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Soon, bells will be ringing for the start of a new school year. Parents are busy purchasing new pencils and spiral notebooks from local retailers, and students are anticipating a return to the classroom. Harness this fresh energy and excitement — and drive more traffic to your restaurant in the process — with special back-to-school promotions.

Back-to-school promotions to try

Back-to-school season presents a unique opportunity for restaurants. As parents navigate the time crunch of school shopping, new schedules, and after-school activities, they don’t always have time to prepare healthy food. Your restaurant can help these fast-paced families celebrate the new school year and launch the busy fall season with delicious convenient meals.

Want a bigger advantage? Offer special deals and discounts — after shelling out for school supplies and clothes at traditional retailers, parents are often extra-aware of the family budget. During this time of year, promotions can have a significant impact on revenue and foot traffic.

While you’re organizing a back-to-school marketing calendar, consider these promotion and campaign ideas:

  • Family specials where children eat free or for a discounted price from the kids’ menu
  • Buy-one-get-one main entree specials
  • Parents-day-out brunch or lunch special for the first week of school in your community
  • Professional delivery service to provide high-quality meals for families with lots of events and after-school plans
  • Family-sized to-go boxes with multiple entrees at a discount price
  • Packed lunches available for to-go
  • Early happy hour” appetizer deals for back-to-school shoppers
  • School spirit days with discounts and school promotional products for different educational institutions in your community

Do consumers in your city tend to have multiple kids? Encourage families to come in or order multiple times in one week by providing specials for different grades every day. On Monday, you could offer a free dessert for kids in kindergarten through third grade. On Tuesday, offer a free drink with every meal for kids in fourth through sixth grade. The Wednesday special could be a discounted appetizer for all students in middle school and high school. On Friday, plan a special meal deal that’s only available to new seniors.

Give college students a reason to order

If your city is home to a college or university, don’t forget about back-to-school marketing campaigns that target college-aged customers. For specials that older students will love, try these school marketing ideas:

  • Student discounts. College students are often on a tight budget, so they respond well to deals. Provide $5 beers or 25% off appetizers for everyone who brings in their student ID; customers are likely to bring their friends, so it’s a great way to increase order volume and boost brand awareness during the campaign.
  • Welcome-back event. Capitalize on the excitement of returning to college with a special welcome-back event. Create a themed menu, offer affordable prices, and set a celebratory atmosphere with a live DJ, giveaways of school products, and discount coupons. Encourage attendees to post about the event on social media.
  • Freshmen family deals. Make your restaurant the go-to spot for incoming freshmen and their families with a special promotion targeted to new students. Customers can dig into discount appetizer platters and family meal deals before the parents head back home.
  • Influencer marketing. Find local student TikTok and Instagram stars and partner with them to promote your restaurant to other students on social media. If you’re offering a deal for students, ask them to announce it as part of the marketing campaign.
  • Partner specials. Get together with other small business owners to create partner promotions. You could work with a movie theater to offer dinner and a movie for two people for $50, for example, or provide customers with 15% discount coupons to local retailers.

Back to the basics: knowing your target audience

The key to great back-to-school marketing? Know your target audience. When you understand which customers you’re serving and what makes them tick, you can craft a highly targeted school marketing campaign that gets results.

Your target audience is the specific group of customers you want to serve. A restaurant can have many unique audiences — families, high school students, college students, couples, and solo diners, for example. Each group responds differently to campaign ideas and marketing methods; they may also use different social media platforms.

How do you define a target audience? Usually, you use a set of factors they have in common: age, grade, parent or student status, location, or income, for example. You can take it further by adding characteristics such as a desire to save money, stress about back-to-school shopping, or excitement about the upcoming school year.

When you’re evaluating school marketing ideas, start by defining the specific audiences you want to reach. Then, determine how best to reach these consumers based on their preferences for:

  • Social media channels
  • Traditional media (radio, TV, print, etc.)
  • Voice and tone
  • Image style
  • Video vs. photo

Your restaurant concept may inform the audience for your school marketing campaign. If you run a high-end Italian restaurant, you might set up a “back-to-school date night” promotion. For a family restaurant, your back-to-school promotion ideas might include elementary school deals or a free kids’ toy with every purchase.

Let’s say you’re targeting parents who are dealing with school shopping. Because they’re spending a great deal of money on school products, they’ll likely appreciate a special discount. To encourage them to take a break from back-to-school sales, you could create a “shoppers’ lunch” school marketing campaign with midday meal deals for the whole family.

Because customers aged 30-49 tend to use Facebook and Instagram, you could ramp up your posting schedule and take out paid ads on these platforms; email marketing may work well, too. The campaign content might appeal directly to customers’ pain points with text such as “Save money this back-to-school season with our Shoppers Lunch deal — buy an adult meal and get a kids’ meal for free!”

The better you know your target audience, the easier it is to design a school marketing campaign that boosts revenue and attracts new customers.

Ace back-to-school season with Grubhub

When you know the customers you’re serving and which school marketing promotions will pique their interest, you’re on the right track for a successful back-to-school season. Take advantage of this fruitful time in the restaurant industry by serving high-quality, quick dining that will keep local families coming back (or ordering online) for the entire school year.If you’re in search of a more efficient delivery system, Grubhub can help you deliver a high-quality experience for busy families and other consumers. To see how it works, try Grubhub for Restaurants free for 30 days