13 Marketing Campaigns You Should Try This Summer – For Restaurants!

If you’re not scooping ice cream or selling floaties, you may be dreading summer as a small business owner since it’s typically your slowest season.

Slower does not have to mean lower revenue – if you think strategically.

As it slowly begins to heat up, you need to generate a laundry list of summer marketing campaigns to crystallize current customer loyalty and generate new business.

Here is our long list of tried and proven summer marketing campaigns to grow your restaurant, coffee shop, or cafe this season.

Have fun with real and fake holidays

If you do not already have an editorial calendar in place, now is the perfect time to create one, centered around the summer months.

Not only should you document all of the local schools’ holiday and summer dates, but you should also document other relevant or popular holidays, such as:

  • June 20: National Ice Cream Soda Day
  • June 21: Father’s Day
  • June 22: National Chocolate Eclair Day

Give away chocolate eclairs on National Chocolate Eclair Day. Offer dads a free coffee or meal on Father’s Day. On National Ice Cream Soda Day, offer half-off ice cream sodas.

Lower prices as the temperature rises

Here’s an idea stolen from Goodbuy Girls, a vintage shop in Nashville, TN, which successfully utilized this tactic last year, when customers received $10 off any purchase of $100 or more when the temperature rose above 100 degrees.

For your coffee shop, you could offer $1 off any large iced latte when the temperature rises above 100 degrees.

Piggyback off of national campaigns

Check out this list of some of the best social media marketing campaign ideas from national companies.

If I were you, I’d steal a few of these ideas, or learn about current popular summer campaigns and piggyback on their popularity by creating your own local version.

Create a partner package

Partner with other local, small businesses to help everyone generate more business by passing off customers to one another.

For instance, my father owns a dry cleaner, so he partners with the busy restaurant down the street. If anyone spills anything on their clothes, the restaurant offers the customer(s) a free $10 gift card to his store.

It’s a win-win because the restaurant looks good for caring, and the dry cleaner gets new business.

Market your business at festivals and other summer events

Why not take advantage of all the summer events happening locally? Here’s a how-to on getting started promoting at fairs and other summer events. Check it out.

Host a Small Business Saturday or a Restaurant Week on a local scale

Unfortunately, Small Business Saturday doesn’t happen until after Thanksgiving and Restaurant Week doesn’t take place until winter is back upon us.

That’s okay though because you can be the ringleader of your own Small Business Saturday or Restaurant Week by rounding up all of the local small businesses in the area and getting them on board.

This will probably take a significant amount of work so I suggest getting another entrepreneur to help you.

Take your food business on the road

If you’ve been pondering taking a stab at buying a food truck, there is no better time than summer to try things out.

The street-food business – including mobile food trucks and non-mechanized carts – is a $1 billion industry that has seen a 12.1% growth rate from 2016 to 2021.

With the majority of people having shorter lunch hours and looking for good, cheap food, food trucks seem like a no-brainer for them.

Check out this guide from Entrepreneur on how to start a food truck, if we piqued your interest.

Have a foodie campaign on Instagram

People love hearting pictures of food, especially when it’s beautifully laid out or when they know their friends or family are going to be jealous.

It’s called food porn, and people eat it up – literally.

Take beautiful photos of your entrees, and post them to Instagram using a popular hashtag. In case you need some inspiration, visit this Forbes’ article of the best food photography on Instagram.

Staff contest

Generate some friendly competition amongst staff members by creating a “Who is your favorite server or barista?” contest.

Customers can vote on your Facebook page, and the winner should get a killer prize related to summer. I would think maybe an inexpensive, Groupon mini-getaway for the winner.

This will incentivize employees to provide stellar service, and customers usually feel loyal to their favorites so this should increase page engagement and sales.

Foodie blogger outreach campaign

Create a PR blogger outreach campaign, which you can learn to do here.

Simply invite in local (or out-of-town), well-known food bloggers for a free full-course meal or to try your out-of-this-world coffees or lattes and espressos. Of course, they will write a review on their blog shortly thereafter so you better make sure they have an amazing experience.

Loyalty app or punch card campaign

Create a loyalty program to reward your customers who reward you with their money all year long. You can easily do this by partnering with online food apps, which encourage visitors to check in to your restaurant, cafe, or coffee shop through gamification. Some of these apps include:

Of course, you could always stick to good ole fashion stamp cards. Either way, customers will appreciate you appreciating them.

For more frequency marketing campaign ideas, check out this blog post by Food Service Warehouse.

Host a staycation event

Like you, some of your customers will be stuck in town all summer with nothing exciting to do with the kids. Shake things up and host a local event, calling it a “Staycation.”

Pitch an iced latte stand

Who wants lemonade when you could have iced lattes?

Round up a group of cute kids, and pay them to set up a cute, iced latte stand instead. They can set up shop at the local baseball game, in front of Publix or hey, if they’re really audacious, in front of Starbucks.

Advertise flexible scheduling practices

You’re seeing it everywhere. Flexible scheduling is the hot thing to offer employees and not only will help retain staff but also attract staff as well. You can accomplish flexible scheduling with scheduling software like When I Work. Customers like seeing that you offer flexible scheduling as well. It shows you care about work-life-balance and in turn, when your employees are happy, your customers will be as well.