Mother’s Day may still be the busiest day for restaurant owners, but that doesn’t make the winter holidays any less hectic. According to 2014 data from OpenTable, nearly twice as many people dine at a restaurant on Christmas Eve as they do on an average day. Thanksgiving sees a spike, too, with 56 percent more people eating out than they do on the previous Thursdays.
Can you blame them?
Preparing a feast-sized meal for dozens of people can add to an already stressful holiday season. It’s much more appealing to just go out to eat, especially when restaurants make it a special occasion. Holiday menus and festive decorations are always a great idea, but the buck doesn’t stop there. If you want to draw in more people during the holidays (and, of course you do!), you’ll have to bump up your marketing efforts.
8 Holiday Marketing Ideas for Restaurants
1. Have a Black Friday Special
Marketing strategist and founder of Airlink Marketing, Arianna O’Dell says restaurants can “attract shoppers who are out hunting for deals.” The unique post-holiday shopping extravaganza sends millions of people out of their homes – even in the middle of the night.
Accommodate these shoppers by opening your doors earlier or closing later. If you don’t have the staff to extend your hours, offer a discount on certain menu items or even gift cards. Remember, these customers are already looking for the best deals, and your restaurant could be one of their impulse buys.
2. Promote Gift Cards
Gift cards should be an important piece of your holiday marketing strategy, because you’re making a sale before you even have to provide services. Even better, they’re an easy sell. Giving a gift card to someone is like giving them free food. Plus, they’re a quick-and-easy purchase for last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve. So make sure you set up an eye-catching display of gift cards at the front of your restaurant or wherever guests typically wait to be seated.
3. Think Socially
Whether you plan an entire holiday menu or just add a couple seasonal items to the list, consider how they’re going to look on social media. This is when you put your Instagram best practices for restaurants into play. Pull out the camera and snap a few photos of your dishes. Keep and share the ones that will garner the most attention.
Better yet, get video footage of your chef and restaurant preparing the holiday menu, and use that in your paid social campaign. And of course, don’t forget the holiday themes. Whatever you make should cater to the holidays and be photographed with coordinating props.
4. Hold a Contest
Contests are great social media fodder, and are an easy tactic for improving brand recognition, collecting email addresses and increasing social media engagement. Besides, it’s the season of giving. So why not give away a few freebies from your restaurant?
You can go about this a couple different ways. One option is to give away a lot of small-priced freebies over the course of several weeks. Or, you could create one high-valued prize and drum up anticipation for the big giveaway. In either case, make sure your contest is a gated entry. To be eligible to win, customers must provide their email address, like or share a social post or leave a comment and tag a friend. The entries can be added to your contact list and become future marketing opportunities to share specials and events being held at your restaurant.
5. Make a Punch Card
Punch cards are usually for coffee houses or sub shops, but they can work equally well for any restaurant during the holidays. The idea is to encourage repeat customers by offering a free meal or menu item after a certain number of visits to your restaurant.
To make this a special promotion for the holidays, be sure you set a time frame. For instance, you might tie it into the 12 days of Christmas. Anyone who comes to your restaurant four out of the 12 days gets a free entrée on their fifth visit. Be festive and fun with the offer, and make sure you set a time limit to create that sense of urgency.
6. Throw a Themed Party
Speaking of themes, go all in with a one-night affair. You don’t have to wait for New Year’s Eve. O’Dell suggests throwing an ugly sweater party or other themed event during the weeks before Christmas. You could also use this time to host a meal for charity. Any type of special event encourages large groups, which will help drive business to your restaurant – especially if you choose one of your slower days during the week.
7. Rent Out Your Space
O’Dell also suggests marketing your restaurant for company holiday parties. A 2017 Challenger Gray survey found that nearly 80 percent of companies planned to host holiday gatherings. And nearly half of those companies said they’d serve alcohol. Between food and cocktails, this could bring in big business in just one night. To promote your restaurant’s party space, use paid social media ads, community magazines or – better yet – personally invite your local businesses.
8. Offer Catering Services
If your restaurant doesn’t have the space to throw a party, that’s okay. You can provide catering services, instead. The 2017 survey also found that nearly 60 percent of companies planned to use a caterer or other outside service for their holiday gathering. To make it a worthwhile venture for your restaurant, limit the number of dishes on your catering menu. Use a standard three-course holiday menu and simply offer those items in quantities that feed at least a dozen people.
While these promotions and special events will get people in the door during the holidays, you still have to make sure your restaurant can handle the influx of customers. That may mean hiring seasonal staff or investing in the right tools and technology. Talus Pay, for one, will help make sure your guests get a prompt and accurate bill. With seamless systems like this in place, you can keep the restaurant running smoothly into the new year.
For more information about partnering with Talus Pay, Contact us today to discuss how we can help your business increase profitability.