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Techniques for Cornering the Weeknight Meal Market

Coral Drake | November 1, 2022 |

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Techniques for Cornering the Weeknight Meal Market

For the majority of Americans, eating out is primarily a weekend activity, with Saturday being the most popular day for restaurant visits, according to Restaurants experience a weekend surge and more dispersed, scattered patronage during the week. Many restaurants sell more takeout orders during the week, but not nearly enough to make up for the difference in traffic between weekdays and weekends. 

The weekend surge and dead time between pose a meaningful challenge for restaurants. The dining room, kitchen, and other physical accommodations must be able to keep up with the weekend rush, but much of this space will be wasted during the week. Needless to say, an increase in traffic during the week is a goal for most restaurants. 

Here are some techniques that can make it much easier to quarter the weeknight meal market.

Create Menu Windows

Menu windows make ordering available only during certain times, incentivizing customers to visit your restaurant during those times. Your customers may want something different on weekdays than on the weekend. For instance, many people are more likely to visit restaurants during lunch on weekdays, so a robust and distinct lunch menu can help to drive traffic

Offering items that are lighter and less expensive for lunch is a good way to change the menu for these daytime windows. Another tactic is to try a couple of interesting specials that aren't available during the weekend or at dinner to attract curious patrons.

It's a good idea to always have a few menu staples that consistently sell well. However, changing your offerings depending on the time of day and day of the week is a great way to bring in weekday traffic and even drive traffic away from weekends and towards the weekday instead.

Invent Weekday Events

Do you find there's plenty of room in the dining room on most weekday nights? All of this wasted space can be put to good use when it’s not full of diners during the weekend surge. Stage weekday events to draw in customers who may otherwise eat at home, and would rarely consider dining out during the week. This is a great marketing strategy in general, in addition to helping draw weekday traffic

A live band, karaoke night, trivia night, a charity campaign, or any other event that would work well for your restaurant space is a good option. Make sure you advertise these events well on social media and in the community. You're unlikely to get much walking traffic on a weeknight, so you need to bring people in with good marketing.

To make sure that these events also bring in plenty of money for your restaurant, create specials that pair with the event. If you're still worried that there are too many people in your restaurant and not enough food being ordered, you can consider charging a small cover charge to make up the difference.

Offer Practical Take-Out Options

Your customers would probably love to order out from your restaurant on weeknights, but ordering a separate meal for everyone in the family is an expensive indulgence for an average meal night. For this reason, the 60% of consumers who order delivery or takeout at least once a week may choose less expensive options. 

A family meal menu is a great way to reduce the cost for families without having to sacrifice much profit. Offer a serving large enough to feed the whole family at a discounted price. Some of these menu items may be larger portions of other things on the menu. You may also have menu items specifically designed for these kinds of family meals. 

take out

However you do it, increasing the likelihood that your customers will order takeout during the week is a great way to increase sales without even necessarily increasing the number of patrons in your dining room. This is a great option because you may not need to increase wait staff at the restaurant during the week to make up for the change.

In the best-case scenario, increasing takeout orders during the week will bring in profits without interfering with other things you’re doing during the week to fill your dining room, such as events. The dining room will still be free for trivia night while your kitchen is producing take-out family meals.

Offer Something They Can't Get on the Weekend

If you want to drive people out on a weeknight, consider tempting them with something that will make them stay in on a Friday but go out on a Wednesday. One clever way to do it is to offer multiple-course meals at a value rate. The customer knows they're getting more bang for the buck, but they're also getting an experience that isn't possible on the weekends. 

These kinds of unique and exciting offers go above and beyond changing the menu depending on the time. They make weekday dining at your restaurant feel special and exclusive. Offering something really special can substantially drive big-spending on the weekdays and balance out how much traffic you get overall.

Discounts, Coupons, Happy Hour, and Loyalty Programs

Perhaps the most straightforward way to get people to eat out on the weekdays is to make it cheaper. There are countless ways to offer reduced prices during the times when you'd like to see more traffic at your restaurant. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Happy hour day - drinks are priced at happy hour prices all day
  • Time sensitive coupons - coupons that are only good during weekdays
  • Loyalty programs for specific menu items - customers collect tokens or stamps when they order a specific item or type of item that's only available on weekdays
  • Half-size, half-price versions of select entrees on weekdays - encourage customers to satisfy their craving for their favorite meal at a reduced price
  • Free desserts on weekdays - tempt customers to treat themselves
  • Buy an entree and get the second one free - encourage couples or friends to come out on weekdays
  • Buy one, take one home - take care of two of your customers weekdays at once by getting them to come in for a meal and sending a meal home with them for free

The opportunities to charge customers less in exchange for getting them to come in on the weekdays are endless. Be creative, look at where your bottom line can handle some wiggle room, and be generous with the discounts. Remember, you're trying to create a new habit in customers. Getting people to come in on the weekdays is hard at first, so offer a big discount.

Enable App Ordering

People tend to be busier on weekdays than they are on weeknights. Your customers may not feel that they have time to come into the restaurant, sit down, order, and eat around all of the busy activities of the average weekday. However, by enabling app ordering, your customers can smooth the process out for themselves. 


Perhaps a family wants to order on the app and have the food ready and waiting for them when they get there. Maybe your customer would like to sit down and eat, but they don't have time to wait in line. Using the app, they can digitally check in and begin waiting for a seat before they even get to the restaurant.

There are all kinds of ways that app ordering makes going to your restaurant easier.

Build a Robust Social Media Marketing Program

Social media is a superb way to develop a strong relationship with your customers so you can convince them to come in on weekdays when they otherwise may not. 

  • Make funny posts about what's going on in the restaurant that make people want to come in and join the fun. 
  • Post mouth-watering pictures along with advertisements for weekday coupons or discounts
  • Offer spur-of-the-moment discounts or events when the restaurant is particularly dead. 

Have fun with social media advertising. Try making a post calling for all loyal fans to come in for a 1-hour window to get any entree at half price. Post a picture of a cute dog on the patio and tell customers to come in and see it. 

You'll be amazed by all of the ways you can use social media to encourage a customer who otherwise wouldn't visit the restaurant during the week to come in or order takeout. It's important to place an employee in charge of social media who has a knack for recognizing these sorts of opportunities. They also need to be able to consistently create social media posts that stick to your brand voice.

Fill Your Restaurant on the Weekdays

There’s no reason to accept that your restaurant will be swamped on the weekends and dead on the weekdays. Using these techniques, you can increase patronage of your restaurant on weekdays and get your piece of the weeknight meal market. Many of these ideas will even move some of the traffic that would normally have come during the weekends to the weekdays, helping you to level out your overall traffic. Why settle for low-profit weekdays and overwhelming weekend surges, when these simple and inexpensive tactics can fill your restaurant consistently throughout the week?