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For years, American families across the country have held quiet New Year’s Eve celebrations at home over takeout. While Chinese takeout specifically has been the go-to tradition for many, trends show that people are switching it up in recent years. With 2020 being the year of takeout, delivery, and online ordering, we can only assume that New Year’s Eve 2020 will be the biggest one yet for restaurants and bars offering to-go items. 

Our data science team pulled insights from Upserve by Lightspeed’s 70,000+ customer base to find out what guests are most likely to order during New Year’s Eve. You can use this intel to make decisions on what types of items to offer and promote to bring in the most business as we ring in 2021.

New Year’s Eve Restaurant Statistics

New Year’s Eve Takeout Order Volume: Comfort is In

In 2019, New Year’s Eve takeout orders increased by 36% compared to the week prior. Top items include pizza, burgers, desserts, and other comfort foods. Interestingly, these items closely align with the overall top menu trends of 2020. Since the start of the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in guests wanting simple, comforting foods and that also seems to be the case for those who choose to celebrate a low-key New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve Restaurant Alcohol Sales: Pop the Bubbly

Unsurprisingly, champagne is the top-selling type of alcohol on New Year’s Eve (+616%), followed by shots (+593%). Make your restaurant a one-stop-shop for guests on New Year’s Eve by offering a bottle of champagne alongside a family meal or for a discount when guests spend a certain amount of money.

As for shots, we can’t expect the same increase for this year because of the lower in-house crowds, but you can still give the people what they want by offering in-house and to-go cocktails (cocktail sales rise 226% on New Year’s Eve) featuring the other most-ordered types of alcohol below.

New Year’s Eve Restaurant Marketing Tips

Plan Your New Year’s Eve Promotions

With all the other restaurants in town vying for New Year’s Eve orders, get the word out about your specials now and continue promoting them on social media all month long. 

Here are some ideas for New Year’s Eve restaurant promotions to get you started:

  • Offer incentives for preordering. In the same way that it’s easier to prepare for a night of service with reservations, offering preorders on New Year’s Eve to-go orders will help you gauge interest and be better prepared for the evening. Plus, it’s harder for guests to change their minds last minute. Entice them to preorder with perks like a small bottle of champagne, free appetizer, or gift card for future use.
  • Make the holidays easier with family-style meals. Family meals have been a popular offering during the pandemic and are perfect for a family-centric night at home. Offer a family-style entree with sides, apps, and/or desserts, either fully cooked or take-and-bake style, to simplify New Year’s Eve dinner for both your guests and your kitchen staff.
  • Provide entertainment, too. Many restaurants like to do trivia, live music, or other special events for New Year’s Eve that are just not possible now with capacity restrictions. Bring the entertainment into guests’ homes when they order from you by offering a board game with purchase, hosting a virtual trivia game, or even live-streaming a musician from your dining room. 


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Be Prepared for the (Possible) Post-Holiday Drop

With most holidays during the pandemic, we have seen a unique trend in restaurant sales: a spike in orders of up to 306% on the holiday followed by a significant drop in sales for the 48-hours after the holiday bump. The one outlier of this trend has been Thanksgiving, due to the fact that many people have the three days after Thanksgiving off from work. While there was a significant drop on the Friday after Thanksgiving, sales seemed to go back to normal for most restaurants by Saturday.

Since New Year’s Eve 2020 lands on a Thursday and many people will have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off work, it is possible that we will see a similar trend to Thanksgiving. If you plan to be open on New Year’s Day, be mindful of overstaffing and try offering some “hangover specials” for those who are looking to order out on that day.

Cash in Early with Gift Card Sales

People are going to start being more budget-conscious after the New Year due to all of the holiday spending. Gift cards are a great way for you to make some extra revenue in advance to help you get through an early-January slump – plus, only about 80% of gift cards are ever redeemed, resulting in some pure profit for you.

We found that gift card sales start to rise around December 19th and see a major spike on December 24th (hello, last-minute shoppers) so be sure to push those gift card sales in-house, on your social media accounts and website, and via local ads as much as possible this month.

Three Ways to Prepare for New Year’s Eve in Your Restaurant

Once you have your promotions planned and posted for New Year’s Eve, it’s time to focus on how to make the night go as smoothly as possible. Besides stocking up on inventory for the night and making sure your restaurant staff is ready for the influx of orders, there are a few more things to prepare for if you plan to be open for dine-in as well.

  1. Stock up on plastic cups and to-go containers. Make sure you have enough to-go containers on hand for both food and beverages to meet the higher New Year’s Eve demand. While it may not be as pretty, it’s also a good idea to serve in-house drinks in plasticware at your bar to prevent the spread of germs and reduce the amount of work for your bar staff.
  2. Schedule extra FOH staff for the night. Whether you think you’ll need bouncers or just an extra floor manager on staff, and an extra person in the FOH to help maintain social distancing will help the night run smoothly.
  3. Make sure every guest has a designated driver. Although most people have rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft on their phones, it won’t hurt to have a backup plan for those who are too drunk to get behind the wheel. You can also check with rideshares to see if they will create a custom discount code that you can display in your bar.

The state of the restaurant industry is ever-evolving, but nothing could have prepared restaurant owners and operators for 2020. Download our State of the Restaurant Industry Report for 2020 menu, sales, and holiday trends, plus stories from restaurant owners who managed to grow sales despite the pandemic.

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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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