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8 Ways Restaurants Can Capitalize on the Holiday Season

Diane Chiasson
by Diane Chiasson October 19, 2012
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The holiday season is fast approaching, so it’s time for restaurant owners and operators to start planning their marketing strategies, and getting things into place. This is one of the most profitable times of the year for most businesses, and it is important that your operation is able to capitalize on it.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a world renowned restaurant, foodservice and retail consultancy firm based in Toronto, offers these ideas on how to generate extra business during the holidays:


1. Sell gift cards

Gift giving is a huge part of the holiday season, but as a restaurant, you may not have that many retail items to sell. Consider getting holiday-themed gift cards in $25, $50 and $100 denominations. Gift cards will not only help bring in new customers, but it is almost guaranteed that customers wielding a gift card will end up ordering more than they normally would, therefore generating higher average checks. Or the recipient of the gift card never uses it, and you end up with pure profit from the sales of the gift card.

Make sure you promote your gift cards with proper signage and POP materials. It is also beneficial if you train your staff to suggestive sell your gift cards to all your customers.

2. Give your customers a gift

Keep in the spirit of gift giving by working with non-competitive local businesses in your area to give reciprocal coupons. For example, a customer who dines at your restaurant will receive a $10 coupon for the toy store next door, and a customer who makes a purchase at the toy store will receive a $10 coupon to dine at your restaurant. This will help drive additional business to both your restaurant and the toy store, and your customers will appreciate the savings.

3. Create a set menu for the holidays

In order to get people to choose your restaurant as the place to celebrate, make sure you offer a reasonably-priced set holiday menu with vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free menus. Include a choice for either a three- or four-course sit-down menu, or a cocktail party. A set menu will help your customers budget their parties properly, and also make life easier on your kitchen staff with large groups ordering the same choice of food. Also consider selling pitchers of specialty cocktails, as they are not only fun, but would also help alleviate some of the stress on servers to constantly refill drinks.

4. Create a festive atmosphere

Although decorating your restaurant or foodservice operation may not generate direct additional income, a festive atmosphere will help you book more events/parties at your venue. Play holiday music or hire a live band. Have your staff wear red and green, and Santa hats. Give out small chocolates, candy canes or other small treats to your customers. Take lots of photos of your winter wonderland, and post the photos on your website, Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as inside your restaurant to show all your followers what you have done.

5. Book the office parties


Drum up additional business by booking as many office parties as you can. Send Christmas cards by mail, email or fax to all the local businesses in your area to let them know that your restaurant is the perfect venue for hosting their office party. Include a copy of your set menu, and photos of your beautiful and festive décor.

6. Offer free gift-wrapping services

If your operation is located in a busy shopping district, consider offering free gift-wrapping services to your customers while they dine at your restaurant. This can be a big incentive for busy shoppers. Make sure you advertise your services properly by promoting on social media, as well as all over the shopping district.


7. Give to charity


The holidays are also a time for charity. Consider donating a portion of your sales to your favorite charity, or running a food drive. Give all your customers who bring in a non-perishable food item a free drink or a 10% discount off their bill. Create a large display by your front door with proper signage and POS materials to let your people know what you are doing.

8. Encourage return business in January

While December may be the busiest month for restaurants, January is the complete opposite. Try to get your customers to come back to your restaurant in January with a bounce back program. Give all your customers who dine at your establishment in December a coupon to use in January and February.

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