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Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with backyard BBQs and massive fireworks displays. In Indonesia, communities compete in a number of friendly matches, from rope pulls and gunny sack races to the pinang pole climb, when men race to the top of greased-up palm trees in hopes of claiming prizes. India celebrates by flying kites, Peru with bullfights, and Mexico by reading the Grito de Dolores.
With such a wide variety of ways of celebrating, it’s no surprise that we found so many examples of compelling hotel and restaurants experiences that honor their countries’ histories and traditions — as well as drive traffic and sales.
1. Give Back
Outback Steakhouse is offering guests the opportunity to add a $1 donation to their bills to support Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that helps military families in need. In 2017, the Bombay Canteen in Mumbai donated all its proceeds from a special menu to the Miracle Foundation, which support orphaned children. These promotions are great ways to highlight an organization’s strong ties to the community and can create excellent earned media.
2. Make the Most of Your Location
Mexico City’s Gran Hotel is located on Plaza de la Constitución, better known as Zócalo, the large downtown square that’s ground zero for the start of the nation’s independence celebration at 11PM on September 15. The hotel’s gourmet, fifth-floor restaurant overlooks the square, where 500,000 people gather each year to kick off the festivities.
3. Honor Your Neighborhood
There’s no reason to limit yourself to celebrating only one national holiday a year. For example, Chicago hosts parades and street festivals for a number of global celebrations, including Mexican Independence Day (September 16), Polish Constitution Day (May 3), and Ukrainian Independence Day (August 26). Food vendors set up around the parade route, giving smaller shops a chance to get their authentic recipes into hungry revelers’ hands.
4. Play with Your Food
Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, a New American restaurant right on the East River in Manhattan, is celebrating July 4 with an all-you-can eat BBQ buffet. While not eating, guests are invited to play lawn games, like bocce ball and cornhole. As an added bonus, the location is the perfect place to view Macy’s fireworks.
5. Wear Your Colors
L’Opéra, a high-end bakery chain in India, creates its signature tricolor cake, flavored with litchi, blood orange, and coconut, to match its nation’s flag and to honor its Independence Day (August 15).
6. Drink Up the Patriotism
RA Sushi Bar, which has locations in nine U.S. states, mixes up the bombpop: a red, white, and blue shot with vodka, Blue Curacao, and grenadine.
7. Stuff Your Patrons
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at New York’s Coney Island has been an annual event since the 1970s, though the original promoter claimed the contest dated back to 1916, when four immigrants challenged each other to prove their patriotism by eating as many hot dogs as they could. No matter when it started, the contest does a great job of reminding people about the iconic brand.
8. Celebrate National Cuisine
On a less gluttonous note, the Marriot Hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia have held three Indonesia Culinary Journey festivals around their nation’s Independence Day (August 17) to highlight the traditional foods of the region.
9. Give It Away
To celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2014, Canadian chain Mandarin gave away trips to its legendary Chinese buffet on Canada Day (July 1). Lines stretched around the block, giving the business priceless earned media as reporters flocked to the crowds and interviewed those waiting to get in.
10. Celebrate Your History
The Oyster Box, a luxury hotel in Umhlanga, South Africa, celebrates Freedom Day (April 27) with a special high tea that includes traditional South African cuisine, honoring the country’s history as both a British colony and an independent nation.
11. Contribute to the BBQ
For July 4, Marie Callender’s gives away a discounted second pie to folks who buy two, making it extra easy for guests to bring something delicious to their family celebration.
12. Bring Your Culture to Your New Home
In July 2018, acclaimed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio instructed his three U.S. locations (La Mar by Gastón in Miami, La Mar in San Francisco, and Tanta Chicago) to launch a month-long celebration of Peruvian cuisine in honor his home country’s independence (celebrated in Peru on July 28). The special menu introduced new guests to the highlights of Peruvian cuisine and offered two lucky winners round-trip tickets to Lima, where they could experience the food and culture first hand.
13. Make Your Specials Patriotic
In 2017 — the 52nd anniversary of Singapore’s independence from Malaysia — Lawry’s Prime Rib Singapore offered lunch menus for S$52.
14. Hold a Cooking Class
At the Four Seasons Riyadh in 2017, Chef Ali Al Yousuf held small cooking lessons to teach guests how to make Saudi classics in their own homes.
15. Make it Easy for People to Celebrate
The Fiesta Royale Hotel in Accra offers discounted rooms on March 6. Its restaurant, Mansonia, puts on a lavish brunch with local classics and offers all guests complimentary local drinks. Combining food, drink, and accommodations is a great, all-inclusive way to help guests celebrate.
Commemorating independence days gives restaurants and hotels the opportunity to connect more deeply with their communities and guests, building lasting brand recognition and loyalty. Of course, these events work best when they align with the organizations’ guiding brand values, so operators should find their own way of marking these important celebrations — one that reflects everything that sets them apart from the competition.
ABOUT AARON ALLEN & ASSOCIATES
Aaron Allen & Associates is a leading global restaurant industry consultancy specializing in growth strategy, marketing, branding, and commercial due diligence for emerging restaurant chains and prestigious private equity firms. We work alongside senior executives of some of the world’s most successful foodservice and hospitality companies to visualize, plan and implement innovative ideas for leapfrogging the competition. Collectively, our clients post more than $100 billion in sales, span all six inhabited continents and 100+ countries, with locations totaling tens of thousands.