Suddenly every restaurant and cafe has done a 180° turn, and now you’re selling takeaway food and drinks - individual meals, family packs, hampers, cocktails and read-to-cook meal packs. Even if they can't go out, customers still want you to prepare the food and drinks, and make eating and entertainment easy!
Now's the time to revive the promotions that have worked so well in 'normal times', and add a few that you've overlooked. You can also use our big guides to 23 Easy Ways to Stay in Touch with Your Restaurant and Cafe Customers and 10 Ways to Find Customer Contacts in your Cafe or Restaurant to help with ideas.
Extend your menu range
- Meals for one or more as usual – you’re already doing this, but they can be dressed up for special events.
- Desserts as an add-on - simple and delicious
- Large size portions for 3-6 people - pastas, curries and 'wet dishes' work well and look abundant.
- Meal Packs ready to cook - nice and easy with a recipe and plenty of it pre-made eg the dessert and starters.
- Hampers for special occasions - cheese, cold meats, crackers, bread and treats.
- Wines at reasonable prices, especially labels that can't be obtained at bottle shops.
- Cocktails pre-made and mixer sets eg bottles of Aperol, Prosecco and soda water plus 2 glasses and the recipe, all ready for Aperol Spritz at home!
- Birthday celebration meals - don't forget the 40th, 50th, 60th & 70th birthdays, and offer to organise a cake and wine as part of the service. Even baby's first birthday has become a huge event for new parents - how can you help?
- Special occasion meals - wedding anniversaries, retirement, anniversary of moving house etc. By making suggestions you get people thinking of you as the place with solutions.
Brighten up the order menu and delivery bag
- Use the free online Canva design app to create bright, original social media images, menus and posters - they have templates for everything
- Order party favours and gimmicks for special days from an online specialist - Base Warehouse has an amazing range
- Go beyond social media for promotion - it's time to start sending Email and SMS as well. Here's our guide to get started
- Encourage people to use your #hashtag - put this on your menus, social media and posters. Here's how Newcastle's great Subo Restaurant does it with #suboathome. Don’t have your own #hashtag yet? Make it up!
Plan to celebrate every month...
January - Australia Day, Tuesday 26th January
Australia Day is about celebrating the values, freedoms and pastimes of our country. It’s a time for BBQs in the backyard, having a beer with friends and flying the flag. Australia Day is about unifying all Australians - it's also a time to reflect on the original people of Australia who were here for tens of thousands of years before Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in 1788. Is there a way to celebrate both of these contributions on the day, and in the weeks before?
February - Valentine's Day and Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year - Friday 12th February. For Chinese people, this will be the Year of the Ox. People born in the Year of the Ox are said to be strong, reliable, fair and conscientious, inspiring confidence in others. The festival is celebrated in China and other Asian countries, starting on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ending on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.
China and all Asian countries have rich and complex culinary traditions. There are many ways to include these celebrations in your restaurant or venue, no matter what your cuisine. Talk to your Asian staff about where to find decorations and mementos.
Valentine's Day - Sunday 14th February. Make it a whole weekend celebration, starting on Friday night. If you're creating a special menu, offer it over the three nights - there's sure to be take-up.
Now that delivery is so important, design special Valentine's Delivery Packs, with romantic extras like candles and heart-shaped treats. Work with other local retailers and swap favours to include - eg your $20 Dinner Voucher is given out by the hairdresser, in return for you sharing their special deal. Some couples like to dine with friends, so have spaces available - it's not just tables for two.
March - International Women's Day and St Patrick's Day
International Women’s Day - Monday 8th March. Celebrate your staff and your customers. There are many simple ways to mark the occasion – this is marketing with a heart. Make it a week not just a day – highlight one promotion, photo or story each day.
Feature the women working in the business, and explain what they do – add a group photo, with extra mention for the long-time workers. Talk about women who inspire your staff: a chef, a relative, maybe a teacher. Share a food angle: favourite recipes from mothers and grandmothers. Support a women’s cause for the week: a local women’s shelter, or an overseas aid project like Opportunity international, which focuses on women and families.
St Patricks's Day - Wednesday March 17th. Food, drink and music are at the heart of most celebrations. You could serve green beer, plus Irish food and a green tint added to some favourite desserts. Trivia quizzes can be fun, and if you have any Irish staff, ask them to explain the puzzling pronunciation of Irish names! It's also a day when people drink a few too many - watch out for Responsible Service of Alcohol and make sure patrons travel home safely. There's no shortage of shamrocks and Irish decorations in party shops.
April - Chocolate Month
What is it about chocolate that gets people so excited and even emotional? Make this month all about adding on desserts with meal orders, or special treats with coffee, but there are also a quite a few savoury recipes that include chocolate.
You can also include some information about why chocolate is so addictive in a flyer for the delivery bag, and on your social media. On your Facebook page, add some YouTube videos on where chocolate comes from and how it is made - lots of delicious options, just paste in the video link.
Theme Ideas: chocolate is often presented with purple or red for a luxury touch - see how you could make this classy with coloured napkins or packaging. Canva has some great chocolate design ideas for menus and images. After dinner mints? They're a bit retro, but maybe this is the month to share them again?
May - Mother’s Day, Sunday 9th May
It's always been a huge event, and let's keep it that way! Promote it well in advance and put together special promotional menus, not just the usual fare. Create family meal options, and meals that could be sent to a mother or parents dining on their own.
Theme Ideas: print a special menu, include a Mother's Day card, offer to add a bunch of flowers, scented candle and wine as an extra. Ask staff to share photos of themselves with their mother on your Facebook Page - it's a nice personal touch. Take it further by asking customers to share about their mother too. Do up a sheet of quotes about mothers that you like, and include it in delivery bags.
June - Queen's Birthday Holiday, Monday 14th June
It's a long weekend in most states, and this promotion can run in the week before and after. Find some extra dishes with a royal connection - here's a bunch of menu ideas to get you started
Theme Ideas: include some royal family trivia in the delivery bag, and add a sparkly fake crown for orders over a certain amount.
July - Christmas in July all through the month.
In the southern hemisphere, Christmas comes twice a year for savvy restaurants. Traditional roasts and vegetables, vegetarian options, seafood and puddings.
Theme Ideas: add bonbons, include a Christmas card, add a page of Christmas trivia on a flyer in the delivery bag, dress up your social media pages for the occasion.
August - celebrate travel memories.
Ask customers and staff to share travel pictures and memories on social media, and business owners as well. Ask where's the first place people are heading to when they get the chance. This month lets you theme it according to your ethnic style, or anyway you want.
Theme Ideas: ask people to post travel photos on Facebook, and to suggest YouTube travel videos to embed on your Facebook Page. If you're a Greek restaurant, share travel pictures from Greece, or Vietnames restaurants, photos from Vietnam... you get the idea.
September - Father's Day, Sunday 5th September
Dad's often been the one left out with restaurant celebrations, especially compared to Mother's Day. Let's make up for it this year. Time for some special menu items that will appeal to dads and grandfathers - smoked meats and vegetables can be a treat if that fits your menu style. Is now the time to buy a smoker - this trend is booming! Check what's available from our Certified Used range and learn more about the smoked meats trend .
Add hearty desserts and a range of craft beers - don't be afraid to use a few cliches, and your sense of humour! Think beyond the traditional Dad, Mum and kids arrangement - there are also single dads, step dads and fathers who can't see their children on the day. Theme ideas can include sport, handyman, 'silent type' or the 'provider'.
Promotion: here's a bunch of funny e-cards to inspire you, and there's no shortage of Dad Jokes online or on YouTube - start adding them to your social media in the weeks before the event. Add photos of employees with their fathers or grandathers onto your Facebook Page, with a couple of sentences of appreciation. If you send email promotions, reach out to people who booked for Mother's Day, and if you run social media ads, target women and remind them to look after their partners and fathers - this works!
- Deb Potts from the Colliery Inn in Newcastle said that for them, Father's Day is almost as big as Mother's Day: "Get your booking system organised and you'll be booked out on the day. Best sellers are the Roast of the Day, Surf & Turf, Burgers and Ribs. We will definitely be focusing on Takeaways. Our Grazing & Antipasto boxes as well and a family roast box. We also do another one with tacos/wings/chicken bites/loaded fries/ salad which feeds 4 people. The Father's Day colouring-in page is also useful for kids. Father's Day is becoming more like Mother's Day - nobody wants to cook, but they do want to celebrate and are happy to pick up".
- Craig Macindoe from Darling Crackles Marketing used to own the iconic Char Char Grill in Sydney and ran very successful Beer & Beef Masterclasses on Saturday morning - finishing with lunch! He would sell tickets for these as a Father's Day gift, so it was a win even if the family didn't eat there on the day. For dads who came for lunch, the menu winners were trophy meat items like a Tomahawk Steak or 1kg Sirloin - this is a day when the family is ready to spend more, so be ready to help them!
- The Boss's Daughter Cafe in Sorrento VIC are suggesting people 'Dress Like Dad for the Day' - whether that's thongs and a flanny, or pipe and dressing gown... scary/funny! They're also offering another awesome Father's Day Lunch Pack for 4.
October - Halloween - Sunday 31st October
You've got a whole month to prepare. In Australia this is more about dressing up and kids walking the street for trick-or-treat, but there are great recipes you could use for inspiration - Google for food ideas.
Theme Ideas: add some ghost-hunting stories on social media, find costumes for staff and include halloween chocolates in delivery bags. There's lots of fun or spooky content on YouTube you could add to your Facebook page - just paste in the video link.
November - Black Friday & Cyber Monday - 26, 29 November
These American retail events have taken hold in Australia, so why not join the party? Black Friday is an opportunity to clear out your cellar with special wine and party packs (the key is bargain pricing), or one-day specials on your retail merchandise. You could also offer a bonus on future bookings eg 'half-price room hire if booked today', half-price beverage packages, 12 for the price of 10 group bookings in January - you know how it works. Key is to use this opportunity to make additional
sales, not discounting items that already sell well.
Cyber Monday is for digital specials, with similar offers but via online ordering only.
December - Christmas parties, and the big day on Friday 25th December
Instead of a month of Christmas parties to cater for, we now have to find ways to send the cheer to groups of one or two or families.
There are three events you can cater for: celebration parties at home, the boss's Thank You gift, and the big event on Friday 25th. How good would it be if the gift was credit on #SaveHospitality or a Gift Voucher from your restaurant? This needs planning and reminders sent well in advance - start sending out suggestions by late October or early November.
Theme Ideas: add bonbons and small decorations to the delivery bags,and include a hand-written Christmas card. Find a Spotify list of festive tunes (that don't suck) - add this to your social media and email or SMS communication. Add a small Christmas gift for orders over a certain amount.