How to Increase Restaurant Sales this Holiday Season

by Marisa Cogan

It’s that time of the year when retailers everywhere whip out the big guns – their holiday marketing plan. They will offer the sun, moon and stars to drive traffic into their stores, both online and in-person. Gifts with purchase, free shipping, free gift wrap and other special holiday bonuses will be among the offerings. And each Black Friday, consumers everywhere strategize on how they will fit as much shopping into their day as possible. So how does your restaurant get in on this holiday gift-buying frenzy? Gift card promotions.

As the most requested gift for eight years in a row, gift cards can be the key to healthy bottom line for restaurants. Gift card promotions have become popular over the past few years because they provide a way for restaurants to get their share of holiday shopping dollars (that would otherwise be spent on retail merchandise.) One of the most popular promotions is the “buy one, get one” offer. For example, “buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 bonus card.” Typically the bonus card can only be redeemed within a short time frame (2-3 months), however, it provides an added incentive for the gift purchaser and many times it will go unused, leaving more money in your til. Plus, when competing with other restaurants, a bonus card could be enough to tip the scales in your favor.

To get a better understanding of what restaurants are doing to generate sales this holiday season, we looked at 60 restaurants’ holiday offerings online. More than half of these restaurants offered some type of “buy one, get one” incentive for purchasing a gift card during the holiday season. But we also noticed several other marketing campaigns, some involving gift cards, some not, that are positioned to help restaurants increase sales in November and December. Below are just a few examples of how restaurants are using marketing to help drive sales.

Charitable Acts.

This campaign is great for two reasons. First, it benefits a charity that is well respected and loved, and secondly, it is a win-win contribution for the customer. Not only are they helping a child in need, but they also are saving $10 on their next meal. It is almost a no-brainer.


Social Media Campaigns.

Although this “Tweet-A-Slice” promotion from the Cheesecake Factory doesn’t fall directly under a holiday promotion on their website, it is a great way to not only get patrons through the door, but also boost your marketing efforts through social media. Not to mention, it is a nice and affordable gesture. And who doesn’t love cheesecake!?


One-of-A-Kind Gift Cards.

Each year Starbucks kicks it up a notch with a unique, but high-end, gift card offering. This year, that card is a $200 Swarovski crystal-encrusted gift card keychain. The gift card is loaded with $50 to spend at Starbucks, which means the customer is paying $150 for the gift card keychain. It may sound a bit extreme, but every year the company sells out of these one-of-a-kind gift cards. With one of the most popular loyalty programs around, it is no surprise that Starbucks fans would jump on this unique gift.


Free Shipping.

Over the past few years, free shipping has played a pivotal role in helping retailers increase their online sales. This same philosophy can be used to help you increase your online gift card sales as well. By removing this barrier for the cost-conscious customer, you are giving them one more reason to select your gift card over your competitors.


Beyond Bonus Cards.

As I mentioned previously, giving bonus cards with a gift card purchase is the most popular marketing tactic restaurants are using. However, I came across some examples that are using menu items as a perk. For example, Papa John’s offers a free one-topping pizza with every $25 gift card purchase. Similarly, Red Lobster offers an option of either a free appetizer or a $10 coupon. Both of these offers suggest that cash is not the only way to a gift givers heart – food works too!










And speaking of food.

Just in time for your tree trimming party or holiday get-together, Pizza Hut has launched its Triple Treat Box. The delivery box, which is designed to look like a wrapped gift, comes with two pizzas, breadsticks and dessert – enough to feed a small troop during the busy holiday season. Maybe they should also add the option of ordering a gift card with delivery to make the holidays even easier for busy shoppers.


These are just a few of the ways that restaurants across the country are driving sales this holiday season. In order to compete for holiday dollars spent by consumers, restaurants must offer some type of incentive, or, at the very least, create a marketing campaign that is holiday-driven and consumer-centric.



Can CPS Cards help with your restaurant gift or loyalty card programs? Contact us or call 888.817.8121 to request a free quote.

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