Restaurants are hosting the biggest crowds they’re likely to see all year, as holiday shoppers stop for much-needed sustenance and companies treat their employees and clients to festive Christmas parties. A growing number of guests also are likely to grab gift cards for their loved ones while they’re there, some encouraged by new laws that make the cards more consumer friendly and others drawn by a slew of new free-gift-with-purchase promotions.
Gift-card sales are on the rise this season: The National Retail Federation says 77% of consumers recently surveyed plan to give at least one restaurant or retail gift card this season, and more than half said gift cards were on the top of their holiday wish lists.
Chains are in the giving mood
Giveaways at some restaurants almost include a free meal for guests who purchase gift cards this season. Applebee’s is giving away $10 gift cards with every $50 card purchase, while Outback offers a $20 gift with each $100 gift-card sale. Other chains including Denny’s and Fuddruckers are kicking in $5 cards for each $25 gift-card purchase. The Cheesecake Factory is serving up slices of its namesake desserts when guests spend $25 on the gift of food.
Some enterprising restaurants are turning to their peers in an effort to show their appreciation to their workers on a budget this season. A gift-card swap concept innovated by A16 in San Francisco has been adopted by Northern Spy Food Co. in New York and 40 other East Coast eateries, providing owners with a supply of fine-dining gifts for their workers. Owners say the initiative also serves to get their staffers out to rival restaurants, where they might learn something new, and it also encourages owners to form more of a collaborative community.
Promotions aim to spread sales into the new year
Many of the free cards can’t be used until Jan. 1, offering the eateries a source of sales during the annual post-holiday slump. Guests paying with gift cards also tend to pay less attention to prices than those dining on their own dime, and they often end up kicking in additional cash.
Four quickservice restaurant brands have signed up to sell their gift cards on Facebook, as part of a program set up by First Data. Boston Market, Burger King, Culver’s and Cold Stone Creamery have joined six retailers using the program to push holiday gift-card sales. Boston Market is selling gift cards starting at $5 via Facebook, while the other three restaurant chains are offering product-specific promotions, including a Whopper from Burger King with a choice of 18 different holiday cards.
Donatos Pizzeria and Tim Hortons both have launched websites that let fans share their favorite dishes with loved ones across the country. Rather than sending gift cards, the sites let customers purchase food that will be shipped to the recipient’s door.
Are you promoting gift-card sales with giveaways this season? Leave a comment.
Image credit: alexsl, via iStockphoto