Slaying the Neighborhood Goliath: 10 Unique Promotions for Restaurants

Tom Feltenstein offers 10 unique promos, from “Get Out of Work Free” cards to charging kids according to their height.


What happens to your pizzeria if a giant—that is, one of the major national chains—moves in next door? With a little creative thinking on your part, it doesn’t have to be a big problem. Over the past three issues, we’ve looked at dozens of easy-to-implement, cost-effective promotions that don’t rely on expensive mass media buys. Instead, the focus is on your four walls and your neighborhood. And the results just may startle you: Some of my clients achieved sales increases of up to 10% within 90 days of employing these tactics and other similar ones.

Every one of these promotions was designed to allay an independent pizzeria operator’s fears when Goliath moves in next door. Put them to work for you, and you’ll be able to continually outmaneuver your larger competitors!


Mobile Coupons

Younger customers are an especially good target audience for text message marketing. Text messaging is an increasingly popular and effective way to alert your customers about special promotions, new food specials and upcoming events. With a mobile coupon, you can create a promotional campaign, broadcast it and see an immediate increase in customer traffic—all on the same day! To get started, request cell phone numbers from your customers and let them know they’ll be on your exclusive list for special text-based promotions and discounts. Then craft offers that are worth their while, create a sense of urgency with an expiration date, and watch your business boom!


Outrageous Billboards

These really do work, and I’m living proof. A few years ago, I was looking for love and also wanted to promote a book I’d just written. So I put on my outside-the-box thinking cap and created a huge billboard on Interstate 95 near the Palm Beach International Airport. It featured a gigantic photo of myself along with the following text: “Have maid. Have money. Would love a honey!” The billboard also advertised the URL for a website that provided information about my book. I received nationwide media coverage, married a beautiful woman and sold thousands of books!


The “Get Out of Work Free” card. Give the winner a paid day off, redeemable with seven days’ notice. Employees will compete for the prize, and they’ll know how much you appreciate them.


Get Out of Work Free Card

Your employees are your internal customers. Without their support, loyalty and enthusiasm, you won’t have the success you seek with your other customers—your paying guests and patrons. That’s why I recommend the “Get Out of Work Free” card, to be awarded to staff members who regularly perform high-quality work, upsell to customers and, of course, show up on time consistently. Give the winner a paid day off, redeemable with seven days’ notice. Employees will compete for the prize, and they’ll know how much you appreciate them.


Employee Business Cards

Your employees are your marketing ambassadors. Show them how important they are by giving each employee on your staff—right down to the dishwasher—his or her own business card and the incentive to use it. Suddenly you’ve got a salesperson in every hair salon, convenience store, bar and family event in your neighborhood. Remember: Your best employees are eagles, and it’s costly and time-consuming to find eagles and keep them. Identify your eagles and help them soar. It’s good for business and for life.


Charge Kids a Penny Per Inch

This is a great tactic for attracting families and creating an inviting, kid-friendly atmosphere. Charge your little customers—for example, those age six and under—by the inch. That is, charge a penny or a nickel (you decide on the right amount) for each inch of the child’s height for a pizza. You can set aside one night for this promotion or offer it on a regular basis. Designate an area in your pizzeria to measure the kids’ height, decorate it, and make the experience exciting and fun for them. Promote the special on social media and your website, and parents (who have to pay regular price, of course) will love it!


Name a Menu Item

This is a great motivational tool for your employees. Temporarily name items on your menu after your best employees as a reward for their hard work. You can set the qualifying criteria—such as performance or attitude—for this honor according to what you feel would most benefit your restaurant. It’s also a great way to encourage improvement in employees who have been underperforming.


Customer of the Month

Lots of restaurants celebrate an employee of the month, but what about a customer of the month? Your customers will love the attention. If you want to develop specific criteria, think in terms of frequency of patronage; whether the customer often brings family members, friends or co-workers; the customer’s popularity with your staff; and the customer’s participation in promotions, contests, social media, etc. You can also hold a monthly social media contest and ask customers to explain why they should receive the honor. Use your creativity to determine the winner, then reward him or her with free pizza or a good discount. You can even give the award on a weekly basis.


Wacky Contests

The possibilities are endless—and endlessly fun. What about an ugly tie or ugly shirt contest? Worst wig or toupee? How about a pet-and-owner lookalike competition? You can announce the contests and introduce the winners to your customers and prospective customers via social media, website, e-newsletters, text messaging and other channels. But don’t stop there: Reach out to your local newspaper and TV stations. If the contest has a great visual angle, you can earn some positive news coverage.


Celebrate a weird holiday at your pizzeria. According to the website, October 21 is Reptile Awareness Day.


Celebrate a Funky Holiday

Find a quirky holiday to celebrate at your pizzeria—this can be a great way to interact with your employees and your customers. According to the website, October 21 is Reptile Awareness Day, while October 25 is Punk for a Day Day. You can celebrate International Tongue Twister Day on November 9 and Have a Party With Your Bear Day on November 16. Finally, December 16 has been designated Chocolate Covered Anything Day.


Get Inked

Create temporary tattoos with your pizzeria’s logo or mascot and give them away to customers. Ask customers to wear the tattoos all day. It’s a fun way to get people thinking and talking about your restaurant. After all, that’s the whole point of any promotion, right? To start a conversation and get people talking!

Tom Feltenstein is a restaurant marketing consultant and the CEO/founder of Tom Feltenstein’s Power Marketing Academy. Learn more at