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10 STEPS to Selling More Restaurant Gift Cards

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

In todays episode we are talking about gift cards!

This month of December is PERFECT to focus on selling loads of gift cards.


This checklist includes all the Operations requirement as well as the step by step process to market your restaurants gift card on social media, in your store, on your website and beyond!

Here is what we are talking about in todays episode:

  • Lay the foundation, set goals, incentives and much more!

  • The Operational Requirements that must not be overlooked before we go out and market market market!

  • The 10 STEPS to marketing your restaurant gift cards!


In the last 4 ½ years, we’ve been able to over double our restaurant sales and purchase a second restaurant. We are going through growing pains.

What are the top benefits of selling restaurant gift cards? When we opened our second restaurant 2 ½ months ago, we had to come up with one big focus to market our new location. I usually have lots of promotions going on. For instance, it’s “National Buffet Day”. We have a buffet, so I’m trying to figure out how to promote that. “National Spaghetti and Meatball Day” is coming up and how am I going to promote and get exposure for that? It ends up being a lot of little things going on at the same time.

In the month of October, our focus was working and partnering with an organization to bring awareness to breast cancer. October was Breast Cancer Awareness month. We partnered with a lady from our local TV station and got to go on TV. One of the things that I learned from that experience was to have one big focus for the whole month, The team was all on the same page. The first week, we were a little bit frazzled… what’s the promotion, what’s the script? By the third week, they had it down. Operationally, it was much smoother.

During the first and second week, people need to see the same promotion multiple times before they actually decide to try it. The repetition moves them into action. It was a very successful month in terms of marketing. For the month of December, our focus has been selling lots of gift cards. I don’t know what your focus has been, but I’d like to hear what you’re focusing on.

It is critical to sell lots of gift cards when everyone is buying them. A lot of restaurants do promote them, so it is a great time to get inspiration and figure out how people are doing it. How can you be different in your community and sell lots of gift cards? There are lots of stats about gift cards such as people do not actually redeem them. They lose them or forget where they put them. I have gift cards in my drawer from 2 years ago. I wonder if they’re still good and think about not using them, but someone did pay for that. It is sales and money you can put in your pocket now without adding any operational burden. No extra food cost or labor, it’s just the money you’re receiving now. In the future, 100% may or may not even be redeemed. If you don’t have a game plan for gift cards, I’m glad you’re here. Let’s work together on a plan, step by step. By the end of this episode, you’ll have exactly what you need to do. It may take you an extra hour to set things up, but you’ll be set for the rest of the month.

I have a checklist for you to print out below this podcast link. Remember, the marketing is a 10 step process. Do your work on the checklist so you don’t have to take as many notes.

Steps BEFORE marketing gift cards this month

Let’s start with the foundation and hash out some of the details so we know we’re on the right track. First, you need to set a goal. There’s no point in coming up with a game plan when you don’t know where you’re going and how you got there. You can’t celebrate at the end of the month without a goal. Something simple would be, “if I could sell 10- $25 gift cards per week, that would be $250/wk or $1000/mth”. It depends on how you want to do it. Figure out what is doable with your team and go a little bit higher. Don’t set a goal that is too easy or too hard. It is an art and a science in itself. It is critical to set a dollar amount goal of how many gift card sales you want to make in a week.

The second thing to consider is what is the incentive you are going to provide to the customer. For every dollar amount purchased, you receive a dollar amount. The customer is always thinking, “what’s in it for me”. For our restaurants, I like to do goodies, like an appetizer or dessert they get to eat. Everyone likes desserts and the food cost is not that high. For us, it’s cannolis. Everyone loves them! We give an order of cannolis for every $25 gift card purchased. We want to get in the habit of getting exposure for our gift cards. Pause this video and take two minutes to determine what will be your incentive.

The next thing you want to think about is your team… what’s in it for them. It’s a great opportunity to bring the team together, working as a team and learning something new like upselling, role playing and tracking. They’ll come out much stronger in the end and it’s better for you as a restaurant owner and manager. Think of your incentive. Are you going to reward the individual that sold the most or the team for working together to meet that monthly goal? Take two minutes to think about how you will do that.

Now that we’ve laid the foundation, it’s time to talk about operations. As part of marketing, there’s always a section about operations. If your operations is not where it needs to be, marketing will not help. The first step, customer incentive, is done, now you need to create a POS button for the incentive. It needs to be zero dollar value in the dessert section. It prints in the kitchen and you are able to track how many gifts cards you’ve sold. You want to be able to see the profitability of the ticket itself. Our POS system (TOAST) allows us to see any promotion we have going on.

The second thing we need to do is make sure the front of house team is all on the same page. They need to know the focus of this month is gift cards, what’s in it for them (monetarily) and what is the team incentive. Do they know about the POS button and how to use it? They need to know the script and agree to follow it. These 5 steps are necessary for setting up the front of house team for success. All of this is found on your checklist provided. We do a signup sheet with the names of all the servers and a section where they will sign. At the top, we explain the project, the goals and the incentive. By signing this page, “I acknowledge that I agree with each bullet point presented”. This is handled by the front of house manager so she is sure she has spoken to every team member. We have teenagers who may only work a day or two a week, so she must be organized and make sure she has a minute to talk to everyone on the list. One of the bullets is that the server needs to know how to charge and redeem a gift card. If they don’t, it gives the manager another opportunity to train them.

The next step is #overcommunication. You need to have multiple ways to communicate. One way to do this is through your scheduling software. If you have a whiteboard in the hallway, track the gift card sales week to week. You can also send a mass text message to the team. Make sure you follow up with your front of house manager weekly to figure out where the team is… who is the top seller. Can you match the person selling the least with the one selling the most to help her. You need to be involved throughout the whole process.

The next operational phase is coming up with the script. Have the manager and front of house team come up with one to two lines that they can stick with. Team members not selling many gift cards may not know what to say, so a script helps. It’s critical to role play and watch their body language.

Marketing your Gift Cards

Now we are talking about marketing and the 10 step process to selling more gift cards. If 10 steps is too much, choose 3 to begin with, it’s better than nothing. Go to the website, grab our checklist and follow along.

Step One: Photo shoot

Create a beautiful visual so it is intriguing and builds curiosity. Schedule a date and time on your calendar to get it done. The photo shoot is for your gift cards. Get multiple shots (staff holding cards, etc.) and angles for every single shot. Take a picture of the gift card next to your incentive, in our case, cannolis. Customers will have a visual of what they are receiving with their gift card purchase.

Step Two: Add text to your image

Go to and add some text to your images. It is powerful and it’s free. You can create something that looks professional in minutes. Print this on cardstock and leave by the register for customers to see. Make the incentive in big letters and “ask your server for details” in smaller print at the bottom. If you have room,write the terms on the sign. The second image you want to create is for social media. Be brief and say just enough to breed curiosity. Use a photo and a caption with a question.

Step Three: Add captions

Come up with some captions to add to your images. I added three possible captions on the checklist for you. It will be used on social media, your website and other places. Just a paragraph detailing the incentive. People need to know exactly how to get that incentive.

Step Four: Update your website

Choose a section that is very prominent so customers notice it right away. Use an image or video that you created.

Step Five: Social media

Schedule posts on Facebook and other locations. We schedule ours through It’s affordable and buys you time by scheduling posts ahead of time. Choose a day of the week and for the next 4 weeks, schedule a post. You have the captions and the images already. I would suggest changing the image each week and keeping the same caption.

Step Six: Get more exposure on social media

It’s a good idea to boost your posts to reach more people. See which post elicits the most likes and boost it. If it costs $25 and reaches 1,000 more people, selling one gift card will pay for itself. One tip to consider is not to boost to a cold market. These people who are not familar with your restaurant are not likely to purchase a gift card. Your current customers are most likely to but them because they like you.

Step Seven: Your local Facebook groups

We have multiple Facebook groups where we live. One of them has 20,000 active members. Search for your town under local groups and join some of them. Be sure to take time to read the guidelines. Many support local businesses and have a certain day where businsses can post. Schedule it on your calendar to remind you every time it occurs. Simply share from your current Facebook page the post you’re already using, It is free to post here.

Step Eight: Email marketing

You should already be sending out weekly emails, so now just add those photos or videos with captions. People are more likely to remember the visual rather than the words you use.

Step Nine: Four walls

Add small posters next to your registers.

Step Ten: Follow up game plan

What is going to be your date and time to check the stats to see how many gift cards are being sold? Talk to the front of house manager, the top seller and the one who didn’t sell as much. Make sure you are on track to hit your goal by checking weekly and adjusting as needed so you can reach the monthly goal.

How are you going to celebrate at the end of the month? We like to do team incentives to help build that morale and encourage them to work together.




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