8 Restaurant Holiday Gift Card Promotions & Marketing Ideas to Try This Season

By Katherine Pendrill

Restaurant Holiday Gift Card Promotions and Marketing Ideas

‘Tis the season for serving up restaurant holiday gift card promotions that customers won’t be able to resist.

Fortunately, creating tempting holiday gift card promotions is easier than ever. In 2020, shoppers reported spending a whopping 40% of their holiday budgets on gift certificates.

With some creative holiday marketing ideas of your own, whether it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Thanksgiving marketing ideas, your restaurant can leverage seasonal cheer to drive gift card sales and boost your bottom line. 

Not sure where to start? Keep reading our restaurant holiday gift card promotions guide to learn:

  • The benefits of holiday gift card marketing
  • Tips for selling more gift certificates this holiday season
  • 8 restaurant holiday gift card promotion ideas

The Benefits of Holiday Gift Card Marketing for Restaurants 

Selling gift certificates is a lucrative revenue stream for restaurants during the fall and winter months – peak holiday season. According to Restaurant Dive, restaurants sell more gift cards during this time than any other time of year.

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Why Holiday Gift Cards Are Good for Business

Besides the obvious benefit of generating more revenue, your restaurant can profit from marketing – and selling – gift cards during the holiday season in a number of ways:

Immediate Cash Flow

Vouchers create immediate cash flow by injecting money into your business for goods that will be redeemed at a later time. This cash can help you pay bills and staff, invest in new technology and marketing, and more.

Attract New Customers

According to FSR Magazine, 44% of people would try a new restaurant if they received a gift card for it. Gift certificates, therefore, can help your restaurant attract new customers. If gift card recipients have good experiences at your restaurant, you could gain loyal customers for life.

Bigger Check Sizes

Gift cards lead to larger covers. Restaurants benefit not only from gift card sales, but also from any spending that recipients do that exceeds the value of their gift cards. Studies show that quick service restaurants (QSRs) generate 6% more in online order sales when customers use gift certificates.

And this phenomenon isn’t unique to QSRs. Someone who receives a $50 gift certificate for a family-style restaurant may end up spending $65 in order to get the premium entree they’re craving and a dessert. On the recipient’s end, vouchers are free money, so paying a few extra dollars to get the dishes they want isn’t a big deal. 

Increase Guest Loyalty

Gift cards boost customer loyalty. When combined with loyalty program membership, gift cards increase visits by 138%, according to Restaurant Dive. With regulars driving up to 80% of restaurant sales, gift cards paired with a loyalty program can dramatically boost repeat business.

Drive Seasonal Revenue

Consumers are generous during the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers spend more on gifts for others than on themselves during this time of year. Gift certificate purchasers, therefore, are likely to spend more on gift cards for loved ones than they would while dining at or ordering from your restaurant for themselves. By emphasizing the gifting aspect of vouchers, you’ll benefit from seasonal generosity.

The bottom line is that marketing gift cards during the holidays leads to more gift certificate sales, which ultimately generates more revenue for your restaurant.

Customer handing a restaurant gift card to a cashier at a coffee shop.

Tips for Selling More Gift Cards This Holiday Season

Now that you understand just how lucrative gift cards can be for restaurants during the holidays, leverage these tips to sell more vouchers.

Sell Digital Gift Cards On Your Website

Physical gift cards are no longer the only gifting option restaurants can use. Digital gift cards, which you can sell from your restaurant’s website, online ordering platform, or customer web app, make it convenient for customers to give the gift of your restaurant this winter. 

Unlike physical gift cards, digital gift cards allow people who live thousands of miles away from your establishment to purchase digital gift cards for friends who live near your restaurant. Digital gift cards also make excellent last-minute gifts, as they can be delivered instantly online.

Digital gift cards are just as convenient for recipients to redeem. With TouchBistro Loyalty, recipients can add digital gift cards to their loyalty accounts and easily redeem them from their smartphones via your restaurant’s Customer Web App. According to Restaurant Dive, one in two people says they would give a gift card that could be accessed through a smartphone.

Promote Gift Cards with Online Ordering

Link to the purchase page for your digital gift cards through your direct restaurant online ordering system to boost gift card sales. If you use TouchBistro Online Ordering, Digital Gift Cards, and Loyalty, you can add a banner to your online ordering page that will link to your customer web app, where diners can purchase gift cards.

Include frequently asked questions about gift card redemption and validity in your customer web app to ease any friction that would prevent customers from purchasing digital gift cards 

Train Employees to Promote Gift Cards Sales

This holiday season, create a competition amongst your front-of-house team to see who can sell the most gift cards. Reward the employee who generates the most gift card revenue, and the one who sells the largest quantity of gift cards. Offer a prize – like a bonus, paid day off, exemption from working a holiday shift, a gift card, or a special experience – to motivate your team.

Before starting the contest, train staff on the ins and outs of gift card sales and redemption so they’ll be ready for any questions that come their way.

Incorporate Gift Cards Into Holiday Marketing Campaigns

Don’t forget to promote physical and digital gift cards – and associated offers – in your holiday email marketing campaigns, social media posts, and other digital marketing materials. Leverage your brick-and-mortar presence by marketing gift cards via posters in your restaurant, table tents, in check presenters, and in bag inserts for takeout orders.

Woman using a gift card to make an online purchase.

8 Restaurant Holiday Gift Card Promotion Ideas

Now that you know how to sell more gift cards, kickstart the most wonderful time of the year with these easy-to-execute restaurant gift card holiday marketing ideas.

1. Black Friday and Cyber Monday Gift Card Promotions

According to the Washington Post, consumers spend $335 per capita between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, making this a lucrative time to give shoppers an incentive to purchase gift cards from your restaurant. Offer a limited-time discount on gift cards or bonus cards to customers who purchase gift cards on these post-Thanksgiving shopping holidays.

2. Social Media Giveaway

One of the easiest holiday marketing ideas is to host a gift card giveaway on social media. This kind of promotion lets your followers know you sell gift cards, drums up interest in them, and exposes your restaurant to new customers.

You can make your giveaway as simple or as creative as you’d like. For a basic giveaway, ask followers to tag friends they would take to your restaurant if they won a gift card. For a more engaging contest, ask fans to share a post related to your restaurant on their social media accounts and have your followers vote on a winner.

Take inspiration from Boston’s Mighty Love Food, which ran a social media giveaway for Valentine’s Day. 

3. Bonus Gift Cards

Offer bonus vouchers to customers who purchase a certain amount in gift cards to use for themselves, or to give as stocking stuffers. Take inspiration from Carrabba’s Italian Grill, which gave away $10 bonus cards for every $50 gift voucher purchased during the holidays.

4. Discounted Gift Certificates

Help customers stretch their holiday budgets by making gift cards available at a discount for a limited time. For example, you could sell $50 gift cards for $45, or $100 gift cards for $90. 

5. Free Gift With Gift Card Purchase

Give an exclusive gift to customers who spend a certain amount on gift cards. 

This holiday gift card promotion works well for fine dining restaurants, such as steakhouse chain the Capital Grille, which gave away knife sets to customers who spent more than $500 in gift cards. 

More casual concepts can also take advantage of this holiday marketing idea by giving branded merchandise to customers who reach a gift card purchase threshold.

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6. Free Food With Gift Certificate Purchase

As an alternative to giving items to customers who purchase gift cards, incentivize gift card purchases with free food.

During a previous holiday season, fast food chain Del Taco gave on-premises customers who bought $15 worth of gift cards two free tacos, while online ordering diners received a free combo meal when they spent $30 on digital gift cards.

7. Discount Card With Gift Voucher Purchase

Make your most generous gifters feel like VIPs by giving them coupons or discount cards they can use towards their next order. In addition to giving high-spending gift card purchasers a free knife set, the Capital Grille also offered these customers a 10% discount card after spending $500.

Give gift card buyers a single-use coupon they can redeem on their next dine-in meal or online order, or give them a multi-use discount card. Just make sure the discount card has an expiration date, such as one or two months after receipt, to ensure this restaurant holiday promotion is financially sustainable.

8. Charity Donations

Consumers are becoming increasingly selective about shopping with businesses that share their values. Attract like-minded customers this holiday season by donating to charity with every gift card you sell. Take inspiration from salad chain Sweetgreen, which used holiday gift card proceeds to donate meals to families experiencing food insecurity last year. 

This fall and winter, ramp up your restaurant holiday gift card promotions to boost sales while shoppers are at their most generous. Customers won’t want to miss out on limited-time offers that make purchasing a gift card from your restaurant a sweet deal and delight everyone on their shopping lists.

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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