Many restaurant owners sell gift cards to help grow their business. We know that gift cards help build brand loyalty and encourage customers to visit on a repeat basis. To that end, many restaurants offer gift cards that people can purchase for family members, friends, and co-workers. However, there are so many ways that restaurants can use gift cards beyond simply selling them for future visits. Creative thinking combined with the flexibility and convenience of gift cards can be a recipe for success. Gift cards aren’t just gifts – they can become important tools in the marketing and growth of your restaurant business.
Grow Your Social Media Following
Every business needs a successful social media following to be successful. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have all become essential tools that allow businesses to interact with their customers. Restaurants are no different. Gift cards can be used as giveaway prizes to help grow social media accounts. The power of an active social media account for a restaurant can be massive. Every follower is another person who can have your daily specials, drink features, events, and other important information sent directly to their timeline. Use a social media giveaway to grow your following and engage existing followers.
A photo contest is a perfect social media campaign for restaurants. People already love taking photos of their delicious meals; why not turn that photo into a part of your new, viral social media campaign? Put cards on each table asking diners to tag your restaurant in their Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter photo for a chance to win a gift card. This type of giveaway drives engagement because it’s so simple for customers to participate. They are already in your establishment and many customers were going to snap a photo of their meal anyway – without an incentive to do so. By offering a gift card in return for tagging the restaurant in their post; you are now reaching an additional audience that will be scrolling through photos later that day. It’s a low-effort giveaway with the potential for a big pay off!
Another great campaign idea is to have existing followers tag their friends in order to win a gift card. A bar that’s known for their weekend night life could share a photo of the Friday night drink special with the caption, “Tag the friend you want to take out for drinks this weekend and be entered to win a $50 gift card!” Again, this type of giveaway is perfect because it requires very little commitment from your followers. People who may have been unaware of your social media accounts may get tagged in the comments section by a friend and then begin following your account in order to participate in the next giveaway. Best of all, the post is encouraging people to make plans with their friends at your bar! Only one person will win but many people may actually follow through on their comment and stop by to grab a drink with the friend they have tagged. All this cost you was a gift card and the few minutes it took to snap a photo and share it on social media.
Gift Cards with Gift Cards
Offering additional gift cards in return for purchasing a gift card of a minimum value is a common promotion that restaurants use, especially around the holiday season. It’s not uncommon to see an establishment give a $10 gift card when someone purchases a $50 gift card. Restaurants know the value of this type of campaign because they know that gift cards build brand loyalty and often drive multiple future visits by the same customer. Once a customer is sitting in the restaurant, servers have the opportunity to present upsells. With a gift card in hand, these upsells are easier for the customer to commit to.
Plus, on top of having the gift buyer come back to spend their incentive reward; the restaurant can now expect the gift receiver to come and visit. One gift card purchase has turned into two visits with two opportunities to upsell. If the customer enjoys their experience they will surely be back again and again. 58% of people dine out at least once per week with many of those people choosing to visit the same restaurant on a regular basis. Don’t look at a gift card sale as a single meal. Instead, treat every gift card holder like your new regular customer.
Gift Cards as Event Prizes
The popularity of events in restaurants is exploding as people want to enjoy great food as well as a unique experience. Restaurants are using events like trivia nights, karaoke, sports events, and targeted promotions like ladies night to drive traffic. Offering a prize for people to come out and participate doesn’t just grow the event but it also grows loyalty long after the prizes have been given away.
Encouraging team events where customers bring out their friends, family, and co-workers creates a fun, exciting atmosphere where everyone is enjoying food and drinks. Applying a contest element to the event with a gift card prize is one way to take the event to the next level. The winner of the gift card will surely be back in the future to spend their credit and participate in future events. The people who didn’t win may not have a gift card encouraging them to come back but the fun night out and the chance to win next time will be a huge draw. Building a regular group of people who like to come out for themed events is a reliable base of business to rely on throughout the ups and downs of the restaurant industry. Run a great event and word will surely get out as more and more people come to try their luck. Use a social media giveaway like we discussed above to help grow your following and drive even more attendance at regular events. All of these promotional ideas can be used to help feed into one another and, ultimately, grow your business.
Partner with Related Businesses and Influencers
The gift cards that you give away in your restaurant don’t always have to be your own gift cards. Partnering with businesses that are also of interest to your customers is a great way of drawing people in as well. For example, a sporting goods store that sells team apparel would be a great partner for a local sports bar.
Giving away a gift card that customers can use to buy the jersey of their favorite player would be a huge draw for the type of crowd that a sports bar should be attracting. Plus, every time that customer puts on their new jersey, they will think of the awesome night they won while out watching the game and having drinks with friends.
If the business you wish to partner with wants to trade gift cards then there is the potential to have complimenting promotions. This is an amazing opportunity to get your gift cards into the hands of new customers with the help of another business. As we mentioned above, this new customer could now become your best regular simply because they won a gift card to your restaurant from their favorite store.
Some other businesses may not be interested in partnering for gift card giveaways. It could still be a great marketing investment to buy gift cards from them and give them away at your own establishment. People want an incentive to visit and a $50 gift card to a business that appeals to your clientele is a small price to pay for the potential future revenue they could bring in.
Local influencers are also great partners for gift card giveaways. Seek out local celebrities or media personalities and offer them gift cards to give away to their followers. This type of promotion harnesses the power of someone else’s established social media following and uses it to help market your business to an entirely separate audience from your own followers.
Reward Loyal Customers
One of the first lessons they teach in business school is that it’s always more cost effective to keep an existing customer than find a new one. Recognizing important, regular customers with gift card rewards is a great way to use gift cards as a part of your restaurant’s marketing plan. The obvious and most simple way is to just hand over a gift card to your most valued regular customers. The appeal of this is that it seems very genuine and will come as an unexpected bonus for the customer. However, the downside is that this type of giveaway fails to define itself and encourage people to become regular customers.
A better way of rewarding loyal customers with gift cards is to create a loyalty program. This doesn’t have to be a complicated program with all the bells and whistles like Starbucks is known for. Instead, a simple punch card where the customer can earn a gift card after a certain number of visits is usually enough to drive repeat business. The obvious benefit of this strategy compared with the above example is the tracking ability for both you and the customer. As the customer fills out their card, they know how close they are to their reward. In addition, it also allows the business owner or manager to easily keep track of their customer’s visits. With a punch card, no high-value customer is forgotten and no complex tracking system needs to be implemented.
Grow Lagging Areas of Business
Take a moment to sit down and ask yourself which part of your restaurant business needs the most growth. Use gift card giveaways to help drive people to that area of the business. For example, a restaurant that offers dine in and delivery may find their delivery service is not bringing in the revenue they expect. Use social media, table top cards, and other marketing tools to let customers know about a weekly or daily gift card giveaway for those that order delivery. Since there is so much competition in the delivery and fast food industry; a simple gift card giveaway may be all it takes to put your restaurant above the rest when customers are choosing where to order from.
Promote Your Winners
After taking the time to run gift card promotions, many business owners forget one of the most important parts of the process: the final announcement. Use photos on social media to announce and congratulate winners. This not only recognizes the people that took the time to participate in your giveaway but it also builds trust for future giveaways. When people can see the winners and the prizes you are giving away they know that you are the type of business person to follow through on your promises.
You’re the New Favorite Spot in Town
Both customers and business owners love gift cards. Customers enjoy being recognized for their loyalty while business owners like how gift cards are able to drive repeat business. This makes gift cards one of the most important tools when marketing your restaurant.
Being creative, authentic, and fun is most important when running a gift card promotion. Be sure to recognize your most loyal customers regularly to ensure they remain your most loyal customers.
While you’re not running amazing gift card promotions you can also sell gift cards for cash with EJ Gift Cards. We buy gift cards from hundreds of the most popular brands. There’s no risk to find out what your gift cards are worth. Log in, enter your information, and view your offers. It’s that easy!
Best of all, when you choose to sell gift cards with EJ Gift Cards; the money goes straight to your PayPal account! Turn those unused gift cards into money that you can spend on anything! There’s no fee or obligation to find out how much your gift cards are worth – take the offer or keep the cards to spend on yourself!