Restaurants Expand Gift Card Offerings

The NRA estimates that 3 out of 4 consumers say they would like to receive a restaurant gift card or certificate

With holiday shoppers spending more than expected over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend, restaurant brands are looking to get their fair share by pushing gift card sales with bonuses for buyers and other incentives throughout the season.

An estimated 212 million shoppers spent about $45 billion in stores and online over Black Friday weekend, which was well above the spending tallied last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey. This year, shoppers spent an estimated $365.30 on average over the long weekend, up from last year’s estimate of $343.30.

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“As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can’t pass up,” Matthew Shay, NRF president and chief executive, said.

Among restaurants, such deals have included gift card incentives that reward the buyer, a move that Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group, said “makes perfect sense in this slow-growth economy.”

The NRA estimates that three out of four consumers say they would like to receive a restaurant gift card or certificate.

“When you look at the potential list of gifts,” Riehle said, “restaurant gift cards are usually on the top of the list or among the top two or three choices.”

It’s a gift that also taps into pent-up demand for dining out, something consumers say they still aren’t doing as much as they would like, he said.

This year, many restaurants are offering the opportunity for prizes, bonus gift cards for buyers and even inviting customers to custom-design cards with personal images or messages, as well as specific holiday greetings. Others are looking to use gift cards sales to support charities.

OSI Restaurant Partners, for example, is offering a free $20 Bonus Card for every $100 gift card purchase through Dec. 31 for use at any of the company’s brands: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine.