Top 13 Memorial Day Promotions for Restaurants in 2024

By Katherine Pendrill

A sundrenched American flag.

Summer is so close, you can almost taste it – and it tastes like a juicy house-made burger washed down with craft beer on a patio. This is what comes to mind for many Americans when we think about Memorial Day promotions. But this holiday, on the last Monday of May, is about much more than that. It started in 1868 as a way to honor those who lost their lives in war.

Memorial Day is a time for Americans to gather with family and friends as we pay our respects to our heroic veterans. Restaurants are often a go-to place for these gatherings, which also mark the unofficial beginning of summer. The day is all about gratitude, unity, and spending time with loved ones – and many venues offer Memorial Day restaurant specials as a way to commemorate the occasion.

In this guide to Memorial Day promotions, we’ll cover:

  • Why it’s worth your while to run Memorial Day restaurant deals
  • What kind of Memorial Day marketing ideas you can try
  • The best Memorial Day restaurant specials to offer 

Is Memorial Day Busy for Restaurants?

As Americans gear up for the sunny, warm days of late May, they’re eager to get out and about by the time Memorial Day arrives. In fact, “The week leading up to Memorial Day is the fourth-best week of the year for revenues at local bars and lounges,” according to 2017 data from Womply

What does this mean for restaurants? When news station WHYY PBS in Philadelphia, PA interviewed Pierrette Pearson, the co-owner of Dibbs BBQ in 2023, he told reporters he’d be cooking 25% more meat than normal and starting at 4 a.m. to prepare for the holiday rush.

However, it’s worth noting that the day itself tends to see slightly lower than normal sales (20-25%). This is why it’s a smart move to run your Memorial Day promotions during the week before the big day.

Happy group of friends enjoying beers and food on a restaurant patio.

13 Memorial Day Promotions & Marketing Ideas

If you want to offer guests a place to gather for Memorial Day, but you’re stumped when it comes to Memorial Day marketing ideas, we’ve got a comprehensive list for you. Here are some creative promotion ideas for restaurants this May.

1. Run a Promotion for Veterans

Staying true to the significance of the holiday by offering a special honoring veterans is a classy move. It’s also an excellent way to keep your Memorial Day restaurant deals simple.

For instance, international Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chão offered all military veterans and active-duty personnel 50% off their meal on Memorial Day. In the spirit of unity, the restaurant also offered 10% off for up to three additional guests.

Remember to share a Memorial Day business post on social media in advance of the event to let guests know about the promotions you’ll be running.

2. Mark the Start of Patio Season

Since many Americans consider the Memorial Day weekend to be the kickoff of summer, take the opportunity to coordinate your annual patio season opening with the holiday. This Memorial Day restaurant idea is a surefire crowd-pleaser!

Start by decorating your patio in red, white, and blue. Then, light up an outdoor grill and welcome guests for all of their summer barbecue favorites, like ribs, wings, and burgers. It’s casual restaurant patio dining at its best. Bonus points if you hire a local band to play live music!

3. Sell Memorial Day Meal Kits

Make it easy for your customers to enjoy your food, even if they choose to stay home. Selling Memorial Day restaurant meal kits will ensure no one misses out. This is especially useful for families with young children who may not want to bring them to a restaurant on the big day.

For example, Publican Quality Meats in Chicago sold DIY grilling kits for Memorial Day. The kits ranged in price from $25 to $125 and included meat, rubs and sauces, garnishes, and grilling instructions. Customers could even add sides, beer, and wine to their kit.

4. Offer Memorial Day Catering

Providing customers with all the fixings for their holiday meal is one thing, but you can take this idea one step further and offer Memorial Day catering. This way, your customers don’t even have to cook – they can just relax and enjoy your food!

A restaurant catering option is an especially smart option if you plan to close up shop for Memorial Day, but still want to earn some dough. The key is to market it as a mouth-watering package complete with mains, sides, drinks, and dessert. Cracker Barrell did something similar to this with its catering bundle that included sirloin tips, corn on the cob, and strawberry lemonade.

You can also sell an upgrade package that includes seating, setup, and teardown for an extra special touch.

5. Serve Up a Breakfast Buffet

Start the day right by treating diners to a hearty Memorial Day breakfast. Whether they’re gearing up for a day of festivities or simply looking for a leisurely morning meal, a breakfast buffet is sure to draw in hungry crowds. 

Consider offering a variety of classic breakfast favorites alongside patriotic twists (think red, white, and blueberry pancakes or star-shaped waffles). Don’t forget to include savory options and local flavors or specialties to add a unique touch to the buffet spread. 

6. Host a Memorial Day Happy Hour

Instead of planning a big event, keep your Memorial Day promotions simple by hosting a happy hour to draw more guests into your restaurant during the midday lull. This way, you can also attract the crowds who prefer to cook at home, but who also like the idea of treating themselves to discounted drinks beforehand.

Make your happy hour special by mixing up a drink just for the occasion. For instance, the Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, RI created a special Memorial Day cocktail called Baby You’re a Firework to symbolize the holiday spirit.

7. Create a Memorial Day Menu

Get creative in the kitchen and curate a menu that pays homage to the spirit of Memorial Day. Feature seasonal ingredients and flavors that reflect the essence of summer while staying true to traditional Memorial Day fare. A BBQ-inspired platter, a refreshing salad with locally sourced produce, and a dessert adorned with patriotic garnishes would make the perfect meal.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse did just that with its menu available on Memorial Day weekend only. The menu featured a choice of prime burger, California burger, or chickpea and eggplant burger paired with a glass of red wine for $30.

As another idea to consider, you could also leverage the occasion to launch your summer menu on Memorial Day. This way, guests can enjoy the new items for more than just one weekend.

8. Treat Your Loyalty Program Members

Show your appreciation for your restaurant’s biggest fans by offering exclusive perks through your reward program this Memorial Day. Recognizing your most loyal guests fosters a sense of both unity and gratitude, which are integral to the spirit of Memorial Day.

In need of ideas? You could serve up discounts on specific menu items, bonus points for purchases made during the holiday weekend, or even a free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of an entrée. Auntie Annie’s offered loyalty program members $2 off any orders over $12 on Memorial Day, while Cinnabon offered a buy-one-get-one-free deal on baked goods.

9. Lend Your Support to a Local Non-Profit

Memorial Day is all about service. So, make a meaningful impact this holiday weekend by partnering with a local non-profit like a veterans’ organization, food bank, or a charity supporting military families. 

You could donate a portion of your restaurant’s sales from the weekend, organize a fundraising event at your venue, or even volunteer your team’s time and resources to assist with the non-profit’s initiatives. 

10. Run a Contest in Honor of Veterans

Take to social media to show your support for veterans (and get your customers involved) by running a Memorial Day contest. Invite participants to share stories, photos, and messages of gratitude for veterans. 

Wondering what to offer as a prize? Give away something enticing, like a gift card to your restaurant, a special dining experience, or a patriotic-themed gift basket.

11. Give Away Free Meals

You may want to go beyond offering a Memorial Day promotion for veterans, and instead provide complimentary meals. This is a generous gesture that shows your restaurant’s respect for their service, and it’s a great way to give back.

For instance, Pie Five Pizza offered a free personal pizza to active military personnel, veterans, and retirees who presented proof of service or military ID. 

12. Offer Face Painting for the Kids

Make Memorial Day a fun experience for the whole family by offering complimentary face painting for kids at your restaurant. This is an excellent way to entertain youngsters while parents enjoy their meal.

Invite a local artist to participate and set up a designated area in your restaurant where they can work their magic. Go for patriotic designs like flags, stars, and stripes to keep things festive.

13. Celebrate Staff with Military Ties

In the week leading up to Memorial Day, show your appreciation for your staff by sharing their stories on social media (of course, ask for their permission first). This kind of behind-the-scenes content gives your employees a chance to shine, and gives your customers a sense of the unique significance that Memorial Day holds for different members of your team.

You now have a bit of background on Memorial Day, and an answer to the question “Is Memorial Day busy for restaurants?” You’ve also got 13 creative Memorial Day marketing ideas to choose from to promote your restaurant.

Regardless of which idea you try, remember to share a Memorial Day business post on social media in advance to get the word out. Let’s make this your best Memorial Day yet!

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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