School's out, the farmer's markets are booming, and summer vacation plans are finally coming to life. The 4th of July weekend offers so much more than an Independence Day celebration. It's peak summer. But unlike Mother's Day and Cinco de Mayo, the 4th of July is a quieter holiday for restaurants. Many people spend their day off relaxing with family, firing up the grill at a backyard barbecue, or catching the local fireworks or parade.

Slower traffic means many restaurants take off the long holiday weekend themselves to enjoy a hard-earned break. Before you start a red, white, and blue-inspired brainstorm, decide what operating hours make sense on July 4th. Is your restaurant located near the fireworks display or parade route? Are the restaurants nearby staying open or closing their doors? Do you have enough staff to meet guest expectations?

Plan ahead by looking back to last year's foot traffic on July 4th to see whether the juice will be worth the squeeze. Operating limited hours or closing completely on the 4th of July can benefit your hardworking staff or give you a chance to reset before another busy weekend. In 2024, the 4th of July falls on a Thursday, meaning more guests might take a long weekend off work or celebrate the day off on Wednesday.

If your restaurant serves 4th-of-July-specific food, like barbecue, soul food, ice cream, or burgers, the holiday weekend presents an excellent opportunity to showcase these items and bring in guest traffic with food deals and limited-time offers. There's plenty of room to get creative with your menu and off-premise offerings. Many people celebrate Independence Day by enjoying a picnic, backyard hang, or boat day on the water. Provide these guests with off-premise options like meal kits, online order specials, and other food they can take to-go.

If you're located in a summer vacation destination or want to draw in the many people who take the Fourth of July weekend off, there's no better way to celebrate than with a holiday special. Here are some ways to connect with your potential guests and make your restaurant's menu pop (obligatory firework pun).

1. Fire up the grill-themed menu

Fourth of July is synonymous with burgers, brats, hot dogs—anything you can throw on the grill, top with American cheese, and stick in a bun. Expanding your grilled meat offerings or highlighting what you already serve on a sandwich board or chalkboard menu is a great way to cater to seasonal cravings.

Get a little more creative than the typical backyard barbecue by offering more than ketchup, mustard, lettuce, and tomato. Create a themed burger menu or a burger bar that lets guests mix and match. Incentivize add-ons like chili cheese, pretzel buns, and bacon. Cater to all your guests with vegetarian and vegan options like portobello mushroom burgers, veggie burgers, and plant-based meats.

Nothing says "Fourth of July weekend" like an ice-cold beer. Offer drink specials to pair with each burger and coach your staff on which craft beers will go perfectly with each food item. Just make sure it's not a foamy beer.

2. Pre-order meal kits

Some of your customers have already locked in their plans to celebrate America's birthday. That doesn't mean your restaurant can't be part of those plans. Before the Fourth, spread the word about your meal kits, party packs, and other to-go offerings. Perhaps put together a package of barbecue sides like mac and cheese, salads, dips, and other appetizers to complement the at-home grilling.

For customers planning a boat day or a picnic, put together Fourth of July packages, bundling travel-friendly items like sandwiches and snack platters. Pre-order options are popular for guests looking for catering or family-style food options. With the Fourth of July holiday falling on a Thursday, customers may want to spend their day off with family and friends—not sweating it out in the kitchen.

3. Cheers to Independence Day

If you aim to increase foot traffic and draw in your loyal customers this 4th of July, consider offering drink specials. Discounts on red, white, and blue cocktails (think Cape Codder cocktails, gin and tonics, and anything with blue Curaçao), or even an extended happy hour for folks looking for a head start on their weekend.

You'll want to kick things off with an effective restaurant marketing strategy. Leverage social media and your restaurant's email newsletter to let customers know about drink deals, your restaurant locations, and hours. It's also a good idea to update your website to let potential customers know that your location is open and it's a great place to celebrate Independence Day.

4. Online ordering deals

Online orders can be a valuable revenue stream for restaurants. If you're open for business, make sure your online ordering website is up to date with new dishes. Providing a discount, a free item with purchase, or other online ordering deals can help drive sales even if dine-in traffic is slow.

5. Host live entertainment

Whether you regularly host a country music night or try something special to celebrate the Fourth of July, live music events can draw a crowd to your restaurant. Be sure to plan ahead so you have plenty of time to market your event.

Maybe you don't have the space (or bandwidth) to host a Fourth of July event. If concerts or festivals are happening nearby, bring in concertgoers by offering a free item or discounted drink specials with proof of ticket.

6. Offer a free item

Many large restaurant chains use the free items to bring in customers during an otherwise slow summer season. Last year, on the Fourth of July, Krispy Kreme gave a free original glazed doughnut to any customer wearing red, white, or blue. You don't have to be a massive operation to jump on this trend.

Using a menu engineering index, identify low-cost, low-profitability items you don't normally sell out of. For example, a free single cone of ice cream. Give away this item to people wearing the flag or families with small children. It's an act of goodwill that shows your guests you're thinking of them and want to make their holiday fun and special.

Couple enjoys 4th of July restaurant specials
Barbecue, soul food, and ice cream are all crowd favorites on July Fourth.

7. Have fun with firework-inspired items

Like St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo, the Fourth of July holiday is associated with classic foods, like hot dogs and rocket pops, that guests tend to crave come summer.

These kinds of dishes might not gel with your existing concept. You can still get creative and create a dish, app, or drink inspired by Fourth of July symbols. A fireworks-inspired cocktail, a red, white, and blue cheese app board, or a cheesecake topped with pop rocks can add a festive flair to your restaurant and help increase holiday weekend sales.

8. Kid's meals and more

The 4th of July means kids across the country are out of school, and caretakers are looking for ways to keep their little ones fed and happy. Consider offering kid-specific deals on the Fourth of July to delight your smallest customers and make the dine-in experience easy on their families' wallets.

To drive traffic on the Fourth of July, you could offer a kids' eat-free deal with any valid adult meal purchase. To do this on a smaller scale, consider giving kids a free drink or families a free app when they visit your restaurant in person.

red box
Red, white, and blue sweet treats can be a great add-on. Photo by Sheri Silver / Unsplash

9. Sell flag-themed items

Alongside fireworks, restaurants can draw inspiration from another popular Fourth of July trope: the American flag. Prepare flag cakes that guests can purchase on your online ordering website and enjoy all weekend long. Offer to donate a portion of sales of flag-themed items to a worthy non-profit.

Apply the flag theme on a smaller scale to fruit kebabs, cake pops, or sugar cookies available to purchase with the meal or later.

10. Watch the fireworks

If your restaurant is lucky enough to be a prime viewing location of local Independence Day fireworks, it's a great way to bring more guests to your location and delight them with deals. Stay informed on fireworks times and plan a happy hour a few hours before to make the most out of the event. You'll want to highlight your deals on your website and social media pages to maximize dine-in traffic.

Depending on your location, it might be an opportunity to host an event with cover—for example, an Independence Day rooftop party with the best view of the fireworks in town.

Fourth of July fireworks can bring groups of friends into restaurants to watch fireworks, looking to share the holiday and the deals. Make sure your menu is stocked with shareable items like dips, cheeseboards, and beer buckets to make everyone happy.

11. Take advantage of summer produce

Even if you're not planning to go whole hog on the barbecue theme and flag cakes, tweaking your dishes to include July food deals and fresh produce is always a good idea.

Warm days in June mean berries, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and other seasonal items are in store. Match these July specials with wine pairings or craft beer options. If you work with local farms or purveyors, this is a great time to give them a shout-out on your social media pages.

12. Capture Fourth of July Parade traffic

For restaurants along or near the parade route, July 4th can bring an influx of pedestrians from nearby areas looking for a place to fuel up. First off, ensure you're adequately staffed with the help of restaurant management software. Fourth of July can be hit or miss in terms of dine-in traffic, and you don't want to be caught off guard (or overstaffed without the hope of a sale).

If you can put your restaurant's name or logo around the parade route or in parade signage, this could be a smart choice. If not, there are plenty of ways to advertise online.

closeup photo of two hotdogs on tray
Hot dogs are a July Fourth menu staple. Photo by Jay Wennington / Unsplash

13. Prep the patio

If you're lucky enough to have patio space, July Fourth is the time to take advantage of it. Offer reservations through an online reservation system, equip your servers with a handheld POS system, or even implement QR codes to turn tables faster.

Looking for more inspiration on how to prep your patio? Check out these five tips.

Let the 4th of July specials take the starring role this summer.

If June and July are less gangbusters and more doldrums for your restaurant, Independence Day can be a source of inspiration and a helpful tool for getting guests through the door. Whether you have deals in store, new food offerings, craft cocktail specials, or you're planning on limiting operating hours to give your hardworking staff a well-deserved break, planning ahead is key. 

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