National Donut Day. National Cheeseburger Day. National Tequila Day. National Chocolate-Covered Bacon Day. The list goes on. If you’re in the restaurant business, there’s an overwhelming chance that some of these faux food holidays have made their way onto your plate. Two questions arise: how to leverage these holidays to your advantage, and more importantly, whether the attempt is worth it in the first place. 

Do Faux Food Holidays Matter?

The short answer is that faux food holidays can be a fun business booster for both new customers and loyalists, so long as you make a big enough commitment and market your efforts correctly. Easier said than done, which is why if you’re not prepared to sink a lot of time and resources into a faux holiday menu and/or event, chances are that you won’t see the positive ROI you’re looking for. 

If you’re thinking about pulling the trigger for a faux food holiday, consider these points:

• Does your restaurant need a boost in traffic on that day? If the holiday falls on a Saturday, you may already have the volume to get you to max capacity. Also, realistically, will your promotion or product be enough to get people to make the trip to your establishment? 

• Will any promotion or special menu items you have planned offset their costs? Giving away donuts on National Donut Day should bring in more revenue from increased sales than you’re spending on free product. 

• How far away is the faux food holiday in question? If it’s less than 3–6 months out, you’re at risk for not getting the word out well enough in advance and/or preparing your staff accordingly. 

Getting Started

If you are dedicated to ‘celebrating’ a faux food holiday, target one that at least has broader appeal. A gastropub will have a much better time making the most of National Burger Day than they would National Shrimp n Grits Day. Bars can do a lot more with National Rum Day than National Daiquiri Day.  

Second, paint a clear picture of what you want your ‘celebration’ to look like. Here’s some pointers on that end:

• Are you going to create new menu items? This approach works for testing new products or driving up the average check.

• Are you going to discount or give away already-existing items? This approach works for attracting new customers.

• Are you going to pair discounts with full-price purchases, such as free fries with a burger purchase on National French Fry Day? This approach works for minimizing revenue loss while cross-promoting products, though it may not attract as many new customers.

From there, getting the word out is imperative, otherwise you’ve gone through all that effort just to have people who would otherwise pay full price stumble through your front door and take advantage of the discount. 

How to Run Marketing for Faux Food Holidays

Your marketing plan is entirely dependent on the type of promotion you’ve decided to create. In any case, be sure to have that plan set 3–6 months in advance and communicate with all your stakeholders—chefs and front-of-house staff, managers, investors, etc.—to both fill them in on your plans and leverage their own networks for additional reach. From there, consider a few options:

• For new items and significant discounts, invite local media to preview your special menu or the items you’re slashing. Positive press beforehand [also called pre-press] will help encourage the volume you’re looking for. It does help to have media present for the event itself, but you will see much higher ROI for pre-press rather than live-posting on social media or post-press articles.

• For all promotions, of course post to all of your social media outlets, email lists and other communication channels. If your goal is to attract new customers, you will either need to pay for sponsored posts or incentivize your follower to re-post.

• Continue sending these messages several times leading up to the faux food holiday to keep the idea fresh in your guests’ minds.

• Create collateral in your restaurant to advertise your faux food holiday promotion to current guests. No better person to market to than someone who’s already enjoying your product!

These tactics should provide valuable assistance should you decide to embark on a faux food holiday endeavor. At their core, however, these tactics only work if the holiday and promotion are relevant to your brand and can actually generate value for your business.