8 Creative Leap Year Marketing Ideas for Your Restaurant

By Katherine Pendrill

A man filming a video of himself with food and drinks in front of him on his phone.

A Leap Year offers a whole extra day to eat, drink, and be merry. What better way to make the most of this bonus time than by celebrating with your customers? All you need now are a few enticing Leap Year marketing ideas to draw a crowd to your restaurant.

In this guide to Leap Year marketing for restaurants, we’ll cover:

  • What is a Leap Year?
  • When is the next Leap Year?
  • Why celebrate a Leap Year at your restaurant?
  • 8 Leap Year marketing ideas and restaurant promotions you can try

What is a Leap Year?

A Leap Year is a year that has an extra day: February 29th. This makes the year 366 days long instead of 365. 

The purpose of a Leap Year is to ensure the Gregorian calendar year lines up with the solar year. Since it actually takes Earth 365.6 days to make its way around the sun, we need a way to account for that additional six hours. So, every four years, when the extra time totals 24 hours, we have a leap year.

When is the Next Leap Year?

The next Leap Year is February 29th, 2028. After that, we’ll have to wait another four years to celebrate the next one in 2032.

Chances are you know someone who was born on Leap Day. Only getting to celebrate their actual birthday every four years makes it an even bigger cause for celebration. You can treat this day the same way at your restaurant!

Why Celebrate a Leap Year at Your Restaurant?

While February 29th may not have the same widespread appeal as traditional holidays or major sporting events, it’s still a savvy move to get started on some Leap Year marketing right after wrapping up your Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions.

Celebrating the Leap Year gives your restaurant a unique opportunity to stand out by acknowledging this rather rare occasion, and to pique your customers’ interest with fun Leap Year sales promotions. Whether you whip up a Leap Day special or an innovative contest idea to entice your guests, there’s ample room for culinary creativity.

In many parts of the world, the weather is cold and gloomy at this time of year, and the next big event for partygoers isn’t until St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th. This timing also makes Leap Day an ideal chance for people to let loose at your restaurant.

Not to mention, running Leap Year sales promotions is a savvy business move from a dollars and cents standpoint. This is especially true if your venue isn’t a big Valentine’s Day hotspot and you might still be experiencing a bit of a post-holiday slump since December.

Chef taking a photo of a plate of food with her phone.

8 Leap Year Restaurant Promotions

On board with the Leap Year celebrations and ready for some inspiration? Here are a few Leap Year marketing ideas to try at your restaurant this February. You can also involve your employees and take a poll to see which three ideas below get the most votes.

1. Give Away Freebies for ‘Leaplings’

One of the simplest Leap Day marketing ideas is to celebrate your guests who were born on February 29th (also known as ‘leaplings’). Put the word out on social media and to your email list that anyone with a Leap Day birthday can come in for a free appetizer or slice of cake. All they have to do is bring in their driver’s license and show that they were born on February 29th. If you’re feeling generous, run the promotion for the entire last week of February.

Here’s an example of a freebies for leaplings promotion from Villa Italian Kitchen, a chain that launched in New York City in 1964 and now has operations across the country.

Restaurant Business

2. Offer a $2.29 Discount

Many consumers are keeping a close eye on their spending these days. Leap Day is a perfect opportunity to catch their eyes with a great deal by offering a $2.29 discount in honor of February 29th (the 2nd month and 29th day of the year). 

There are lots of ways to run this promotion – for instance, you could give customers $2.29 off their bill, or even discount all beverages to $2.29 for the day. That’s similar to what burger chain Wayback Burgers did when it offered shakes for just $2.29 to customers who purchased through the restaurant’s app. The promotion even made the news in USA Today. You could be next!

USA Today

3. Provide Some Fun “Extras”

Since we’re all getting an extra day this year, your restaurant could create a promotion around this theme and throw in some free “extras” alongside specific menu items. For example, serve up some extra shrimp on your shrimp pasta dish or throw some extra cheese on, well, just about anything – because who doesn’t love cheese?

If you want to go above and beyond, make it a two-for-one deal like Legal Sea Foods did with its “An Extra Day, An Extra Lobster” promo. Guests could order two lobsters for $29 on Leap Day (one lobster at the restaurant was normally $27.95 at the time).

4. Run a One-Day-Only Loyalty Promotion

When it comes to Leap Year marketing ideas, cooking up something special for your restaurant loyalty program members is a great way to show your appreciation for their business. For instance, you could encourage reward program members to dine with you on Leap Day by offering 29 extra loyalty points with every purchase to celebrate the occasion.

Or, you could swing for the fences like sandwich chain Which Wich did, and offer a loyalty promotion to remember, like the chance to win free food for the next four years!

Restaurant Business

5. Show Some Love to Your Community

Celebrating with your guests is fun, and we encourage it! But special occasions can also be an excellent opportunity to give back to your larger community. For example, you could deliver hot meals to firefighters at your local fire station or yummy treats to teachers at your local school on Leap Day, and pick up the tab for the folks who work hard for your community.

Here’s an example from Krispy Kreme – the doughnut chain delivered free treats to hospitals when babies were born on February 29th.

USA Today

6. Run a Social Media Contest

Your Leap Year marketing ideas should include a way to boost engagement on your restaurant’s social media feeds. So, why not run a Leap Day contest? Contests are a tried-and-true restaurant Instagram marketing strategy that can help increase your restaurant’s follower count, online engagement, and, most importantly, sales.

Here’s a fun example from sub chain Quiznos that made the news in USA Today. “According to the sandwich chain, it’s a Leap Day tradition for women to propose on this extra day,” the magazine reported. If you’ve seen the 2010 movie Leap Year starring Amy Adams, you’ll remember that piece of trivia! So, anyone who proposed to their sweetheart on Leap Day and posted a photo of the proposal on Facebook or Twitter with hashtag #sayyestoQuiznos was entered into Quiznos’ contest. The prize? Free catering for the wedding.

Quizno's Instagram post about their Leap Day promotion.
Quiznos Instagram

7. Extend Happy Hour in Honor of Leap Day

In keeping with the theme of an extra day in the calendar year, give your guests an extra hour to enjoy sweet deals on drinks and appetizers on February 29th. You could even create special Leap Year-themed cocktails for this extended happy hour period, like the F29, which is an ode to February 29th and the number four, given that it contains four ingredients.

“It’s basically a vodka sunrise with a carbonated twist or a screwdriver with grenadine and 7up (but with more vodka since the other ingredients are sweet). Aesthetically, it’s a two-toned orange and red drink,” the cocktail’s creator Anthony Pe’a told Forbes.

Here’s how U.S. and Canadian restaurant chain Earl’s promoted its Leap Day happy hour on Instagram.

8. Leap for a Cause

Make your Leap Year promotion a charitable one, and donate a percentage of the proceeds from your restaurant’s Leap Day sales to a local non-profit. Not only will you attract socially conscious diners to your venue, but you’ll all be contributing to the greater good.

If you want to put a literal spin on the idea of leaping for a cause, add a fun element to the occasion by setting up a photo booth where your guests can take a selfie mid-air, like the personal finance brand Mint did.

You now have eight creative Leap Day marketing ideas to inspire the next big bash at your restaurant. Bring on February 29th!

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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