Prepping for Labor Day

Aug 23, 2016 2:00:18 PM / by Matt Thompson

The last holiday before Thanksgiving, Labor Day, is approaching. This holiday presents an excellent opportunity to gain more customers, and therefore more sales and exposure, for your restaurant. Yet this holiday holds a bit of a double-edged sword. Depending on the weather, you could have a swarm of people or a ghost town. So how do you plan for the wild swing of extremities that can occur on this holiday? To see your sales increase over the holiday weekend, here are some ways you can take advantage of Labor Day restaurant sales.

Look at Last Year’s Sales and Staffing

Before you plan what specials and marketing opportunities you want to implement, you first should look at last year’s sales during the same holiday weekend. This will give you an idea of the sales and staffing you needed to manage your restaurant during the holiday. Remember the factors that caused either the increase in sales or loss in sales during Labor Day last year. Was it rainy, bringing more people in, or was it sunny and wonderful? Were other restaurants running better specials than you? Did you put forth any marketing efforts?

Once you have an idea of the sales from last year, you can set a goal you want to hit this year and decide what staffing you will need. This can be tricky as you don’t want to over-staff and eat into your prime cost with labor. A good option is to staff roughly the same amount as last year, but to have a couple of staff members on-call in case things get seriously flooded.

Decide on the Theme

Labor Day is known to some as the end of summer and to others as the beginning of fall. To help you define your menu offerings and special offers, it is a good idea to frame which direction you want to go - summer or fall? Think about your community and if there will be lots of people performing last minute summer activities or if the weather and conditions of the area are cooling off towards fall.

Add Special Menu Items or Discounts

Once you know if you are having an end of summer bash or a celebration of the coming autumn, you will be able to dictate what your special dishes and discounts will be. Luckily, both summer and fall can allow you to host an in-house barbecue. If your restaurant has a patio, even better! Start the fire pit and get the grill going so others don’t have to do it at home. For summer, your barbecue can be stocked with delicious ribs, steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs. For fall, add a few pumpkin dishes and other warming flavors of autumn.  

Since people will be out with families, attract them to your restaurant with Labor Day special discounts. Have a weekend long happy hour or create combination dishes that people can order for a lower rate, such as a Pick Two deal. One of the best things you can do to give back and draw attention to your restaurant is to offer either a free dish or heavy discounts to veterans. This will draw their families in for the appreciative food discount.

Provide To Go Options

There will be many people that are heading out on a boat, to the beach, or to a cookout for the day. But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on sales opportunities! Provide special “picnic” to go specials so no one shows up at their Labor Day event empty handed! Offer a discounted price for a quart of potato salad, an affordable tray of fried pickles, or any other of your menu items that are perfect to grab and set out for everyone to munch on.  

Make Cocktails That Sell

With lots of people off work, there should be plenty of hair letting down! One of the eye-catching specials you can run are cocktails that will sell. Depending on if you went with a summer or fall theme, here are some great cocktail recipes that will draw a crowd.

Summer Cocktail Recipes

Rum Sunset


  • 12 oz orange juice
  • 3 oz light rum
  • 2 TSBP grenadine
  • Lime for garnish


  1. Combine orange juice and rum. Set aside ⅓.
  2. Pour the remaining juice and rum mixture into two glasses with ice.
  3. Mix the reserved juice and rum mixture with the grenadine.
  4. Slowly pour into each glass to make it settle on the bottom and create an ombre effect.
  5. Garnish with lime.

Sangria Lemonade


  • ½ gallon lemonade
  • 1 bottle white wine
  • ⅔ cup light rum
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • 1 orange
  • 1 Granny Smith apple


  1. In a large pitcher, combine lemonade, wine, and rum.
  2. Stir ingredients together and add the fruit, sliced.
  3. Refrigerate for at least one hour and serve.

Fall Cocktail Recipes

Apple Cider Mimosas


  • 2 TBLS sugar
  • 1 TBLS ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 bottle champagne


  1. On a small plate, combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip the rim of a champagne glass in water before dipping in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  2. Fill champagne glass ¼ full with apple cider.
  3. Top with champagne.

Pumpkin Spice White Russian


  • ½ TSP pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce coffee liqueur
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate syrup


  1. Shake together pumpkin pie spice and heavy cream.
  2. Fill a glass with ice. Pour vodka, coffee liqueur, and the heavy cream mixture into the glass.
  3. Top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

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Matt Thompson

Written by Matt Thompson

Matt has let his lifelong passion of food and people lead him to 15 amazing years as a restaurant manager and another 9 years working as a Director with a major food service distributor. He has channeled this passion to help create and run ShiftNote. When he's not dominating the food service industry, he's spending time with his 4 children and cheering on the Tigers as a Mizzou Alumni.

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