menu

Nostalgia marketing is big during the holidays, and the traditional turkey and dressing, pumpkin-flavored desserts, cranberry sauce and casserole dishes provide great comfort to everyone, especially people who might not celebrate the holiday with family and friends. Traditionally, everyone gets overdosed on turkey by the time the holiday weekend is over, but you can get a great response by serving a Thanksgiving meal on the days leading up to the holiday when people are still yearning for turkey and trimmings.

  • Serving an early menu extends a Thanksgiving promotion’s lifespan.
  • Special cocktails and warming winter beverages foster increased sales and customer loyalty.
  • Engaged customers often return during the busy weekend after Thanksgiving with large groups of visiting family members and friends.
  • Staying open on Thanksgiving usually results in a full house because so many restaurants are closed.
  • Offer your customers a taste of holiday dishes from around the world.
  • Promote your special menu with incentives, vouchers, emails, text messages, flyers, social media and personal invitations to your customers.
  • Use the upcoming holiday to promote seasonal menu changes and encourage customers to write reviews about those changes.
  • You can get great marketing results by offering bounceback incentives that encourage people to bring friends to the restaurant.
  • Promote other holiday and winter events to get customers to reserve tables before the restaurant’s fully booked.

Preparing Seasonal Treats

Seasonal treats, such as pumpkin entreés, carrot cake, special baked goods, decorative cupcakes and other classic holiday confections, will increase your sales and encourage customers to place special orders for other holidays.

Hosting a Recipe Contest

Holding a recipe contest for the best Thanksgiving recipe in several categories gets your customers excited and engaged. You can award a free meal to the winner and feature the winning dishes on your holiday menu. Another option is to prepare dishes for the finalists and let your customers vote for the best dish.

Promoting Gift Card Sales

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to promote gift card sales, but you can actually begin selling gift cards in October. Being proactive might not generate many immediate sales, but you’re planting an idea in the customers’ minds. As the holidays approach, people will remember and begin buying cards in record quantities.

Selling Catering Services

Many people opt-out of holiday cooking. You have an ideal opportunity to sell a catered Thanksgiving meal, pies, cakes, pastries and side dishes that most customers pick up on Wednesday. Supermarkets offer Thanksgiving meals, and your restaurant could probably do a better job and give your customers bragging rights. If your ovens are too small to cook multiple cakes, pies, turkeys, hams, ducks and geese, you can still sell side dishes, either by taking special orders or featuring ready-made takeout deals on Wednesday.

Although many restaurants close early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, you could offer survival packs for families to enjoy that evening as well as prepared holiday food. Stay open until your inventory is sold and all special orders are picked up. Call any customers who haven’t picked up their orders about an hour before you plan to close.

You can also visit local malls and pass out flyers advertising catered meals during the hectic holiday season. Explain how offering meals to salespeople during the holidays motivates them to get through long shifts and energizes them to sell more goods. You can also offer boxed lunches that offices and businesses can pick up at the restaurant. You’ll be amazed at how many businesses will respond favorably to catered meals or boxed lunches for their staffs.

Giving Back

Thanksgiving provides the ideal time to give back to charity or the community by pledging a percentage of sales, hosting a food drive at the restaurant or providing Thanksgiving dinner for the disenfranchised. You can also host a fundraiser at your restaurant and use the occasion to promote your holiday menu, catering services, holiday parties and upcoming winter events.

Pushing Post-Holiday Sales

Thanksgiving promotions don’t just promote the holiday but advance Christmas, New Year’s and multicultural holiday sales. You can promote merchandise sales, direct customers to your eCommerce website, sell holiday gift baskets and take reservations for private parties, holiday gatherings and catering jobs.

Clever restaurateurs also promote shopping convenience and upcoming city festivals right before Thanksgiving. Weary shoppers often buy carryout meals and catering services or book tables for dining after busy days or evenings of shopping, especially on Black Friday and the following weekend.

The best Thanksgiving promotions add value instead of cutting prices. Decorate your restaurant festively, and push gift card sales by offering a free appetizer or beverage with each sale. People are prepared to spend more during the holidays, so restaurateurs who don’t promote Thanksgiving are wasting opportunities that their competitors will gladly use to their advantage.