As the costs of goods and services continue to rise, driving food prices and overhead costs higher than ever before, restaurateurs are faced with a new set of challenges: how to absorb rising costs while simultaneously appealing to an increasingly discerning consumer to maximize return on investment (ROI).

While it sounds impossible, there are simple ways to optimize your restaurant’s promotion strategy to achieve those competing objectives.  

Why should you Focus on an Effective Coupon Strategy for your restaurant?

Restaurant promotions and coupons come in many different forms, but vary in effectiveness. To optimally perform, promotions or restaurant coupon strategies must be tailored to the market, meeting the customer where they are, which is more than likely online. 

According to research published on, since 2014, online food delivery has grown at a rate that exceeds dine-in transactions by 300 percent, a rate that was accelerated by the pandemic. 

During that time, more than half of the population was reluctant to dine-in at a restaurant with 111 million Americans ordering food via delivery apps. 

Post-pandemic, having an online presence is therefore a must. 

Without an up-to-date website, a social media presence, or a branded first party white label app, it is a missed opportunity to reach customers and collect data to better understand customer demographics and buyer personas.  

While having third-party platform partners can help acquire new customers, it is important to note that as a restaurateur, you do not have access to that customer data, therefore making it more difficult to determine how to craft an effective promotion.

Having a good tracking and metrics system in place helps to manage customer relationships, as well as restaurant performance to make the most of your marketing spend. A state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) and point of sales (POS) software will allow you to do this. 

If you are looking into a POS, read our post, “5 Tips for Choosing The Right POS”.

How to craft an effective restaurant promotion and coupon strategy:

Once you have your customer data and activity information, you can begin to develop an effective marketing strategy that will drive sales, revenue growth and improve your are five simple tips that can help make this a reality: 

1. Know your business goal 

Different strategies will yield different results, so it is important to determine your business goal before embarking on a new promotional campaign. Is the goal to generate sales? Is there a holiday coming up that you can capitalize on? Are you looking to expand your customer base or reward existing customers? The answers to these questions will help inform your strategy and approach.  

2. Choose your approach 

There are countless examples of promotional strategies, but which one you will choose will depend on your business goal. The most effective coupon strategies are those that keep costs down and ensure ROI, such as discounts on select entrees (typically lower cost offerings) or high-margin items for a limited time. 

Timing is everything. Be sure to offer discounts or coupons during slow rather than peak times to drive interest and in-store traffic when capacity is high. For instance, if the lunch shift is slower than the dinner rush, that should be the timeframe during which a discount or coupon is applicable. 

Coupons for two-for-one deals or buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) specials are a motivating factor for many consumers. Close to half of the 111 million orders made via delivery apps in 2020 were made using a deal or coupon. When uniquely numbered, these coupons can offer a wealth of data for tracking purposes.  

For instance, if the goal is to get new customers in-store or to download your restaurant’s branded app, offer a first-time customer discount. To thank existing customers for their loyalty, offer exclusive subscriber promotions or referral bonuses to attract a wider audience. Sometimes a good deal is as simple as free delivery or a free item with purchase. 

Holidays are another great time to offer specials. Restaurateurs can take advantage of festive seasons, national holidays or even national food days to attract new diners and appeal to existing customers with targeted deals and campaigns. 

That is exactly what Topper’s Pizza did when they celebrated National Pizza Day with its customers. Users of its custom-built white label app were offered an exclusive deal of unlimited $5 medium pizzas with two-toppings for pick-up orders only. This targeted promotion  resulted in a 400 percent growth in app revenue. 

The promotion which was done exclusively through their mobile app brought in $50,000 in sales in one day five times the daily sale rate. It also helped Toppers add 1,300 new app subscribers in one day, which was nine times the average daily registration rate, proving the strength of an effective restaurant coupon promotion and the power of the single push notification through their app. 

3. Execute your coupon strategy.

The only way to execute a successful strategy is to promote it. The failure to do so could result in even the most well-strategized promotion to fall short. 

It is important to continually market to subscribers through social media, email, push notifications, in-app messages, SMS and via partner platforms to create highly personalized and targeted digital promotions that reach your target markets by placing the deals at the tip of their fingers. 

A fun way to engage with customers to offer these deals is by using social media to your advantage. Tag-a-friend and other social media promotions are an inexpensive and easy way to maximize your marketing reach. 

It is also important to remember that traditional marketing avenues are not dead: direct mail, mass media such as print and radio, and other commercial outreach is still effective. In fact, more than half of customers still call restaurants to place their orders, so be sure to have a well-rounded approach to reaching the market and you will be rewarded.  

4. Don’t do it alone

One of the most important ways to increase visibility of your promotional campaigns is to partner with others in the market to broaden your customer base. By joining forces with third-parties marketplaces, and other ordering and delivery platforms is a guaranteed way to improve your market reach and optimize your restaurant promotion strategy. 

In utilizing these partners and leveraging their marketing tools and built-in promotions to tap into their markets, restaurant operations are reinforced and scaled up without the need for more overhead saving money and improving ROI in the process. You can then leverage their reach with new customers in order to move them over to your white label digital ordering or mobile app platform. 

Cross-promotion, whether it is done using a third-party delivery app or through partnerships with other local businesses, can be a very effective way to engage with consumers. The same is true of partnerships with charities, as philanthropy is a great draw in the market. 

Donation matching campaigns or a promise to make a donation with purchase can empower diners to feel like they are using their purchasing power to positively contribute, and in doing so, restaurants can have a positive impact on the community and their bottom lines.

5. Measure, evaluate, adapt. 

Having performance data at your fingertips is a significant advantage when it comes to optimization. By tracking results, it improves a restauranteur’s ability to understand and fine tune its performance, as long as there is flexibility and willingness to adapt to findings.  

Whether it’s a coupon, a discount, or a gesture like free delivery, by understanding your market, your strengths and weaknesses, who your customers are and how best to appeal to them, your strategy will be well informed, properly executed and extremely effective. 

Ultimately, one of the most effective ways to drive sales and build customer loyalty is to offer a discount, coupon or promotion that will catch the attention of hungry diners with an offer they can’t refuse and one that makes sense for your bottom line.   

To build a meaningful promotion that will appeal to diners and guarantee your ROI it takes a combination of optimized technology, data collection and analysis, strategic partnerships and a sound marketing plan that is executed to perfection; success that can be replicated with every new campaign.   

About Smooth Commerce

Smooth Commerce is a digital ordering, customer marketing and loyalty platform for restaurants. We take ordering to the next level with personalized customer engagement, making your digital storefront the cornerstone of your brand. By solving more restaurant pain points in one digital platform than anyone else, we put you back in control of the customer’s experience with your brand to promote profitable sales growth.

If you would like to learn more or talk to a representative from Smooth Commerce about how our platform can help you meet your loyalty goals, contact us at