7 Ideas to Entice Thanksgiving Diners to Your Restaurant

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times during the holiday season. Aside from the eating and family gatherings, it’s also one of the biggest (if not the biggest) shopping weekend of the year. After the big meal is finished, many people take visiting family out to shop, eat, and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

That’s why as a restaurant owner, now is the time to start preparing an advertising strategy to entice both new and repeat customers to dine at your restaurant on Thanksgiving and during Thanksgiving weekend. Here are seven ideas to help you do just that.

1. Use an Omni-channel Approach

One of the best ways to attract customers during the Thanksgiving weekend is to have some kind of special, contest or promotion. But what’s the best way to get the word out? You want to make sure to take an “omni-channel” approach to promoting whatever you have going on for Thanksgiving weekend. That means not just focusing on one method of communicating to your audience.

It’s important to start planning these events at least one month in advance. That way, you’ll be able to organize and promote effectively across different channels and mediums. You should consider handing out flyers to current customers, putting up posters, engaging people on social media, and sending out email invites to your mailing list. Each customer has their own preference as to how they communicate with businesses, so you want to make sure you have all the bases covered.

2. Take Reservations

Once you have your event and specials ironed out and begin promoting them, you want to make sure to take reservations in order to assess your target audience’s level of interest. Even if your restaurant doesn’t normally take reservations, it’s a wise thing to do for Thanksgiving weekend. Not only will you get an idea of how many people are actually interested,  it will create a sense of urgency for people to sign up. If they really like your establishment and promotion, knowing there are limited spaces will often get people to reserve their space sooner.

3. Get Creative with Non-Traditional Fare

In order to differentiate your establishment, think outside of the box by offering meals normally not associated with Thanksgiving. Even if your restaurant is focused on American food, think about offering something like a Thanksgiving weekend BBQ for example. Another format to consider is buffet-style dining. Maybe you own a seafood restaurant, and can offer something special like a seafood buffet.

Depending on your clientele, you might even decide to go with vegetarian or vegan fare. Other options to consider are non-American cuisine like Asian, Indian, Chinese, or Korean. It’s common for people to be “turkey-ed out” after their Thanksgiving meal, and want a culinary change of pace during the weekend to follow. You could even attract families who are immigrants from other countries, and want a taste of their home country cuisine after Thanksgiving Day has concluded.

4. Offer Catering

Another way to attract recurring business is by offering to bring the food they love directly to their doorstep. Catering gives you an opportunity to increase sales without customers having to come to your restaurant. And after all the effort that goes into Thanksgiving dinner, people are happy to take a break from cooking for the weekend while still wanting to enjoy great food with loved ones. You can even offer special Thanksgiving weekend catering packages geared towards loyal customers in need of a break from their own kitchen.

5. Promote a “Friendsgiving” Restaurant Event

Often times, people want to gather with their friends at holiday events, but can’t because of family commitments. Provide people with an opportunity to celebrate “Friendsgiving” at your restaurant. Again, you can offer a traditional menu or create a specialized menu. Providing an on-site photographer is a great way to help your customers get everyone in the photos.

6. Attract Customers with Offers and Events

For starters, if your restaurant is open on Thanksgiving Day, you can consider that special as most establishments are closed. But in addition, you can offer dinner deals for both Thanksgiving Day and the following weekend. Specials events are often the best way to influence a patron’s decision about where they want to dine at that time. This can take a variety of forms, from a celebratory “party” atmosphere to special live music and entertainment. The idea is to offer something you wouldn’t normally do any other time of year. If you have a bar area, for example, you might conduct a special Thanksgiving Pub Trivia where you can offer the winners a prize of future deals at your restaurant.

7. Highlight Convenience

Thanksgiving is a hectic time of year, and during the weekend after the holiday, people don’t have as much bandwidth to make highly involved 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. If your restaurant is within easy access to downtown or has plenty of parking nearby, for instance, those are things you want to highlight to potential and current customers. Diners that know they can get a great dining experience with little hassle on Thanksgiving weekend will be more likely to stop by.

Get Started Today

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 specials. Start thinking about the holiday-themed promotions, specials, or events you can offer.
  • 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 technology systems to manage the reservation schedule.
  • Look into gift cards. By selling gift cards during the time leading up to Thanksgiving weekend, you’ll have a number of customers who have already “paid” to eat there and just need to come in and enjoy.


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