While Labor Day is a day off for those in the corporate world, it’s the opposite for the hospitality industry. People are getting together with family and friends and want to enjoy the last hurrah of summer with great food (and great offers).
As a restaurateur, how you prepare for Labor Day can be the difference between booking up solid through the first weekend of September, and barely making enough to pay your staff.
Of course, we want the former for you. We’re sharing ideas for Labor Day restaurant specials that will help you maximize profits and make your restaurant a Labor Day destination for years to come.
In this article you’ll learn:
How Labor Day can impact your restaurant
How to plan Labor Day promotions
14 Labor Day restaurant specials to try this September
Our guide will help take some of the labor out of Labor Day for you and your staff!
How the September Long Weekend Impacts Your Restaurant
Like most holidays that fall on a Monday, people use Labor Day to take advantage of the three-day weekend to travel. If you’re in a destination that’s popular for Labor Day – such as a beach town, big city, or national park – you can expect an influx of hungry people in your area for the September holiday.
While it may be tempting to shut down for Labor Day, you’ll want to consider the pros of staying open and taking advantage of the business opportunity that Labor Day presents.
When people travel for Labor Day, they’re likely to dine out because their accommodations don’t have kitchens or they just don’t want to cook while on vacation. Keep your restaurant open on Labor Day and you’ll reap the rewards, especially if your competition is closed.
How to Plan Labor Day Promotions
Specials aren’t so special if no one knows about them! Make your Labor Day plans early so that you have enough time to perfect your menu and plan your marketing promotions. This is how we recommend preparing your restaurant for Labor Day:
You know that making changes to a menu is more complicated than it seems. It involves testing new recipes, training staff on the recipes, ordering inventory and equipment, and printing new menus. Start planning your holiday menu several weeks in advance to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch.
Not sure what to serve? Conduct market research – ask customers what they want specials they would want to see on the menu and what kinds of coupons would entice them to come in.
Labor Day Staffing
All hands on deck? Not quite – you want to be strategic with your staffing. Look at your POS data to see how much business you’ve done on past Labor Days (before the pandemic) to forecast how much business you’ll do, and therefore how much staff you’ll actually need.
If your restaurant has previously been closed on Labor Day, see how much you’ve done in sales on other Monday holidays like Memorial Day.
Keep your staff happy and turnover low by giving employees who work on Labor Day extra compensation. Pay them a higher hourly wage or overtime wages, or offer a holiday bonus or a paid floating holiday.
Market Your Promotions
If you work hard to prepare Labor Day restaurant specials but don’t put the same effort into spreading the word, don’t be surprised if no one knows about your offers! Employ all of the advertising and marketing tactics you have at your disposal.
Hang up signs about your specials around the restaurant, place posters on the backs of bathroom doors, and create and distribute coupons to patrons with their checks leading up to Labor Day. Remember to share social media posts about the holiday specials or send out the menu details in an email restaurant newsletter, if you have one.
Having the right tools at your restaurant will make holiday service a smooth operation. If you’re planning a Labor Day buffet, stock up on chafing dishes. If you’re hosting an al fresco pop up, make sure you have tablecloths, dishes, and silverware suitable for outdoor use.
Can your restaurant’s tech handle the Labor Day rush? Check with your POS provider for software upgrades and ensure that you have enough licenses and hardware to handle an influx of guests.
With a little bit of creativity and careful preparation, you’ll have a full house on Labor Day.
14 Labor Day Restaurant Specials to Try
Stumped about what to offer on Labor Day to differentiate it from any other day at your restaurant? Here are 14 fun ideas for Labor Day promotions and marketing ideas.
1. Wear White Party
They say you can’t wear white after Labor Day, so encourage your customers to go all out in white on Labor Day. Create a Diner-en-Blanc style dinner party where guests wear white head to toe.
You can go all-out and try to execute a similar concept, or just emulate it at your restaurant by selling tickets in advance and requiring guests to show up wearing all white getups.
For a more low-key version of this idea, you can offer guests a discount or a special offer for wearing any white on Labor Day.
2. Al Fresco Dining
Embrace good weather by hosting a cookout on Labor Day. If your restaurant doesn’t have outdoor space, contact a nearby park or partner with a local business that does and do a joint Labor Day party.
This idea is perfect for diners who are traveling for Labor Day and want the feeling of an at-home barbecue!
3. Takeout Picnic
Take the labor out of Labor Day for your guests by preparing a picnic kit that they can pick up at your restaurant. Give yourself extra time to market this Labor Day promotion so that customers can place orders in advance of the September holiday.
Choose dishes that can be served family style and conveniently packaged in takeout containers. For example, your restaurant’s Labor Day picnic menu could include a rotisserie chicken with sides, or hot dogs and hamburgers with coleslaw. Don’t forget to include a picnic blanket in the package for a special touch!
4. Pool Party Pop Up
Nothing screams “summer” more than a pool party. Rent out a pool in your town, bring a few grills, and set up a pop-up restaurant next to the water for a day. You could also partner with an athletic club, hotel, or apartment building with a pool and cater their Labor Day pool party.
5. Make Labor Day Last All Weekend
Just because Labor Day falls on a Monday doesn’t mean that your restaurant can’t start celebrating a few days early. If you’re offering holiday menu items, why not serve them starting on Saturday? If you’ve already worked hard to prepare for the holiday, you should make it last!
6. Labor Day Drink Specials
Alas, Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer. Mark the occasion with festive, summery cocktails as a last hurrah before fall begins.
Need inspiration for your Labor Day cocktail menu? Cocktails made with tropical juices and fruity garnishes taste like summer in a glass. You can’t go wrong with classic tiki drinks! Just make sure your bar is stocked for the big day – especially if you’re heavily marketing your drink specials.
7. BOGO Deal
Create a buy-one-get-one deal to get people in your seats on Labor Day. Labor Day is a family holiday after all, so why not offer an enticing deal like a free kids meal with the purchase of an entree?
Don’t usually offer a kids menu? Labor Day is a perfect excuse to create one. Build a kids menu by serving your most popular and kid-friendly dishes (chicken fingers, pizza, mac and cheese) in smaller portions.
It’s not every day that Monday is part of the weekend! And what’s everyone’s favorite weekend meal? Brunch.
Extend your brunch menu into Labor Day Monday, or if you don’t have a brunch menu, create one! You can reuse this brunch menu for other holidays, or make it a regular part of your weekend service.
Buffets are great for serving lots of people quickly. If you can do so safely, consider putting together a buffet deal if your restaurant is located in an area that’s popular with tourists on Labor Day.
The key to a lucrative Labor Day buffet specials is to serve dishes that are cheap to make and can be prepared in bulk quickly. Don’t forget to rent buffet serving equipment if you don’t own any and consider any modifications you may need to make to ensure the safety of your customers.
10. Prix Fixe Holiday Menu
Reduce the Labor Day labor for your staff by serving a simplified holiday menu. Your prix fixe menu can be as simple as two appetizers, three entrees, and two desserts. Make sure that the dishes cost about the same to make so that it makes sense for you to offer combinations of any of them for a fixed price.
How should you choose contenders for the prix fixe menu? Consider dishes that are customer favorites and offer options for various diets. You could offer one red meat or poultry dish, one seafood dish, and one vegetarian dish.
11. Sweater Weather Party
While some people mourn the end of summer, others can’t wait for fall and the start of sweater weather. Host a sweater weather party at your restaurant for Labor Day and preview the flavors of the fall with new seasonal menu items. Is it ever too early for pumpkin spice everything?
Make things festive by holding an ugly sweater contest, serving pumpkin spice customer favorites, and putting up seasonal decorations. You’d be surprised how early you’ll be able to find Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations in stores.
Host a Labor Day trivia party. Ask questions about the summer and fall, Labor Day in pop culture, or what Labor Day actually celebrates. Having a special event like trivia night will attract customers who want food, drinks, and entertainment for Labor Day.
13. Sunday Night Fiesta
What’s the best thing about a Monday holiday? Not having set an alarm on Sunday night! If suitable for your venue and service style, why not throw a party on Sunday night?
Rearrange some tables to make room for a dance floor, hire a DJ (or just queue up some great music), and turn your restaurant into a local hotspot for one night only! Offer drink specials and a snack menu to keep your guests feeling festive.
14. Live Music
You can make music part of your Labor Day promotion in other ways as well. For example, you could invite a jazz band or pianist to accompany your brunch or dinner service.
If you plan on offering live music, encourage customers to make reservations so that you can know how many guests you’ll need to accommodate.
Labor Day can be a lucrative business opportunity for restaurants that decide to stay open. Attract crowds with a creative Labor Day restaurant special like brunch, an al fresco meal, or a BOGO discount. When you align your menu, staff, equipment, and marketing efforts around your Labor Day restaurant specials, you’ll create an experience that customers will return to year after year.
Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.