Thanksgiving restaurant promotions
by Andreea Dobrila

On Thanksgiving Day 2020, it’s time to make your restaurant noticed by tapping into some creative Thanksgiving restaurant promotions. Below, we provide you with concrete examples of Thanksgiving promotion ideas that will help you drive sales and get more people talking about your restaurant.

Picture this: the whole family gathered around a delicious turkey, feasting on creamy mashed potatoes and decadent pumpkin pie. Does that need to happen at home? Not necessarily!

Some Americans may prefer to have Thanksgiving at home. However, others will undoubtedly search for what restaurants serve at Thanksgiving dinner. They might want to see where they’re going to enjoy a bite of their favorite Thanksgiving food this holiday season or where they’re going to order from. That is your chance to make sure your restaurant becomes their new favorite spot in town!

Not everyone wants to spend long hours in the kitchen to feel the holiday spirit. Whether customers want to dine out or order in, restaurant owners should prepare with Thanksgiving restaurant promotions ahead of time.

Note: This article has been updated to take into account the Coronavirus pandemic.

Unique Restaurant Ideas for Thanksgiving 2020

Create Thanksgiving restaurant specials

Have a classic Thanksgiving menu and include dishes like a roasted turkey, mashed potatoes with white wine gravy, and some vegetables if you are looking for a nostalgic vibe.

You can get creative with restaurant specials ideas that are on the healthy side, such as green beans or fitness-friendly versions like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

Sweet potato-cauliflower casseroles will remind many people of mom’s cooking. Finally, finish off with a timeless dessert like pumpkin pecan pie.

Thanksgiving brunch ideas

Dinner or lunch is not the only option for a festive Thanksgiving. Since some restaurants open late for this holiday, they could make a compromise and focus on a thematic brunch. The Thanksgiving brunch menu could include a frittata served with cranberry sauce, sweet potato quiche, or pumpkin muffins and coffee.

It’s not just the food that matters for customers to have a happy Thanksgiving Day. It would be best if you designed your strategy to cater to the needs of all your clients.

If you want to stand out, come up with unique Thanksgiving specials to satisfy even the pickiest of customers. Customize your Thanksgiving restaurant menu to make everyone feel at home. From a traditional meal that reminds customers of home, to a modern feast that friends can share, to a Chinese-inspired Thanksgiving menu.

People will also most likely search for a “Thanksgiving buffet near me,” so make sure you offer a buffet option as well.

First, you could offer a special Thanksgiving, fixed-price menu, including 3-4 courses and dessert, with different portion sizes and prices for adults and children. You could even organize a thematic dinner event, complete with music and entertainment options. The second option is to create a unique holiday menu annex next to your regular dishes.

Take Thanksgiving restaurant reservations

Since there aren’t many restaurants open on Thanksgiving, it’s not a bad idea to take Thanksgiving restaurant reservations, even if this is not how you regularly operate. This way, you avoid putting extra pressure on your staff in the kitchen.

The most crucial concept to remember is to use multiple channels (website, social media, print, TV ads) to reach your target audience and let them know. Patrons switch effortlessly between these, and your offer should be everywhere if you hope to get noticed.

If you spread the word about your Thanksgiving restaurant promotions in advance, expect the place to be fully booked. Since you don’t want to disappoint your customers by not having a table for them when they arrive on Thanksgiving Day, recommend them to reserve a table.

Thanksgiving table reservations are particularly crucial during the COVID19 pandemic because you should have limited seating to abide by the social distancing regulations in place in your area.

That way, you’ll know how many people to expect, and they’ll know their table will be ready for them when they arrive. To make it even easier for both of you, you can have them select their choice of menu when they make the reservation. GloriaFood offers an easy-to-install widget for restaurant reservations that will save you time and energy.

Sign up for Our Online Ordering System with Table Reservations Included Give it a shot, it's free!

Be open all day long

If you don’t expect heavy traffic, you could take the opposite approach. Invest in a little paid advertising online for those people who wait until the last moment to google for what restaurants serve Thanksgiving dinner or “Thanksgiving restaurant open near me.”

Also, posting something along the lines of “We’re Open on Thanksgiving!” as a subtitle on your restaurant’s homepage can go a long way.

We're open on Thanksgiving

We’re open on Thanksgiving

If your establishment is near office buildings, brainstorm some restaurant lunch special ideas. You could also offer thematic lunch boxes for takeout and delivery; some people are still working and might want to order a Thanksgiving lunch at the office.

Friendsgiving is a new concept, invented mostly for Millennials who are less attached to traditional values. For these clients, you could create group menus for 4-6-8 people.

Serve Thanksgiving breakfast foods like apple French toast casserole or cranberry kale salad with candied pecans and feta, topped off with fall-themed beverages like a to-die-for maple pecan latte. Be sure to offer something on the house as well, to make customers feel welcomed and special.

Besides, leftover lunch is a Thanksgiving tradition. Why not create a menu section with such dishes for nostalgic clients?

This may sound like a no-brainer, but since most establishments are closed on Thanksgiving, it’s essential not only to be open during the day but to cater to early or delayed customers as well. People will be looking for restaurants open late on Thanksgiving, and that’s your time to shine. Let everyone know you’ll be open on your website and social media accounts.

We're Open All Day Long

We’re Open All Day Long

Non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner ideas

If your restaurant is fresh and fusion, you need to get creative. Use the “something old, something new” approach. Serve popular Thanksgiving food but with a twist.

Serve pulled turkey sandwiches with roasted carrots. Replace more substantial salads with a healthy quinoa alternative, and don’t forget to make it more festive with a lava cake garnished with baked pumpkin. Make baked sweet potatoes with rosemary and cover them in gravy or serve them next to roasted turkey with herbs.

Another way to capitalize on the occasion is catering. Create a few menu versions, including classic, fancy, modern, vegetarian, and gluten-free, to ensure that every potential client’s needs are satisfied.

Serve Thanksgiving-themed drinks

From starting the day off just right with a Thanksgiving-infused cup of coffee…

Serve Thanksgiving-Themed Drinks: maple pecan pie latte

Maple pecan pie latte

… to ending the day in style sipping on a delicious cocktail…

Serve Thanksgiving-Themed Drinks: apple butter old fashioned

Apple butter Old Fashioned

… your guests will appreciate your commitment to making drinks as important as food this Thanksgiving.

Offer Thanksgiving Restaurant Deals & Promotions

There is a wide range of food and beverage promotions ideas you can come up with this Thanksgiving – all you have to do is get a little creative. You can’t go wrong with classic restaurant deals like a complimentary dessert to everyone who orders the full menu or 50% off their second drink. However, try to stand out in the crowd with unique offers and Thanksgiving restaurant promotions.

Related: 15 Unique Restaurant Promotion Ideas that Will Increase Loyalty in 2020

For instance, you can ramp up the excitement with a week-long promotion before Thanksgiving. Encourage people to #sharethegratitude and bring a friend to your restaurant. What do they get? A free drink of their choice each. Great advertising for you and quality bonding time for them.

Give back to those in need

If there’s one holiday a year that inspires us to be the best version of ourselves, that is Thanksgiving. Take this opportunity to give back to the less fortunate.

Donate a percentage of your Thanksgiving proceeds to a charity of your choice, or go for a more hands-on approach and get your staff to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Another option is to involve your customers as well by offering them a complimentary item on the menu if they donate.

Organize a giveaway

Giveaways are some of the best Thanksgiving restaurant promotions to take advantage of since there are so many possibilities. You can offer prizes like a full Thanksgiving meal, a goodies basket, or a discount voucher. Select your winners at random or create polls with user-generated content and let your followers decide who the winner will be.

User-generated content gets people talking and helps you promote your brand as well. Ask people to submit a Thanksgiving picture, a recipe, a story of what they’re thankful for, or anything else that people can vote on and share on their social media.

Your Thanksgiving restaurant promotion messages should be distributed in a persuasive and convergent manner, both online and offline. The easiest way to grab your customers’ attention and generate organic traffic is to use your social media channels. Let your clients know about:

  • what kind of delicious food you have prepared
  • tease them with mouth-watering photos
  • and highlight the special prices

Thanksgiving Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Share the inspiration

Be helpful and post some recipes you intend to use for your dishes on social media. This is a bit of reverse psychology. Best-case scenario: Customers will feel lazy and decide to order the food or come to the restaurant. Worst-case scenario: They share the recipe on social media or talk about it with their friends. Either way, you get good publicity.

Throw a Thanksgiving party

If you organize a party, create the poster and flyers at least two weeks ahead and boost them on social media. It also helps to partner with other local businesses like medical clinics, barbershops, or gyms to help you distribute flyers for the event.

Remember in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. when Underdog got away from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? On the off-chance something like that happens in real life, wouldn’t you want your customers to see it broadcasted during your Parade-Watch Thanksgiving Party?

Of course, you can also put a twist on Thanksgiving by turning it into Friendsgiving or even, why not, Singlesgiving. We don’t suggest taking a page from How I Met Your Mother, though, and making it Slapsgiving. Other fun Thanksgiving party ideas you can put together for your customers include a fall-themed trivia quiz or a football viewing party.

If you are allowed to organize small-scale events for Thanksgiving in 2020, when we’re in the middle of a pandemic, your priority should be your customers’ and staff’s safety. Scroll down to the bottom of the article for some safety tips.

When you think about what restaurants serve at Thanksgiving dinner, you need to be as descriptive as possible since this is a festive occasion. Clients are more likely to buy a menu or a seat at your event if the food list sounds impressive. Don’t spare any adjectives regarding the food and think about adding a wine pairing to some dishes.

Spread the word

Social media should be at the top of your list of Thanksgiving restaurant marketing ideas. Since you need time to promote your brand and offers before Thanksgiving Day, we recommend planning your strategy a month in advance.

To get your Thanksgiving restaurant promotions to as many people as possible, use the omnichannel approach. Hang signs outside the restaurant, hand flyers, reach out to people via email and be active on all your social media platforms. The latter is the best place to get customers involved by using hashtags, launching challenges, or promoting events.

If you’re looking for some ideas on how to promote your restaurant on Instagram, check out our article on Restaurant Instagram Marketing Ideas That Will Help You Increase Sales.

Create your own Thanksgiving message or hashtag

Creating a hashtag that’s Thanksgiving-inspired and unique for your brand is a great way to get people to remember you. You can also take it one step further and come up with a Thanksgiving message for promotion across all your social media platforms.

The best Thanksgiving promotion ideas are not trying to sell anything. Instead, they focus on emotion. Create inspirational posts for your social media channels consisting of quotes on Thanksgiving and gratitude and featuring a delicious picture of food.

Here are a few great Thanksgiving lines you can borrow from:

  • Drink and be thankful to the host! What seems insignificant when you have it is important when you need it.” – Franz Grillparzer
  • “Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude.”– Nigel Hamilton
  • “Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” – W.T. Purkiser
  • “Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.”– Catherine Pulsifer
  • “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”– Charles Dickens
  • “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
  • “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.” – Johnny Carson
  • “I suppose I will die never knowing what pumpkin pie tastes like when you have room for it.” – Robert Brault
  • “Thanksgiving is America’s favorite holiday because it’s a time when we put aside our cares, much as the struggling Pilgrims did nearly four centuries ago, and eat a gut-busting meal without worrying about the ‘out years.’” – David Ignatius

Combine Thanksgiving Restaurant Promotions with Decorations

It’s a good idea for every holiday to dress up the place accordingly to help people get in the mood.

Use pumpkins

You can upcycle your Halloween decorations along the Thanksgiving lines and turn the scene into something warm and inspiring. Replace the carved pumpkin with a new one to give that autumn feeling, even if you turn it into a bottle cooler.

Fall colors

Use bright, golden colors to mimic fall’s garment. Use these for table cloths, napkins, or other items like candles.

Intricate centerpieces

Create a maize centerpiece to reconnect with the original meaning of Thanksgiving. You can choose yellow, orange, and red flowers to preserve the autumnal vibe if you prefer flowers.

Display the Horn of Plenty

This is a modern-day interpretation of an old idea about abundance. The cornucopia, as it is also called, makes the place look fuller and more luxurious.

Use themed napkins

A simple and easy way to dress up any table is to add more intricate napkins. You can buy them from the supermarket, or have them made to order, displaying the menu.

Bring nature inside

Create an enchanted space in your restaurant by bringing in leaves, fruits, and other natural items. Depending on the available area, it can be anything between a full wooden log or just a few pine cones.

Get in on the post-Thanksgiving hype

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday promotions season, which means you can take advantage of the hype around Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

Don’t just focus on Thanksgiving restaurant promotions. Throw a party to celebrate your small business, offer gift cards to online shoppers who dine at your restaurant, or partner up with brands.

Thanksgiving COVID Ideas & Safety Tips

Depending on where your restaurant is located, you might not be allowed to open on Thanksgiving because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Other restaurants will be open but with limited seating and special safety measures.

The good news is that anyone can quickly adapt the Thanksgiving restaurant promotions on this list to an online menu. You can even take your current restaurant promotions and add a Thanksgiving twist.

To boost sales this Thanksgiving, you should focus your efforts on food delivery and takeout and reward those customers who order food from you online with unique Thanksgiving deals.

Start Taking Thanksgiving Food Orders in Advance Implement our online ordering system for free.

If you are allowed to keep your restaurant open on Thanksgiving (be it indoors or outdoors), make sure to follow this safety checklist:

  • Position tables so they respect the social distancing rules in place in your area.
  • Check the maximum number of people allowed to gather in your area and stop welcoming people when you’ve reached it.
  • Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID in your restaurant.
  • Make sure the entire restaurant is cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected regularly.
  • Allow the circulation of air as much as possible if you’re indoors.
  • Offer hand sanitizers to all customers when they enter and install sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant.
  • Ensure that all staff is wearing masks and gloves throughout their shift.
  • Take temperature readings of all staff regularly.

Read more: Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Conclusion

While tradition is to be expected, many customers are open to trying new things as long as they can still feel the Thanksgiving spirit. Don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to creating unique Thanksgiving restaurant promotions.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Andreea Dobrila
Andreea Dobrila

Andreea Dobrila is a proven web copywriter & marketing strategist. She pushes online restaurants on the fast-track to quickly growing their online sales. Win more business by using her bulletproof tips & secrets.

Download’s Andreea’s free report:

**Food Descriptions That Make You Hungry: Hypnotic Menu Writing Tips & Secrets**