18 Effective Restaurant Promotion Ideas to Grow Your Business

Discover the most effective promotions to help boost your restaurant marketing strategy.

10 min read
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Setting the right menu prices is a priority for any restaurant owner. Although offering discounts might seem unappealing due to the industry's notoriously tight profit margins, successful restaurant operators know that strategic restaurant promotion ideas can increase sales and build long-term customer loyalty.

This article explores the benefits of strategic discounts and provides specific ideas to tailor your promotional efforts. You'll also learn how DoorDash's comprehensive marketing tools can enhance engagement and retention among your delivery customers. 

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How to create a promotions strategy for your restaurant

Before you brainstorm marketing promotion ideas for restaurants, clearly define your business objectives. Different discounts can address various challenges, so identify your specific goals to form a solid foundation for your restaurant marketing plan.

Determine your business goal   

Tailor your restaurant marketing strategies to address a specific business challenge. Set clear objectives, whether your goal is to increase sales, grow your customers, enhance profit margins, boost average order values, or foster customer loyalty. Then, select restaurant promotion ideas that best support those objectives. For instance, if you have a solid base of regulars, a loyalty program might not be your top priority — but a referral program could be more effective. 

Analyze your restaurant profit margin 

Create a restaurant marketing plan that prioritizes profitability so your discount strategies help your margins, rather than strain them. Focus your restaurant promotions on high-margin menu items, encouraging upsells to increase ticket sizes or overall sales volume. Instead of reducing prices on low-margin dishes, think about creating a promotion to pair them with higher-margin items. For guidance on assessing your business's financial health, download our free Profit and Loss Statement Template

Know your customer base

Tailor your discount restaurant marketing ideas to the type of restaurant you manage. Evaluate your target audience — what drives their dining decisions, and what are the demographics you appeal to? Pinpoint your peak days, popular dishes, and frequently ordered combinations. DoorDash partners can use the Insights Hub in the Merchant Portal to access comprehensive sales and customer analytics. 

Creative ideas for restaurant promotions and strategic discounts

Innovative promotional strategies can significantly improve your restaurant's appeal, so consider these 18 possibilities when developing your restaurant marketing plan:

  1. First-time customer discount: Attract newcomers with a first-purchase discount, offering a percentage or specific dollar savings. Use DoorDash’s promotional tools to easily set up and track these discounts for delivery customers.

  2. Loyalty programs: Implement a loyalty program through your POS system, a mobile app, or even a simple punch card to encourage frequent visits with rewards for each purchase.

  3. Holiday promotions: Offer limited-time discounts or seasonal menus for increased holiday sales, and extend your reach by moving beyond traditional holidays to a broader range of opportunities such as sports events, social media holidays, or other cultural happenings.

  4. Community partnership: Engage with other business owners to offer joint discounts for customers showing a receipt from local partner businesses

  5. Menu bundling: Drive sales by bundling menu items, like a classic burgers-fries-drink trio, creating simple meal options for families or groups that increase the average order value.

  6. Free delivery: Free delivery is a cost-effective strategy to attract new customers.  DoorDash partners can easily launch a First Order, $0 Delivery Fee promotion to grow their customer base.

  7. BOGO: Incentivize customers with a buy-one-get-one deal — this could include a free item of equal value to the purchase, a free item of lesser value, or a discount on their next purchase.

  8. Downtime specials: To drive sales during slower periods, attract customers with happy hours, drink specials, wine pairings, or new menu items. Consider hosting live events such as trivia or open mic nights to draw in crowds.

  9. Charitable giving: Support worthy charitable organizations by matching donations, offering discounts to supporters of local charities, or allocating profits from particular menu items to meaningful causes.

  10. Gift cards: Leverage restaurant gift card promotions to drive sales and repeat visits, such as offering a complimentary $10 gift card for every $50 gift card purchased.

  11. Upselling: Encourage larger order sizes by offering discounts for specific order thresholds, such as buying three entrees and getting a dessert for free. Incorporate upselling tactics by suggesting add-ons and pairings when ordering.

  12. Creative marketing: Social media and email marketing can help with your restaurant promotions — for instance, expand your digital presence by providing exclusive promo codes to your email subscribers or grow your audience on social media through giveaways that encourage customers to tag friends.

  13. Pop-ups: Create a buzz with pop-up events, such as a one-night-only menu featuring a guest chef or collaborations with other community businesses.

  14. Online ordering or takeout promotions: Offer discounts or free delivery to incentivize customers to order directly from your restaurant's website. Or if you're on DoorDash, offer customized promotions to new or existing delivery customers.

  15. Personalized offers: Provide birthday specials or anniversary deals by using automated email marketing tools to send personalized offers to customers based on their ordering history or preferences..

  16. Review contests: Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on popular platforms like Yelp or Google and enter them into a contest to win a gift card.

  17. Sustainable practices: Promote eco-friendly practices, such as a BYO cup or container program, and offer a discount for participating customers.

  18. Unique menu items: Offer adventurous, distinctive, or limited-time offerings to generate buzz and entice new customers.

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How DoorDash can help your restaurant marketing strategies

DoorDash can help increase your business' visibility, enabling you to easily create, customize, and optimize your restaurant marketing promotions. On average, restaurants that run promotions see a 20% increase in DoorDash sales. Some of the available DoorDash promotions include: 

You can get more customers to discover your promotion by also running an ad on DoorDash, known as a Sponsored Listing. Restaurants grew sales by 2.2X when they ran a promotion and ad together on DoorDash, compared to just a promotion.

How Oren's Hummus drives value with DoorDash marketing

After working with multiple third-party platforms, Bay Area-based Mediterranean restaurant Oren's Hummus chose an exclusive partnership with DoorDash to streamline their delivery business. Oren's Hummus launched a Discount for All Customers DoorDash promotion to offer a discount when customers hit a minimum spend, and in conjunction ran a Sponsored Listing to gain more visibility in the DoorDash app. 

The marketing campaign was a success. In October 2023, Oren's Hummus saw significant returns from its targeted restaurant promotion ideas, including over 1,700 orders from the Sponsored Listing and 460 new customers, achieving an impressive 8.6X average return on ad spend. Additionally, the promotion boosted their average order value by $8 and also attracted new customers. Today, DoorDash accounts for an average of 42-48% of Oren's Hummus' overall sales, depending on the location.

Mistie Boulton

"Out of all the other third party platforms — and we've used them all — DoorDash has really been a partner. They're not the type of company that's just a vendor to us. They're 100% engaged, coming to us with ideas and asking 'How can we help?' or 'Where do you need more support?'"

Mistie Boulton, CEO & Co-Owner, Oren's Hummus

Make sure your restaurant promotions get noticed

Strategically crafted restaurant promotions are pivotal in driving your restaurant’s growth, attracting new patrons while rewarding the loyalty of existing ones. DoorDash can amplify your promotional strategies by facilitating the easy creation, customization, and optimization of campaigns, optimized for maximum impact. Remember, the success of your restaurant promotion ideas heavily relies on how well you promote them!

Ready to elevate your restaurant's promotional strategy? Discover how DoorDash can help you create impactful promotions that drive growth and customer engagement.


Sara DeForest
Sara DeForest


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