Tis the season for gathering with family and friends, and with that comes eating. Most of the time, it’s meeting and eating out at a restaurant vs. cooking at home.
With more and more options for dining out, getting your restaurant to be the one people ultimately choose needs to be on top of your to-do list. The holidays are a great time of year to attract large groups, even company parties, which in turn brings in extra revenue.
So what are some things restaurant owners can do to get the customers in the door? Let’s dive in.
Have festive decor! Who wants to go out for the holidays when there isn’t any holiday cheer to be had? Spruce up your lobby or outside entrance with some…spruce? You can find pre-assembled spruce tip pots just about anywhere that sells plants or flowers. They are simple, classic, and will last throughout the winter. Fancy up the inside with subtle touches like white lights on railings, snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, and little sprigs of holly can really leave a lasting impression.
Refresh your menu or add specials. The old saying goes: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If that’s the case, don’t change your menu just to change it. Adding fun specials or bringing back old favorites could add a nice twist to the menu. A colorful holiday themed salad would go over well for those counting calories before the big day. And don’t forget the drink menu. Festive drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic are a must on any restaurant getting into the holiday spirit.
Live music or festivities. The opportunities here are endless. Bring in a one-man band to play holiday classics and have a few nights where Santa is scheduled to be there to take pictures and get lists from kids. If your restaurant has a patio, bring out some heat lamps and portable bonfire pits and have a hot cocoa bar set up.
Offer holiday coupons or post-new year deals. If customers aren’t dining in, they may be shopping around for gift cards for family or friends. Offering discounts on gift card bundles is a good way to get people to buy in bulk. Adding an offer such as spending a certain amount and getting a gift card that is valid after the new year is a good way to get customers back in the door after the holiday rush is over.
Be social, as in social media. We all have a love-hate relationship with social media, but no matter what anyone says, it can help attract business if done the right way. You don’t need a master’s degree in marketing to get you going on social media. Find a Gen Xer on your staff and create some fun Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok posts or reels. They don’t have to be fancy, but they should be fun and should get people’s attention. Post to your restaurant’s stories a few times a day – everything from what the head chef is cooking up to a fun drink the bartender is pouring. Be silly, be fun, show your creative side! Short clips will grab people’s attention and hopefully bring them in! Posting daily specials and operating hours on your page is also something to consider. Just be aware of making the date clear so someone doesn’t show up on Wednesday, upset that you no longer have the Tuesday specials.
Be ready and be friendly! This one should go without saying, but being prepared should be at the top of the list. If you are lucky enough to have a full house no matter what time of the year, that’s great. Be extra-prepared for holiday rushes and have a full staff on hand. Make sure the staff you have is happy to be there – nobody likes a grouchy host, server, or bartender. Be sure to have enough food! It’s kind of an obvious statement, but running out of a popular item isn’t something you want to do, ever. Be sure your staff is aware of any promotional offerings that are going on, specifically gift card promotions during the holidays or future events such as Santa or live entertainment.
Be equipped to handle large groups. Know ahead of time if you are going to accept reservations for groups large or small and be prepared for the large groups. Be sure everyone knows the policy for taking reservations and plan accordingly for staffing if you know large parties will be dining that particular day.
The holidays can be a great time to show off your restaurant to people that possibly don’t get to it regularly or ever. Now is the time to make a great first impression and have customers coming back in the new year.