As we all know, coming up with new bar and restaurant marketing ideas can sometimes be tough. However, I’ve got a bunch of great ideas for you to increase your bar or restaurant sales in October using some low-cost marketing strategies and promotions.
One quick note before I get started: Each month, I go through and I research about 4 to 5 different calendars on websites and I condense all these ideas down to what I believe is the most profitable promotions you can run that will excite new and existing customers. Let’s dive into the monthly promotions first.
1. National Chili Month
You could easily do a chili cook-off, something that is pretty popular in the Midwest. A chili cook-off is simple: you encourage contestants to come in to cook their very own chili, people buy a ticket for admission to the location at which the contest is being held, they try each of the chilies, and then they vote on which they believe is the best. Obviously, this being a contest, you’ll definitely want to have prizes for at least first, second and third place, such as gift cards, trophies and maybe a place on your menu.
What’s great about this type of promotion is how it creates a spirit of both competition and community amongst your regulars. Encourage your loyal guests to enter this sort of competition as it will motivate them to promote it to their network of families, friends and colleagues and make it a more interesting and fun event. This keeps down your advertising costs since in order for participants to win, they have to have the most votes. Contestants are going to call, text, email and direct message all of their friends and family members and ask them to come help them win the competition. They do a lot of the marketing for you! Consider partnering with beer and liquor sponsors to offer various drink specials and prizes. This event is something fun and different to do that will bring in a bunch of people if chili fits your demographics and the weather is fitting; this isn’t something you’d necessarily want to do during the summer.
Another simple promotion you can run during National Chili Month is to create a new chili recipe each week for the month. Remember, people are always looking for new specials and promotions and to try new things. A brand-new chili recipe can be an easy and effective way to drive more customers to your establishment.
2. National Cookie Month
Not every promotion you do has to involve grand gestures that will make you a fortune. Sometimes, something small that doesn’t take up many resources will help you to stay relevant, keep you in the back of the public’s eye and show you’re a positive element of community. If you’re a restaurant, a bar with a kitchen or can partner with a bakery, consider giving away a cookie to all who come in for a meal, appetizer, specific drink, etc. People appreciate the small things you do for and offer them.
3. Breast Cancer Awareness Month
This is a big deal. Breast Cancer Awareness Month presents a huge opportunity for you to be charitable and support your community. I love doing charities for numerous reasons. First, it allows you to help people in need. And second, it really builds a great relationship within the community, showing that you care about others. People like to support businesses that participate in charity events. One great way to participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to reach out to a breast cancer awareness charity group in your area. You can also go online and visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
Should you know of bartenders who work at other bars who donate to or are members of local cancer awareness organizations, you can invite them in for guest shifts. You’ll want to team up with bars that aren’t direct competition to you. This type of promotion helps you to develop relationships with other bars, allowing you to plan and execute events with them in the future. Outfit your staff and the guests with breast cancer awareness pins, patches, hats, etc. to really tie everything together. Make it clear that a percentage of the tips earned during the event(s) will go to a charity organization. Of course, you can also do this without guest bartenders and match a percentage of the tips with your own money
The second way to run this sort of promotion is to have a percentage of sales go to charity, either based upon beverage sales, food sales or both. You could also create a dish or cocktail, feature it that night and have the sales generated for those items go to charity. Finally, consider getting your distributors and brand ambassadors involved with a donation-driven promotion. You’ll want to make sure you have a system for tracking these drinks or food items so that at the end of the event you know what needs to be donated. We’ve done this before, making a cocktail with X-Rated Fusion Liqueur (which is pink in color) and donating a dollar for every drink sold to a charitable organization involved with breast cancer awareness. We’ve also implemented 50/50 raffles during which people purchase a raffle ticket and 50% of the amount of money raised from those sales goes to a charity group. Roughly 9 times out of 10, the winner ends up giving the other half of what they won to the charity group as well.
The best way to promote charity events is to use your customer list, but also send out a press release because you will get thousands of dollars in free advertising when you are doing charity events. Send your press release to newspapers, radio stations and television stations. You’ll gain extra (free!) exposure for your event and the local media will likely attend. Everyone benefits from charity events: people in need receive help, you gain a lot of extra exposure and they bring in a lot of new faces who appreciate what you do for their community.
4. National Pizza Month
Just like I suggested for National Chili Month, the simplest promotion you can run is to create a new pizza recipe each week. However, this is the perfect opportunity to run an eating competition! People love this because it’s fun, it’s wild and it’s very entertaining. You can go anywhere to have good meal and watch television but where can you go watch a bunch of people compete in a pizza eating competition? This is a promotion I run every single year for National Pizza Month and people love it.
This is how I organize my pizza eating contest: The contestants each pay $5 to cover the cost of the pizzas. I pay out prizes to those who place first, second and third. These prizes consist of gift cards and a trophy for first place that only costs me between $20 to $30. It’s not like we’re giving away thousands of dollars here, it’s just something fun and different. Capture this sort of event on video and post it all over social media – it will be shared like crazy and possibly go viral, resulting in a ton of exposure.
Here’s one that will get you a ton of exposure and make you stand out: Give away 500 pizzas!
If that doesn’t get everyone’s attention, nothing will. Just make certain to execute this event in such a manner that you break even on the pizzas. An excellent way to make this work is to offer a free pizza when a guest makes a purchase. Require that guests buy another food item at full price or focus on the promotion only being valid for groups of 4 guests who dine in at your bar or restaurant. You can also add the caveat that each guest must purchase a beverage. This should result in your at the very least covering your costs. In reality, it should attract new guests to your venue; provide them with a great experience and they could become loyal guests for years! Use social media and a press release to promote this so you have no advertising costs.
5. National Boyfriend Day, October 3rd
Bring in your boyfriend and receive “X,” such as a percentage off the tab, a free appetizer, or whatever it is you choose to discount or give away. This is a great opportunity for you to create an offer to get extra people in the door, particularly couples. Offer them something of valuable, give them a reason to leave their homes and draw them away from your competition.
You’ll always get a better response to your offers when there is a reason why attached to them. Rather than just saying, “We’re knocking 20% off checks tomorrow,” say, “It’s National Boyfriend Day tomorrow so we’re giving all the lucky ladies out there with a good man in their life 20% off their entire tab!” You can also do a reverse promotion for single ladies.
6. National Vodka Day, October 4th
Clearly, discounting all or a portion of your vodkas or vodka-based cocktails is the way to go during this beverage holiday. Such a promotion works well for both bars and restaurants. Rather than just discounting, you can also create a special martini menu for the holiday and promote it heavily. One such way to market this type of promotion is to have one of your most popular bartenders shoot a 10- to 15-second in which they reveal the special(s) and maybe they take a sip from one of the beverages. This would help you target people on Facebook with ads who like your page – and even those who don’t yet like your page – who are actually buying liquor on their credit cards in order to drive in new customers.
If you’re uncertain how to target alcohol beverage consumers who make their beer, wine and liquor purchases with their credit and debit cards, look into The Bar Restaurant Success Elite program; I provide you with step-by-step marketing execution plans.
7. National Taco Day, October 4th
There are a variety of simple promotions you can run during this holiday. Create a menu of different types of tacos to offer for the 4th of October. If you wish to offer this special menu for longer, extend the promotion to the end of the week. Just like the event I suggested for National Pizza Month, consider organizing a taco eating competition.
If you already serve tacos, you can sell them at a discounted price throughout the day. I suggest doing so at a breakeven standpoint – offer inexpensive tacos but create a purchase restriction so you attract spenders and not just vultures who will take advantage of your specials. Require guests to make additional purchases in order for the deal on your tacos to be valid.
8. National Sausage Pizza Day, October 11th
Run a discount on sausage pizza. Consider offering guests a free small sausage pizza when they make another purchase. You can tie this into the sale of another food item or require the purchase of a beverage, whether that is beer (which pairs well with pizza!), wine or a cocktail. Another version of such a giveaway is to require guests to spend a specific amount of money – perhaps $15 or $20 – in order to receive a free small sausage pizza.
9. National Dessert Day, October 14th
If you’re operating a family-friendly venue, offer a free dessert just for kids to attract families. Those operating bars with kitchens (or a relationship with a baker, dessert-centric food truck, etc.) should offer a free dessert or discounted aperitif, ice/dessert wine or dessert-themed shot for all guests. Consider requiring the purchase of another item for such a promotion.
10. National Liquor Day, October 16th
The first thing that should pop into your mind for this holiday is running a discount on your liquor. I’m confident that you see the opportunity here and will come up with any number of ways to celebrate National Liquor Day and attract guests effectively.
Hint: Tie it into the next holiday, which falls on the same day…
11. World Food Day, October 16th
This holiday presents you with another opportunity to organize a charity. Encourage your community to bring in canned or boxed food for the less fortunate and attract them to do so at your venue by offering a discount on their meal. Partner with a local charity or food pantry and have them make arrangements to pick up the donated food items your business collected. Again, distribute a press release and use your customer list to get the word out about this type of event. You should encourage your guests to share what this World Food Day promotion to garner even more exposure. As I’ve said before, more people are willing to share your social media posts when you’re promoting doing something positive for the community.
People will, of course, share your entertaining promotions. However, I have noticed that posts tied to charity work tend to receive 5 to 6 times more people sharing the posts. They’re happy that you’re helping those in need and they want to feel like a part of what you’re doing. Any time you’re posting about doing something charitable, ask people to share it – they’re more than willing to do so!
12. National Pasta Day, October 17th
Another holiday that presents a rather simple opportunity for your business, National Pasta Day is the day to create a couple – or several – special pasta dishes that you can discount. Just like the chili competition, you can also organize a pasta cook-off competition. You can also develop a create-your-own pasta menu and offer several options from which guests can choose.
13. National Greasy Food Day, October 25th
What better day to run a half-price promotion on appetizers all day? An excellent line to include in your marketing for National Greasy Food Day is, “The perfect excuse to eat whatever you want!” You can also attempt to capture the more health-conscious guests in the community by marketing your food specials as “cheat day” specials. This tempts those who are on diets who would normally never order fried or other greasy foods (hey, I’m one of them!) with an excuse to order your less healthy food items.
Everybody needs an excuse from time to time to “behave badly” so focus on creating excuses for all of your promotions, whether that means entertainment, food specials, drink specials or something else.
14. Navy Day, October 27th
The perfect time to offer discounts to active US Navy personnel and also USN veterans! If you’re located in an area where Navy personnel are stationed or where a large population of Navy veterans have retired, target this demographic through social media, table talkers, etc. You can put together a nautical-themed promotion if you’re not in an area with a high concentration of USN personnel and retirees.
15. Magic Day, October 31st
Admittedly, this holiday is pretty different from many others, which means you can do some very fun things. Family-friendly venues can bring in a magician to entertain children, attracting families to your venue. This is the type of promotion that benefits from the use of a press release; it presents a feel-good story for local news outlets so it’s likely that they’ll be willing to do a story on it.
I’ve run events at my bar using magicians, the promotion was simply more adult oriented and came with the added element of a comedy show. Our guests loved it because it was something different and unexpected and, of course, it was just plain entertaining. This type of promotion feeds into people’s need to see and try something new. You can likely find such a performer through Google if you search for “adult magician,” “adult magic show,” “magician comedian,” or something similar. Reaching out to a comedy agency may also prove effective.
Another way to get the attention of potential guests is to have one of your bartenders (or more of them, or even all of them if they wish to participate) learn a few simple magic tricks. In fact, ask your bartenders if they just happen to know some magic tricks already. Send out an email and shoot out social media posts informing your customers that a bartender or bartenders will be performing magic behind the bar. Will this make you tons of money? No – it’s just something cool and different for the customers to experience and it shows that you do things your competition just isn’t.
16. Halloween, October 31st
The last holiday in October is the most famous, infamous and popular. We all know how important Halloween is to bars and nightclubs. Such businesses should obviously host a costume contest and bring in as big a DJ, band or other entertainer as they can afford. Bars and nightclubs can also run promotions offering discounts for those who arrive in costume to get the vibe of Halloween going. Restaurants should run a promotion offering children in costumes 50% off of their meal and a bag of candy or Halloween-themed toy to bring families through their doors.
You can learn more about successful promotions from industry experts at the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show. Registration opens in the fall!
Editor’s Note: Nick Fosberg is the author of the book “The Bar Restaurant Owners Guide To Doubling Your Profits And Loyal Regulars In Any Economy”, the founder of Bar Restaurant Success, and bar / restaurant owner in the Chicagoland area. To get Nick’s free reports and marketing strategies on how to get new customers in your doors using today’s most profitable strategies, go to www.BarRestaurantSuccess.com.