Holiday table at a restaurant

Christmas music is already on the radio, so you officially have permission to start thinking about all of the joy that the month of December brings. With a variety of places to join together with friends and family during the holiday season, you’ll need to make your restaurant stand out.

We’ve compiled a 12 Days of Christmas Marketing list to help with that. There are enough ideas here to spread Christmas cheer with your customers and keep them coming back in the new year.

One Big Holiday Party

The best way to celebrate the holiday season and the end of the year: Throw a Christmas bash that your customers will be talking about into 2019. A holiday party is a great way to show your customers how much you appreciate them during the busiest time of the year. Need a few ideas for how to celebrate? Depending on your customer demographic, you have a few options:

  • Family-focused children’s party. Printable Christmas coloring pages and bite-sized snacks will keep kids busy while parents mingle and sip on a glass of wine.
  • Ugly sweater contest. A Christmas classic that has only grown in popularity over the years, ugly sweater parties give your customers and opportunity to show their creative, fun, and humorous side. Award the winner with some of your restaurant swag or a free drink.
  • Christmas costume party. Fill your restaurant with elves, reindeer, and Santa Clauses with a costume bash. For even more fun, make it into a contest and award the best costume with a gift card to your restaurant.
  • Christmas movie viewing party. Do you have TVs or a projector in your bar or restaurant? Host a series of Christmas movie viewing parties throughout December to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.

Two-for-One Meal Promotions

Take the stress off of parents shopping for Christmas presents by designating one night a week to all the couples (or friends) out there with two-for-one meal promotions. Offer two entrees and two drinks at a fixed price, and you’ll start seeing customers rolling through the doors after a night of shopping for their friends and family.

Three-Course Prix Fixe Menu

The holiday season is the perfect time to create a special menu for your customers. Offering a three-course specialty Christmas prix fixe menu in December is a great way to get your customers to try something they haven’t before, or draw in a group of friends celebrating the holiday season. Curate a menu that includes a couple items that they can only try by choosing the prix fixe menu to make holiday season easier on your back-of-house staff and allow you to test the success of new menu options.

Four Ways to Market Gift Cards

Gift cards are the best way to extend your holiday sales into the new year and encourage recipients to return to your restaurant with family and friends. You can market your gift cards in the following ways:

  1. Start early. Set up a holiday display to showcase gift cards in the front of your restaurant to grab the attention of customers. If you have the resources, purchase gift card holders to add something special to a typical gift card purchase.
  2. Have your employees pitch gift cards. Provide your staff with a loose script for promoting gift card sales. At the end of the meal, servers and bartenders could remind diners and drinkers about the upcoming holidays and ask if they need any gift cards to round out their gift-buying needs.
  3. Promote on social media. Take advantage of your social media following to attract those looking for an easy gift for a friend during the holiday season.
  4. Incentivize gift-givers. Get your gift card buyers to purchase in higher denominations with incentives. For example, offer a free $10 gift card for purchases over $50, or a $20 gift card for the buyer for purchasing gift cards totaling $100 or more.

bartender tricks for mixing cocktails

Five Specialty Cocktails

Do you create a specialty drink menu around the holiday season? You should probably start. People go crazy for holiday flavors such as peppermint and gingerbread, so you have a prime opportunity to get creative with your drink menu. Just don’t forget to take photos and share your concoctions on social media.  

Six Donation Ideas

It’s the season of giving, so why not give back to your community? The holidays are a great time to give back and encourage your customers to do the same.

  • Raise money on social media. Facebook has a new Donate feature that allows people and businesses to raise funds for the organization of their choice.
  • Create a Christmas gift collection program. For families that can’t afford to buy gifts for their children, the holiday season can be a stressful time of year. Ask your customers to bring in a small gift for a child and thank them by offering a small discount off of their bill.
  • Hold a charity event. Designate a Saturday to hold an event in your restaurant and donate a portion of your sales to your favorite local charity.
  • Run a donation center. Make your business a hub to collect donations from your community, including clothing and personal items for families in need.
  • Collect canned goods. Let your customers know that you’re collecting non-perishable products during the month of December, and offer a small discount off of their meal if they bring in cans or boxes of food.
  • Volunteer at your local food pantry. The best way to give back to your community is to do so in person. If your local food pantry or shelter is in need of help during the holiday season, round up a few of your team members and head over for an afternoon of helping those in need.

Increase the impact of your marketing efforts with help from our Restaurant Marketing Guide.

Seven Christmas Restaurant Decor Ideas

Christmas music playing on your speakers isn’t enough to set the holiday vibe. Break out the Christmas lights and ask your staff to get in on the fun.

  1. Dress in red and green.
  2. Decorate a live or artificial tree with lights, ornaments, and presents.
  3. Add silver, gold, green, red or white accents to tables.
  4. Transform the dining room into a winter wonderland or Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole.
  5. Hang holly, mistletoe or decorative wreaths.
  6. Paint your windows with holiday scenes.
  7. Hang Christmas cards from customers, well-wishers and vendors where people can view them.

Eight Catering Packages

If you offer catering in your restaurant, the holidays are a great time to create special packages for parties of all sizes. From a couple who doesn’t want to cook on Christmas Day, to a large family celebration for over 25 people, curating a special catering menu for the holiday season is a great way to attract parties of all sizes that want your food at the center of their celebration.

Nine Drinks Purchased, Get a 10th Free

When you’re feeling the holiday cheer, many of us turn to sharing drinks with coworkers, friends, and family. Take advantage of the holiday happy hours and groups of friends joining together to celebrate by offering groups of five people or more a promotion to spread Christmas cheer by buying more drinks.

10 Percent Off Holiday Party Packages

If you have an event space, offer special pricing discounts to families or businesses that want to celebrate at your restaurant. Taking 10 percent off for the holiday season is the perfect way to boost bookings and allow your customers to celebrate the season in the comfort of your restaurant.

11 New Menu Items

Embracing the Christmas season with a specialty menu is a great way to spread Christmas cheer. Whether you’re putting your own twist on Christmas classics, or whipping up your own unique creations, adding a few new menu items is a great way to draw in customers that want to try something new from a restaurant they know and love.

12 Days to Celebrate

You see the hashtags all over social media. People love celebrating their favorite treats, and your restaurant or bar has an opportunity to take these flavors and turn them into your own masterpieces.

  • Dec. 1: National Pie Day
  • Dec. 4: National Cookie Day
  • Dec. 8: National Brownie Day
  • Dec. 9: National Pastry Day
  • Dec. 15: National Cupcake Day
  • Dec. 16: National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day
  • Dec. 17: National Maple Syrup Day
  • Dec. 20: National Sangria Day
  • Dec. 24: National Eggnog Day
  • Dec. 26: National Candy Cane Day
  • Dec. 30: National Bacon Day
  • Dec. 31: National Champagne Day

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.

Download The Guide
Written by   |  
Holly Everett is a Massachusett-based writer with an affinity for fresh seafood, Rhode Island's beautiful beaches and Del's Frozen Lemonade. When she's not searching for new breweries and wineries to visit or traveling with friends, you can find her on her couch with her cat, Theo, watching her favorite shows on Netflix and drinking a glass of cabernet.