How to Use the Right Restaurant Offers to Attract New Customers

Restaurant coupons are widely used and it can sometimes be difficult to determine what will work best for your business. Studies have shown that seven out of ten consumers prefer a coupon with a specific expiration date, while 69% of people will throw out coupons that offer too many restrictions. The key is finding the balance between giving customers a sense of urgency to use the coupon, and not restricting them to the point of being a deterrent. The most sought after coupon is the BOGO, but as popular as it may be, make sure it makes sense for your business because free is not always best.

Include Popular Menu Items

When it comes to creating an offer for an item on your menu, customers are drawn to popular/mainstream choices. Take a look at your own experiences, would you make a trip to your favorite restaurant for an offer on an obscure item you hadn’t heard of? Chances are you will make the trip if the coupon saved you money on a popular item or gave you the choice to choose.

Don’t make an offer out of the lower priced items on your menu, or the customer will see through it. Instead, throw the lower priced menu item in for free if a customer spends a designated amount of money. For example, if a person has to spend $20 to get free bread-sticks with their pizza and they have already planned on spending $16 or $17, they will likely add something to their purchase to receive the offer.

Choose Coupon Wording Carefully

Diners like to see the word free when they are shopping around for deals, but they are often wary of this language. Fine print may outline restrictions that will end up costing the patron money to receive their “free” item. Be careful to make your offers transparent and easy to understand, so customers know what they will receive with no questions asked.

It’s also critical that you educate all employees on the offers and wording that you have chosen, so they do not misinform customers or are unable to answer questions.

Make It Social

If your restaurant has a strong presence on social media, encourage customers to follow you by advertising offers that can only be found on your business page. For example, if a customer comes in on a specified day and tells their wait staff a certain phrase, they get a free appetizer or $10 off their check. These types of offers both encourage customers to engage with your business online and give them a clear call-to-action. If they want to receive the discount after seeing the advertised offer on social media, they must go to your restaurant within the specified time frame in order to redeem it.

Don’t Make Customers Do Math

When customers are looking to make a decision about using a coupon or taking advantage of an offer, they want it to be easy. Outline what the customer will receive by including the monetary values, such as “Save $15 on Dinner if you spend $50” or “Normally $4.99 Lunch Entrée, Now $2.99.” Below are a variety of restaurant types and offers that commonly perform very well:

  • Asian Restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai Vietnamese, Korean & Oriental):
    • Free Buffet – Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO)
  • Bakeries, Doughnut, Bagel & Coffee Shops:
    • Free Pastry With Any Drink Purchase
  • Ice Cream, Yogurt, Smoothie & Juice Bars:
    • $2 Off Any “Item” Purchase
  • Pizza Restaurants:
    • ½ Price Pizza – Buy 1 Pizza, Get 1 Pizza ½ Price
  • Sub Shops & Delis:
    • Free Sub or Sandwich – Buy 1, Get One Free (BOGO)
  • Quick Serve:
    • 20% Off Entire Check
  • Specialty Food Stores (Edible Arrangements, Candy Stores & Gourmet Cupcakes):
    • $10 Off Any Purchase of $50 or More
  • Sit Down Restaurants:
    • $10 Off Dinner for Two

This list is in no way exhaustive, but meant to get you thinking. By also working with a media partner, you can develop the best offer that will work for that medium and that audience.

Steps to Attract Hungry Customers

1. What Already Works

The first step in determining how to move forward is to look at your existing offers and how they have performed in the past. What worked, what did not? Were there specific types of offers that produced better results than others? These are the types of questions to be asking when choosing the right offer for your business.

2. Ask Your Customers

Offer an incentive to your customers by asking them for their feedback about the offers that they enjoyed most. Ask them to fill out a short survey and give them something in return, whether that is a coupon or entering them in a drawing for a free meal or gift card. Your customers know what is most appealing, so don’t neglect them as a great resource on how to promote your business.

 3. Create a Plan

Once you have gathered this information, begin making a list of the offers that you think would work for your business. Weigh your ability to fulfill these offers. Make sure it won’t hurt your business if everyone acts on them, and be sure to have resources and staff available if the offer becomes very popular. Determine what’s going to make the most sense for your unique needs and your customer base.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Test

It might even be wise to try out two similar yet different offers to A/B test what gets your business the most response. Promote them in the same place, to the same audience, and see what kind of return you get. This can help you uncover what offer resonates most with your customers and help you with moving forward and attracting new business.