The holiday season is quickly approaching. People are not just loosening their belts when it comes to food, but also their wallets. It’s the perfect time for restaurants to capitalize as the go-to place for customers to celebrate. Planning is the difference between the holiday season being a lost opportunity versus one filled with engaged customers, more referrals, and increased revenues. Here are some ideas to consider
1. Gift Cards
Let your customers give the gift of your restaurant during the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards are the most requested gift item during the holiday season, and restaurant gift cards lead the pack. Recipients like the convenience of gift cards and the flexibility to buy what they want from the menu. Gift cards are also an easy and affordable option to incorporate into your restaurant. They can easily be tracked through your point of sale system to see how they impact holiday season sales.
People don’t just want to eat holiday-inspired food, they want to experience the season. Plan for each significant holiday season, solicit a volunteer to head a decorating committee for each. Set a date to transition as well; people don’t want to see Thanksgiving decorations when Christmas is about to start. Some employees love decorating, let their creativity shine. Make it an off-hours activity, encourage their family and kids coming in to help. You can even let customers and their kids hang a decoration on the tree, or around the restaurant. Here are some examples of how nine restaurants decorated for the holidays, and Gourmet Marketing offers a great list of holiday marketing ideas, including decorating tips.
The holidays are a perfect time to bring in a special menu. Think of how you might integrate a holiday touch into your standard fare. For example, a sandwich shop might add cranberry to their turkey sandwich, for “Thanksgiving on the go”. Spoon University gives more great ideas if you are looking for some inspiration.
If your restaurant has slow foot traffic during the holiday season, you may want to consider expanding your catering services. According to the Catering Institute, Q4 is the busiest time for the catering industry. Why not bring your restaurant to the consumer? As a quick service or fine dining establishment, catering can be used for both backyard holiday parties and the formal family Christmas dinner.
A well-established restaurant should prepare for an even bigger crowd than usual for the holidays, particularly during peak hours. After each holiday surge, save copies of your inventory analytics reports, as well as notes from the kitchen team. These can be valuable to review in preparation for the next holiday.
Will your staff be adequate for large holiday parties and increased business? Start planning now for your seasonal hires, before your competitors scoop up the most reliable talent. Being properly staffed is key to a great customer experience.
7. Discounts and Promotions
Not every restaurant will be open for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let your customers know of your holiday hours and schedule in advance via social media, emails, or direct mail. It’s also a great time to reward their loyalty with a discount offer. Costs and budgets are in mind during the gift-giving season; your customers will appreciate any loyalty discounts you offer.
8. Community Relations
The winter holidays are a great time for community giving. People are feeling charitable and sensitive to the plight of those less fortunate. Donate unused food to a food bank or supporting a toy drive can be a great way to support the community and demonstrate your brand values. Consider promoting a “night of giving”, donating a portion of your profits to a local shelter. Restaurant.org has a list of more charitable ideas to consider.