Should Restaurants Open on Black Friday?

Written by Austin Chegini

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Each year, it seems like Black Friday starts earlier and people spend even more money. In 2019, about 84 million people shopped on Black Friday, and almost 38 million people shopped on Thanksgiving Day.

With $7.4 billion spent on this holiday weekend last year, stores can expect to see massive demand to boost their annual revenue. 

However, can restaurants expect a Black Friday bump as well? The data may surprise you.

The problem of leftovers

Americans eat a ton on Thanksgiving, and many homes have way too much leftover food after the holiday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 35% of leftover turkey is ultimately tossed out, equating to roughly 200 million pounds of excess meat. 

With so much food going to waste, shoppers will likely want to return to their homes to eat leftovers on Black Friday. 

Industry data points to lower than average sales

Compared to retail, Black Friday is not that important to the hospitality industry. FSR reports that the average restaurant saw a 34% decrease in sales over Black Friday in 2016. In some areas, such as New York City, this drop in sales reached 49%. 

Similarly, SF Gate surveyed local restaurants in San Francisco and found that Black Friday is one of the worst days for business. 

Considering that hospitality businesses operate on slim margins, this is a significant decline in sales. With this in mind, it makes sense that restaurant consultant Ed Levine told the San Francisco Business Times, "There's no consensus around best practice, but there are many reasons not to be open."

Why do some hospitality businesses do well on Black Friday?

After hours of waiting in line and shopping, consumers will need to take a break and refresh. However, these shoppers are not often looking for large sit-down meals, hunting for grab-and-go options instead.

For example, Starbucks often has long lines on Black Friday because shoppers need a caffeine boost before or after visiting stores. While they are there, they will also buy small sandwiches or other light bites.

Similarly, breakfast locations are in high demand on Black Friday. Shoppers will need to fuel up before the long day ahead of them. FSR found IHOP, Denny’s, and similar restaurants to see boosted market share during the shopping rush for this reason.

How restaurants can increase sales on Black Friday

Even if your business doesn’t cater to the hurried shopper, you can still boost profits by taking the following steps. 

Focus on grab and go

What handheld meals, snacks, and drinks can you serve? If you serve burgers and sandwiches, you can prepackage these and sell them by your entrance as shoppers walk by. If your restaurant offers large meals, consider making smaller portions that could be eaten as a light snack. 

Black Friday is also an excellent time for food trucks and food carts to park near shopping centers. Not only do these offer the perfect quick service foods, but they add to the fun of the holiday weekend. 

To expedite your walk-up service, you can use a handheld point of sale device to process orders on the go. 

Open early

Since breakfast restaurants see more demand than other hospitality businesses, consider opening early to capitalize on this rush and closing once the crowds slow down. 

If you don’t offer a breakfast menu, plan your options carefully. Be sure to include simple classics, like an egg and cheese sandwich, to cater to those in a rush. 

Send out marketing offers

If you have an email list, you can use tools like Mailchimp to promote your Black Friday restaurant specials. These emails will help keep your brand top of mind and will prompt shoppers to visit you. 

To take it one step further, offer something special for your repeat customers. If you have a customer loyalty program, you can provide a free coffee or other small items that add to the Black Friday fun.

Offer gift cards

Since shoppers are out looking for great deals, why not join in on the action? 

While you can offer meal discounts, we already discussed that few people will be looking to eat out on Black Friday. Instead, running a gift card promotion at your restaurant will help you boost revenue even though customers aren’t dining. 

For example, you can offer a $50 gift card for $40. Customers will save $10 when they buy it, so it’s an instant reward for them. Also, gift cards are the most requested gift during the holidays so that you can cater to this increased demand. 

Best of all, data shows that people tend to spend more than the value of the gift card. When your guests return to dine with you and use their holiday gift cards, you will benefit from the initial sale and the added spending. 

Prepare for the future with Epos Now

Your point of sale system is crucial to your business, but it can do much more than simply process transactions. With the Epos Now retail POS, you can:

  • Connect with 100+ apps to help with items like marketing, customer loyalty, and accounting
  • Accept credit, debit, gift cards, and contactless payments
  • Manage your store from anywhere with 24/7 cloud access

Contact a consultant to learn more about Epos Now!

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