Q&A: Snake River Grill
How to sell thousands in gift cards in just one day
'Tis the season for giving and many people are looking for quick, last-minute gifts for their family and friends. Gift cards fit the bill perfectly and are a great way for your restaurant to earn extra revenue to offset slower months later in the year. No one knows this better than Snake River Grill in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Having launched their new BentoBox website in May 2018, we spoke with General Manager, Katie Cooper, about how her restaurant runs its annual holiday gift card promotion and why making it available online has been a huge success this year.
We know you’ve been having a lot of success with gift cards. Do you sell gift cards all year, or only during the holidays?
We sell them year-round but our gift card promotion during the first ten days in December, which we’ve been doing for the past five years, is our biggest bump in sales. In the past, the promotion was that for every $100 spent on gift cards, you get $25 in gift cards for yourself. That was very popular, and great for us because it would bring more than one diner into the restaurant.
Snake River Grill has a dedicated gift card page on their website, allowing guests to easily place orders online.
Now that we have our BentoBox website, we do the same promotion but with a promo code. Setting it up on the backend was super easy and it was really nice to be able to put a start date and an end date. We changed the promotion to 25% off of gift card purchases of $100 or more. On the first day alone, we sold about $25,000 in gift cards.
To promote the offer, we sent an email newsletter out to about 8,000 people and we also posted on our social media channels. We did a homepage alert the first 4 or 5 days of the promotion but it was so tremendously popular that I actually took it down because we needed to catch up a little bit!
What difference do you see in gift card sales as you get closer to the holidays?
It’s higher around the holidays, and I think that is because gift cards are very user-friendly for our guests. We tell people that the promo is only available on our website, so that gets us online traffic, which is great because each person that checks out is then added to our database. Having it all set up with Stripe, the eCommerce feature on our website, is seamless and easy to use. Having gift cards for sale online also keeps the host stand from getting congested.
I would encourage everybody to try promo codes because they are so user-friendly.
We've seen a 75% increase in gift card revenue from when we ran the promotion last year. We ended up selling 772 gift cards which already gives us a 30x return on our investment from our BentoBox website. From a business perspective, it’s a time of year where we are pretty low on funds because we close for the off-season (April and November). That influx of money into our savings from gift card sales really gets us up and running for the season.
Now that you have been selling gift cards and using promo codes, what do you like most about the process?
I certainly think that people get really excited about discounts and I guess we are proof of that. We kept the promo simple, SRG18. I would encourage everybody to try promo codes because they are so user-friendly.
The dining room at Snake River Grill during their peak winter season.
One of our bigger challenges is perhaps due to the demographics of people who dine here. We tend to have an older crowd who may not be as tech-savvy, so we get some calls from people that have checked out but forgot to enter the promo code. But, it’s really easy to go in through Stripe and offer them a refund on the card they used. There’s no other paperwork, it’s just a couple of clicks and that’s it.
How does selling gift cards on your website compare to selling them in person?
It’s absolutely the most efficient way to have gift card orders come in. Someone can order at 2 a.m. online if they want. We do still sell directly at the restaurant, but it takes time at the host stand to prepare everything during service, so we really encourage buying online.
What’s your process for fulfilling the gift card orders and how do you stay on track during this busy time?
We have the actual plastic gift card that we then attach to a printed cardstock insert with our letterhead and logo, in a heavy envelope. It’s a very nice package and feels more special than receiving just the card in the mail.
Snake River Grill's physical, plastic gift cards design.
As far as fulfillment goes, all the managers work together to put the gift card packaging together after service has ended. We’ve gotten really good at using the customer data stored in our BentoBox backend, which is super helpful and easy to use.