During the traditional holiday shopping season, many people rely on local, independent restaurants as a respite from the hustle and bustle. They may also look to establishments like yours to help with their holiday entertaining needs, or even as a last-minute gift certificate option.

A well thought out holiday marketing plan can be a great way to boost your revenue, whether it’s offering a gift card as a way to give something more personal than cash, or a menu that works for any holiday get-together. Providing a welcome, festive atmosphere for busy shoppers, families, and off-the-clock professionals can also be much appreciated during the holiday season.

Here’s how to use Thanksgiving marketing, Christmas marketing and New Year’s marketing ideas to give your business the gift of extra revenue all season long.

Get in the spirit

From the moment patrons enter your restaurant, you want it to be a positive experience, and that starts with the music. For the holidays, your goal is to appear festive, but you don’t want to be obnoxious (like playing Christmas music in October). You also don’t want to offend or alienate anyone by playing overly religious tunes. Follow these guidelines as you adapt your playlist for the holiday crowd:

  • Start playing holiday music in December. Shoppers are already being bombarded at the malls in early November, so don’t pile on.
  • Layer in holiday music with your existing soundtrack. That way, there’s something for those who aren’t feeling the spirit quite yet.
  • Select holiday music in a style that appeals to your restaurant atmosphere. You can choose genres like instrumental, jazz, modern pop, or rock.
  • Beyond music, use your televisions to set the holiday mood. Play holiday classics like Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life on a couple of your screens.

holiday restaurant menu

Deck the dining room

It’s always a good idea to redecorate your restaurant with a fresh, new look for the holidays. You can go with a harvest theme for fall, and then move into Christmas/Hanukkah/winter décor post-Thanksgiving. Here are some areas to focus on:

  • Window displays: Be festive, but avoid overkill. People may keep walking if they see a window full of only holiday symbols that don’t apply to them or the people for whom they are buying gifts.
  • Tables: Dress your tables with holiday-themed centerpieces. Trimmed branches help create a natural-looking centerpiece with candles and silver ornaments. And extra flameless candles all around to create a warm and comfortable vibe for winter.
  • Lighting: The addition of Christmas lights along the ceiling, or around columns and mantles, makes for an inviting look.
  • Menus and signage: Incorporate some holiday imagery, like snowflakes, into your restaurant logo and/or onto window signs and your printed menus.

Get a head start on your holiday marketing with help from our Restaurant Marketing Guide.

Treat customers on your “nice” list

It’s a great time of year to thank your most loyal customers and delight them with a little something special to ensure they continue to visit you in the months (and hopefully years) ahead.

Try a hand-written note to your 20 top spenders or most frequent guests of the year that includes an offer for a free bottle of wine or dessert at their next visit. Or, you could offer an exclusive special happy hour or private chefs table events for loyalty members only throughout December and January.

Deliver some digital good cheer

Reaching customers with business information and special deals during the holiday season can help your restaurant stay top of mind and competitive in a time when shopping is peaking.

Publicize special events and menus using social media, email, and text campaigns so your customers know all about your special offers. And change up your website’s homepage with holiday dessert ideas or to share how you’re using seasonal ingredients on your menu.

leisure, food and drinks, people and holidays concept restaurant beer sour - smiling

Draw them in with goodwill

The holiday season can be a tough one on your guests’ wallets. With that in mind, you have the opportunity to launch a prix fixe menu that draws them in for its value and, of course, your good food.

Such specials can also encourage customers to choose your restaurant for their holiday get-togethers, whether it’s a group of soccer moms, a “friendsgiving” outing, or a corporate staff dinner.

Another great idea—since it is the season of giving—is to pair up with a local charitable group to host a gift-giving drive. You could even give your guests access to special menu options or discounts if they support the cause. For example, bringing in a new, unwrapped toy gets them a coupon for their next visit.

Unwrap new catering and takeout options

Hosting a holiday celebration at home can be so time consuming. That’s where you come in. Even if you don’t normally offer takeout or catering options, choose limited menu options for guests and pick a pre-order deadline well in advance of the holiday so you have plenty of time to prepare the special items.

On the flip side, it’s been found that the days leading up to a holiday can be a great sales boost for your take-out menu, too (if you have that option), so be prepared.

Offer gift card incentives

People often buy gift certificates for their children’s teachers, their co-workers, or their neighbors. Make it easier for patrons to cross someone off their shopping lists with a gift card to your restaurant. The best part is you may even earn some new customers if those gift recipients haven’t been to your restaurant yet. Some tactics to try:

  • Use promotional emails, signage, and your servers to get the word out. You can even consider running a gift card competition between all of your servers with a bonus for the person who sells the most.
  • As for the gift cards/certificates themselves, have them designed with a festive look to reflect the holiday season. Make sure they’re also branded with your restaurant logo and colors so recipients know where they’re heading.
  • Lastly, add on an incentive to entice your customers to make multiple gift card purchases. For example, if they buy $200 worth of gift cards, they get a $25 gift card for themselves. Or you can do a buy 3, get 1 free.

As the holidays approach, you’ll be ready. By positioning your restaurant as a holiday sanctuary, a shopping mall escape, a hosting helper, a gathering place for friends and family, or a last-minute gift idea, the holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year.

What does it take to be an effective restaurant marketer? The strategies you need (and everything you ever wanted to know) are in one place.

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Written by   |  
Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.