Eating Patterns in Canada

Seven tips to capitalize on spring events

By Diane Chiasson
Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s time to get started on plans for two of the restaurant industry’s busiest days – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Children celebrate their parents by taking them out for lavish meals, and with a little bit of planning, you can easily use this fact to increase sales in your restaurant and also earn some new regular customers. Here are a few tips to help you capitalize on all the opportunities this spring will bring.

1. Start planning today

To put together a viable marketing plan for these upcoming special days, it’s essential to start preparing about two to three months ahead of time – which means now!

Decide which specials you want to offer your customers and begin promoting your offer inside your restaurant and out. Now is not the time to skimp on advertising. Start promoting these special days in your newsletter, on your blog and on social media. Put up posters and signs around your establishment and place tent cards on your tables. Talk to your local newspapers and radio and TV stations about giving your restaurant a plug in return for a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day package. Start a direct mail campaign.

2. Do cross-over promotions

Mother’s Day is all about eating lavish sweets and getting pampered. Work with a local spa or salon in your neighbourhood to cross-promote your businesses. Sell a packaged deal that includes a Mother’s Day meal and a spa service for one fixed price, or offer coupons to each other’s businesses.

For Father’s Day, offer a set of movie tickets or nine holes of golf in addition to his meal for one fixed price, or offer discounts to sporting events. These are all low-cost promotions for both sides and an easy way for both businesses to gain additional exposure.

3. Offer a special menu

As Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are two of the busiest days in the industry, it’s important your restaurant still offers top-notch service. Consider creating a special set menu for each day to take the heat off your kitchen. Make sure it is a menu your kitchen staff can handle. Customers are celebrating a special day and would hate to see it ruined by poor service.

4. Hold a contest for younger kids

Younger children may not choose a restaurant or pay for a meal, but parents might select a place that appeals to kids.  You could hold an essay-writing contest where children can write a short essay on why they think their mom and/or dad is the greatest, or a drawing competition in which they can draw the best portrait of their parents.  Determine a prize that would help bring that family back to your restaurant for a meal.

5. Set up crafts for small children

Entice families with smaller children by setting up a crafts table where kids can make a small gift – like a picture frame or an ornament – for their mother or father.  Hire a few teenagers for the day to help supervise children, so parents also have a chance to quietly enjoy a drink before their meal.

6. Bring customers back

At the end of the meal, offer the guest of honour a coupon to encourage him or her to come back or pass onto friends. If coupons aren’t your thing, make sure you tell your service staff to invite guests back to your restaurant to try out the regular menu on another night.

7. Don’t forget to promote broadly

Apart from Mother’s Day, May is also the month of Cinco de Mayo. May is also national barbecue month, a great opportunity to create a line of grilled foods with smoky, barbecued toppings. Set up a barbecue outside the front of your restaurant, and offer passersby free samples along with a flyer inviting them back to your restaurant for more deals. Be prepared for Mother’s Day, but also promote your other springtime events and make it a great season for your restaurant!

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as the industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or [email protected], or visit