8 Restaurant Gift Card Marketing Ideas for 2024

By Katherine Pendrill

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If restaurant gift card marketing isn’t already part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to make it a priority.


First and foremost, gift cards provide restaurants with an immediate source of revenue – cash that can be incredibly valuable for restaurants that run on notoriously thin margins. And even when cash flow is not a concern, gift cards help bring old customers back to your business and encourage new ones to visit you for the very first time. In fact, 44% of consumers said that gift cards encourage them to try new restaurants that they would not have otherwise visited.

In other words, gift card marketing is a valuable way to diversify your revenue stream, while increasing customer volume.

To help you kickstart your own restaurant gift card marketing strategy, this article will cover various restaurant gift card ideas and how you can use this channel as a way to drive sales and repeat business. In this article, we’ll go over:

  • 5 benefits of gift cards for restaurants
  • The different types of restaurant gift cards available
  • 8 gift card marketing ideas for restaurants

While not every venue will be able to apply these restaurant gift card ideas, this article can serve as a valuable resource for restaurateurs looking to implement some form of gift card marketing.

5 Benefits of Gift Cards for Restaurants

Gift cards have always been a valuable source of revenue for restaurants and gift card sales have been on the rise for several years. But in the wake of high inflation and soaring food, gift cards have become even more valuable to restaurants.

Below are some of the biggest benefits of gift cards for restaurants, particularly during times of crisis and recovery.

1. Immediate Cash Flow

Cash flow has alway been a major issue for many restaurants, which run on thin profit margins of just 3-6%. Not to mention, some restaurants are still working to recover the money lost during the height of the pandemic.

Fortunately, restaurant gift cards can help to address some of these cash flow issues. Restaurant gift cards are effectively microloans, providing a quick injection of cash – with virtually no cost of goods sold. When customers purchase gift cards, restaurants can use that cash immediately. This money can then be used to pay for rent, inventory, staff, and other bills.

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2. Brand Awareness

The restaurant renaissance is here and people are eager to go out and enjoy meals with friends and family. Gift cards are a great way to ensure that customers will remember your restaurant and head to your venue first, instead of your competitors. This is especially true if you use your gift cards as an opportunity to show off your unique branding – something that you can easily do with TouchBistro Gift Cards.

In other words, the gift cards you sell now ensure there will be diners in your seats in the near future.

3. Boost Sales

And you do get diners in the door, you can expect them to spend a little more. Studies have found that 72% of gift card holders spend more than the original value of the card, which means more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

And even in instances where customers spend less than the original value of a gift card, the remaining balance acts as an incentive for the customer to visit again – which is still a gain for your restaurant.

4. Attract New Customers

For restaurants, attracting new customers is always a top priority. Luckily, gift card marketing can play a role in bringing new customers into your restaurant.

Gift cards allow people who already know and love your restaurant to encourage others to visit by providing a financial incentive to do so. In other words, gift cards allow your regulars to become brand advocates who vouch for your food and service by encouraging others to try your restaurant out. This can easily translate into a whole new audience for your restaurant with 44% of consumers saying that gift cards encourage them to try new restaurants they would have otherwise overlooked.

5. A Way for Customers to Support Small Business

After seeing how many small businesses were devastated by the effects of the pandemic, a growing number of consumers have expressed an interest in supporting small and local businesses. In fact, a 2021 study by Mint found that 82% of consumers said they planned to spend more to support local businesses after the pandemic. 

Many independent restaurants have loyal customers and devoted regulars, and gift cards offer a quick and simple way for patrons to support their favorite local venues.

Gift Card Options for Restaurants

There’s no doubt that gift cards offer many benefits for restaurants. But when it comes to actually getting gift cards into the hands of customers, you have a few different options.

Below, we cover the two main types of gift cards your restaurant can offer – physical vs digital gift cards.

Digital Gift Cards

As many restaurants learned during the early days of the pandemic, offering digital gift cards is one of the easiest ways to sell gift cards for your restaurant. If you use a digital gift card solution, customers can easily purchase and personalize gift cards online at any time. These digital gift cards can then be redeemed in-store by either scanning the associated barcode or by manually entering the numerical code attached to the digital gift card.

Physical Gift Cards

Though digital gift cards have become increasingly popular, physical gift cards still offer many benefits for restaurants. Many customers still prefer the look and feel of physical gift cards, especially when these cards are customized to match a restaurant’s branding, or their part of special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Millennials and younger consumers are also the primary audiences for digital gift cards, which means if you have an older clientele, they may prefer the familiarity of physical gift cards.

If you do choose to offer physical gift cards, there are one of two types of cards to choose from:

  • Barcode-Based Gift Cards: This type of physical gift card comes with a unique barcode/QR code that is associated with the customer who purchased the card. You will need a barcode scanner to be able to scan these types of gift cards.
  • Magnetic Stripe Gift Cards: Magnetic stripe gift cards are more secure than barcode-based gift cards, but they are less durable because the magnetic stripe can wear out over time. This type of gift card can be redeemed by swiping it through a credit card reader.

Once you’ve determined what type of restaurant gift cards you need, the next step is finding a solution to implement gift cards in your venue. Ideally, you should be using a gift cards solution that is directly integrated with your restaurant POS system. An integrated gift card solution allows you to easily create and promote customer gift cards for your restaurant, and then track sales, redemptions, and overall performance in your POS.

TouchBistro Gift Cards is one example of a POS-integrated gift card solution. With TouchBistro Gift Cards, you can choose to offer guests the ease and convenience of digital gift cards that can be purchased, sent, and redeemed all through your very own Customer Web App. Or, you can choose to create customized, physical gift cards for your restaurant and show off your unique branding. No matter which option you choose, you’ll be able to unlock powerful reporting and end-of-year reconciliation support. 

8 Restaurant Gift Card Marketing Ideas

Now that you’re well-versed in the many benefits of gift cards for restaurants and you’ve evaluated all the different gift card options, it’s time to implement your gift card marketing strategy.

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up eight actionable restaurant gift card ideas that can help your venue make the most of this valuable income stream:

1. Increase In-Store Visibility

Whether your venue is teeny tiny or a sprawling space, it’s important to increase in-store signage for gift cards. If possible, create an eye-catching display to draw attention to the fact that gift cards are readily available from your restaurant. If you use TouchBistro’s physical gift cards, your provider can even help you create an in-venue display specifically for your restaurant.

Of course, not every restaurant has the means to whip something up in Photoshop on a moment’s notice. If your design skills are limited, you can always use your words. Let customers know that gift cards are an easy way to support the independent restaurants they love and that purchasing a gift card will help your business continue serving the community.

2. Motivate Staff to Promote Gift Cards

It’s vital that staff make the most of every interaction with customers whether it’s in-person, over the phone, via email, or through social media. Make sure that staff are reminding customers that gift cards are a great way to support your restaurant and ensure they explain exactly how your gift cards can be purchased.

While motivating staff to promote gift cards is important, stay away from mandatory quotas or creating competition among staff. Quotas can lead to more aggressive sales tactics and you don’t want staff to start pressuring your customers into buying something they don’t want.

Female restaurant worker on the phone

3. Go Digital

With an increasing number of customers ordering online and fewer opportunities to interact with customers in person, digital gift cards are increasingly valuable for restaurants. As mentioned above, digital gift cards allow customers to immediately support your business – without the need to set foot in your store – making them an easy and convenient option for customers.

Of course, your customers can’t purchase digital gift cards if they don’t know that it’s an option. If you already have a gift card integration on your website, add a promotional gift card banner to your homepage to make sure that it’s the first thing customers see when they visit your site.

4. Use Email Campaigns

Many foodservice businesses are increasingly relying on restaurant email marketing to stay in touch with customers. If you already have a solid email list, this is the perfect marketing channel to advertise your gift cards. 

For instance, with TouchBistro Marketing you can design and send eye-catching email promotions, so you can create specific campaigns promoting your physical or digital gift cards. Just make sure that any emails you send clearly explain how customers can purchase gift cards from you – whether it’s digitally or in-store.

5. Leverage Social Media

Customers don’t always go directly to a restaurant’s website, which is why it’s important to promote gift cards across all your channels, including social media. On Instagram, Facebook, and any other social media platforms you use, highlight your gift cards to make sure customers know their options. And don’t forget to explain how customers can purchase gifts cards in your post – whether it’s online, through your dedicated web app, or over the phone.

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6. Promote Self-Gifting

Traditionally, restaurant gift cards have been a great gift option for the holidays or other special occasions – hence the name, gift cards. However, sometimes no special occasion is necessary. Remind your customers that self-gifting is also an option and can be a great way to treat themselves or their family to a delicious meal in the near future.

This is especially important as a growing number of consumers are looking for ways to support local businesses. If your customers are looking for opportunities to support your restaurant, remind them that they can simply buy a gift card (or other merchandise) for themselves and enjoy it at a later date.

7. Sweeten the Deal

Restaurants have long used the tactic of throwing in additional perks if customers purchase a gift card worth a certain amount. For instance, customers might receive an extra $10 gift card with the purchase of a $50 gift card. This can incentivize customers to purchase a larger gift card amount to receive the additional credit. Similarly, you might offer a bonus gift card, or a certain percentage off the face value of the gift card, if customers purchase on a particular day or at a specific time.

Though this tactic is not new, it may be a good way to increase the value of the restaurant gift cards your customers are currently purchasing. For instance, if a customer only intended to spend $40, they might be willing to spend another $10 now to receive an additional $10 off in the future. 

8. Bundle Your Gift Cards

For some restaurants, takeout and delivery operations have significantly ramped up (and stayed that way). If takeout and delivery are a big part of your business, you might want to consider bundling gift cards with certain orders. For instance, if a customer places a large order for takeout or meets a certain dollar amount for delivery, you could offer a gift card for a discounted fee.

Though it may seem counterintuitive to discount your gift cards, the idea is that customers may be incentivized to place a larger order to take advantage of your special offer.

Family eating a takeout meal

No matter what type of restaurant you run, restaurant gift card marketing should be a part of your overall business strategy. Gift cards not only provide a much-needed injection of cash, but they can also be valuable for restaurants with a loyal customer base and a strong community following, as they provide a tangible way for customers to support their favorite local businesses.

Photo of Katherine Pendrill
by Katherine Pendrill

Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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