One of the most food-centric events on the calendar is Mardi Gras — French for “Fat Tuesday.” If you’re looking for a good, fun-filled event in early Spring around which to create a promotion for your restaurant, consider tapping into the revelrous spirit of Mardi Gras.
In this guide, you’ll see everything you need to plan food, drinks, events, and promotions to get your tables filled for the holiday. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins Lent in the Christian tradition. For centuries, Mardi Gras has been celebrated as the last chance to indulge in food, drink, and revelry before the Lenten period of penance and fasting.
The date of Mardi Gras changes every year. In the 2020s, Mardi Gras will fall on:
2020: Feb 25
2021: Feb 16
2022: March 1
2023: Feb 21
2024: Feb 13
2025: March 4
2026: Feb 17
2027: Feb 9
2028: Feb 29
2029: Feb 13
While Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, it has recently become a relatively secular celebration. In the United States, Mardi Gras is almost synonymous with New Orleans because of the city’s famous celebration for the holiday. Crowds gather in New Orleans on Mardi Gras to watch parades, drink, feast, and party.
Your restaurant doesn’t have to be in the Big Easy to throw a Mardi Gras party. Mardi Gras is a widely recognized occasion for having a good time. In the United States, it’s typically marked with food and drink related to New Orleans.
Mardi Gras restaurant ideas: promotional events and themes
How can you bring the Mardi Gras spirit to your restaurant? Incorporate these Mardi Gras restaurant promotion ideas to book up solid in no time.
1. Fat Tuesday theme
Nothing says indulgence like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Create a gluttonous spread with calorie-rich comfort foods inspired by Southern cooking (see below for ideas) and put the “fat” in Fat Tuesday.
The icing on the cake? An eating contest. Reward the winner with a gift certificate to your restaurant. Great, fun way to generate repeat business.
2. Pancake Tuesday
In some places around the world, Mardi Gras is also known as Pancake Tuesday because it’s the last day to use up eggs, dairy, and oil, which aren’t allowed to be consumed during Lent.
Mark the occasion with a pancake feast. Offer a pancake bar with toppings like berries, chocolate chips, and whipped cream. It’s unlikely that people will skip work on a Tuesday to brunch, so consider celebrating the weekend before, or making Pancake Tuesday a happy hour event.
3. Mardi Gras parade
If your town has a Mardi Gras parade, apply to become a vendor. Create menu items specially for the event that fit your restaurant’s theme. For example, if your restaurant specializes in sandwiches, sell Po’ boys for the Mardi Gras parade.
4. Carnival night
Let the good times roll with a carnival night at your restaurant for Mardi Gras. Hire a jazz band to play live music for guests. Give away Mardi Gras beads. Encourage guests to dress up in festive attire and give away prizes for the best costumes.
5. Prix fixe dinner
Book out solid for Mardi Gras with a well planned prix fixe dinner. Create a menu with several of your staples and several holiday-specific specials. Give guests beads, masks, and crowns as party favors. Bonus points if you set up an events widget and collect payment in advance.
Don’t forget to include King cake as a dessert option. According to tradition, these cakes include a plastic baby hidden inside the cake. Whoever finds the baby in their slice is King for the day. Warn guests to look for the toy so that they don’t end up swallowing it!
Ideas for promotional menus and drinks for Mardi Gras
It’s not Mardi Gras without a feast and drinks. Here are some Mardi Gras restaurant ideas for your menu.
6. Cajun and Creole staples for Mardi Gras
Fill your holiday menu with Cajun and Creole cuisine such as:
- Shrimp and grits
- Fried okra
- Shrimp étouffée
- Hush puppies
- Po’ boys
- Dirty rice
7. Mardi Gras dessert ideas
It’s not Mardi Gras without King cake! Serve this traditional dessert and others to satisfy your customers’ sweet tooth cravings.
- King cake
8. Mardi Gras drinks
Make your customers feel like they’re on Bourbon Street by offering these festive New Orleans staples.
- Milk punch
- Mint julep
- French 75
- Vieux Carre
How to promote a Mardi Gras event at your restaurant
Creating a festive Mardi Gras menu or event at your restaurant is only half the battle of a successful celebration. In order to fill your tables, you’ll need to market your holiday promotions the right way. Here’s how.
9. Create a Mardi Gras landing page on your website
Your restaurant’s website is the most important element of your digital storefront, because it’s here that you have total control of the information that gets shown on it. Take advantage of this prime online real estate by telling your website’s visitors what you have planned with a landing page for your Mardi Gras menu and promotions.
What should you put on the landing page? Include important details like the special menu, the dates and times of your promotions, and a reservations widget. Include several calls to action throughout the page to encourage visitors to make a reservation.
Place a pop-up or banner that links to the Mardi Gras landing page on all of your website’s pages to ensure that visitors see it.
10. Target your regulars through email and SMS marketing
Get your regulars to come in for Mardi Gras by reaching out to them via SMS or email to let them know about your Mardi Gras plans. Include a call to action to increase their chances of making a reservation.
11. Reach new customers via social media advertising
Reach foodies who haven’t been to your restaurant with targeted social media ads. Use appetizing photos of your food with Mardi Gras colors in the ads. Target people in your area who have interests like spicy food, mint juleps, crawfish — generally anything you can tie to Cajun cooking — to increase your chances of reaching a receptive audience.
Laissez les bons temps rouler
With some creativity and targeted marketing, you’ll fill your tables for Mardi Gras and get them back in for a visit sometime after that. As they say in New Orleans, let the good times roll!