Offering discounts for conference attendees

Offering discounts for conference attendees


We are a restaurant that offers great value for the price. We have been in business for 26 years. Recently our city opened a new convention center and the requests to offer discounts for the incoming convention folks are becoming the norm. My challenge is: when did it become an expectation to offer discounts at an already reasonably priced restaurant. I would appreciate your advice on this matter.

– Carole, Partner/Community Donation Coordinator, Partners Restaurant


For a high value, reasonably priced restaurant like yours, especially one without a liquor license, requests for discounts are going to mean a bigger hit than they would for a higher margin operation. To be sure, if business is at capacity, there is no need to discount.

For most restaurateurs, however, promotions, especially during off-peak times, can work wonders. The key for you is to be strategic about what you are offering that does not simply discount your existing offerings so that you earn less revenue for the same sales but adds revenue opportunities in a few different ways:

  1. Butts in seats. Do convention visitors normally come to your restaurant or can you entice them in through a promotion?
  2. Check average. Can you construct a promotion that comes with additional sales opportunities? For example, a complimentary glass of wine when seated may sell an appetizer. A dessert to share with every two entrees may sell two coffees and/or a second dessert.
  3. Good word-of-mouth. Conventioneers talk about where they’ve eaten. Can you generate buzz through a promotion and your already great value to be a top choice for visitors? Maybe your discount is tied to a card you give to guests to share with their colleagues.
  4. Regulars. While visiting convention business may not have much potential to turn into much-desired regular guests, there is huge potential in becoming a regular spot for the hundreds of workers and vendors that keep a typical convention center running.

Hopefully, you are not locked into a set discounting scheme but can generate a promotion that works specifically for your restaurant and can accomplish all of these goals. And if you don’t need the business, nothing says you have to play!

More on promotions here.

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