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A well thought out restaurant holiday promotion and marketing plan can be a great way to boost your restaurant’s revenue. Even though fewer people are dining out during the pandemic, we are still seeing spikes in holiday sales across the board during popular restaurant holidays for both dine-in and to-go orders. 

Here are some tips to help your restaurant cash in on that holiday bump and provide a magical holiday experience for your guests.

7 Restaurant Holiday Promotions

Here are a few restaurant holiday promotion ideas to help bring in new customers, treat your loyal VIPS, and give back to your community.

1. Unwrap New Catering and Takeout Options

Since holiday celebrations are going to be smaller this year (meaning fewer guests to help the host by bringing side dishes to share), more people may be looking to restaurants to help fill the gaps or to take care of their holiday dinner all together. Simplify family meals for your guests by offering a restaurant holiday promotion for a full holiday spread or a la carte items to add to their home-cooked meal. If you run a fast-casual restaurant, bar, or coffee shop you can still pitch it for the holiday meals by offering specials on loaves of bread or rolls, desserts, coffee and breakfast pastries, or wine and cocktails to help guests complete their holiday.

holiday meal

2.  Offer Restaurant Holiday Gift Card Promotions

Restaurant gift cards are a great option for those hard-to-shop-for people on any holiday list. There are a number of restaurant holiday gift card promotions you can offer.

  • Add an incentive for multiple gift card purchases. For example, if a guest buys $75 worth of gift cards, they get a $25 gift card to keep for themselves. Since, on average, only 80% of gift cards are ever redeemed, this is a great deal for the guest with little-to-no profit loss for you.
  • 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.
  • Design special gift cards with a festive design. Make sure they’re also branded with your restaurant logo and colors so recipients know where they’re heading.

3. Treat the Customers on Your “Nice” List

It’s a great time of year to thank your most loyal VIP customers and delight them with a specially tailored restaurant holiday promotion to ensure they continue to visit you in the months ahead. Try a hand-written note to your top 20 overall spenders and/or most frequent guests for the past year that includes an offer for a free bottle of wine or dessert at their next visit. 

For more restaurant marketing tips download our ebook, The Guide to Effective Restaurant Marketing.

4. Deliver Some Digital Good Cheer

Reaching customers to inform them about your restaurant holiday promotions can help keep your business top of mind for them when they are trying to choose where to order food or purchase gift cards. Publicize special menus and deals using social media, email, and text campaigns so your customers know all about your holiday promotions. 

5. Draw Guests in With Goodwill

Enlist your guests to help you give back to the community and spread holiday cheer. Due to the pandemic, some organizations may only be taking monetary donations, so be sure to check with them before you decide on a promotion type!

  • Donate to a charity with each purchase. People love to purchase from places that help give back, even if there isn’t anything in it for them. Promote that you are donating 10% of all sales within a time period to a local charity and watch the orders increase.
  • Set up a gift-giving drive. Contact a local homeless shelter, women’s shelter, or other organization to find out if they need help providing holiday gifts to those they serve. Display tags with a list of items needed for each individual or family so guests can take the lists home and purchase items. When the guest returns the items to your restaurant, reward them with a coupon, gift card, or free merchandise.
  • Become a designated drop-off spot for your local food bank. Reward guests who bring in donations of non-perishable foods similar to the suggestions above. You can collect even more food items by offering reward tiers depending on how many items they bring in. For example, $1 in gift cards for every item donated (just be sure to cap it at a certain amount!).

6. Get in the Holiday Spirit

Whether they come in for dine-in or just a quick takeout order, make guests feel festive inside your restaurant. Follow these guidelines as you adapt your playlist for the holiday crowd.

  • 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.
  • Don’t choose any overtly religious music. This can alienate some guests and make them feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

7. Deck the Dining Room With Holiday Decor

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 a Christmas/Hanukkah/winter theme post-Thanksgiving. Here are some areas to focus:

  • 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. Add 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 provides 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.

holiday restaurant christmas tree

How to Prepare Your Staff for the Holiday Rush

Schedule a Team Meeting to Kickoff the Season

Before the full holiday rush goes into effect, it’s wise to schedule a mandatory team sit-down meeting to go over the holiday schedule and answer any questions your team might have. This is a great time to make sure everyone’s roles are clear so that there’s no gray area when it comes to who’s responsible for what. 

Be Clear About Expectations

While the holidays are often a time to spend with family, those in the restaurant industry know it’s a time for hard work and busy schedules as well, so make sure your team knows what is expected of them. Since your employees will likely be taking days off, it’s a great time to hire a few extra people so you don’t find yourself short-staffed during a busy weekend night. And if someone needs to call out unexpectedly, do your best to have at least one backup team member who can jump into the role if need be.

Look to Last Year’s Data to Help Plan Ahead

The best way to gauge how busy you’ll be, how many employees you’ll need, and what your inventory should look like is to check back on last year’s data. Look at your busiest days and staff accordingly. Though it will be different this year due to the pandemic, it will give you some sort of guideline on what sold well and when your busiest nights were so that you can better prepare for the next few months.

Make Sure Employees Feel Valued

While it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of the season, taking just a little time to make sure your employees feel valued and appreciated will make a big difference in morale and retention. While a traditional staff party after the holidays may not be in the cards this year you can always offer bonuses, a personalized gift, or by offering special shift meals (either created by your chefs or catered from somewhere else) during the season.

Get the Guide to Effective Restaurant Marketing to find out how the best restaurants market themselves and for tips on creating your own successful marketing strategy.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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