We are coming into the time of year when many people are in the holiday mood, when friends, family, and business associates get together to share food, friendship and celebrate the holiday season. As a restaurant owner, you are busy making holiday plans and getting ready for the season by preparing menus, ordering supplies (or trying to order supplies), and making sure the staff is prepared for what is often the busiest season of the year.

Coming up with restaurant holiday promotion ideas to market during this time can seem like an added challenge. Why make the effort when people keep coming in the door?

Holiday Marketing Generates Additional Revenue

Here’s the secret. It’s important to resist giving away free food or discounting at this busy time. People are already going to be coming in, and you don’t want to make LESS money. Always think about what you can do to ADD to the revenue. How can you increase check averages, what menu items can you provide to add on to the experience, how can you encourage customers to come one more time?

This is the perfect opportunity when you are busy to leverage that time with a bounce-back promotion. A bounce-back is when you give your customers an incentive to come back into your restaurant as soon as possible to develop a habit of visiting you – leveraging your busy time to increase sales in your slower times. This is one of the most powerful marketing strategies you can use.

Click To see the #1 Restaurant Holiday Bounce Back Promotion of All Time

Many of these customers are coming to your restaurant for the first time, which means you can impress them and create a reason for them to return, and that can be done with some creative holiday marketing.

Marketing your restaurant during the holiday season is a great way to counteract this inevitable New Year slump. It’s what we consider “digging the well before you thirst” marketing.

Plan Now, Reap Later

Every farmer knows the value of planting the seeds long before they will be able to harvest them. It’s the same for restaurant owners- you need to prepare now to generate revenue in the future. Far too often, restaurant owners have a slow period and scramble to find ways to fill their seats too late. If you plan now and put some strong promotions in place, your slow periods will even out.

If you are thinking, “I don’t really do marketing, I just want to put my head down and get through the season,” consider this. If your restaurant is not providing memorable experiences for customers during these critical times of year, it can be very difficult for them to remember who you are when they are curled up on their sofa eating turkey leftovers in January.

So how do restaurant owners plan for the holiday season?

By creating a marketing strategy that will offer existing customers an added value to their dining experience. These promotions vary from restaurant to restaurant, but they are all designed with one goal in mind. To create additional revenue by generating return business and attracting new guests during this busy time of year. A restaurant marketing plan can include special holiday menus, restaurant promotions, charities, social media advertising, and more.

The Earlier, The Better

Your restaurant marketing strategy should be developed well in advance of the holiday season so that you have enough time to get all your materials printed or created for your guests. It’s important to promote these events with in-house marketing, marketing to your existing customer list, and by posting them on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Consider what you have done in the past, make sure you repeat (and improve on) winners, and eliminate what didn’t work.

You will want to include restaurant holiday marketing before December begins in all your restaurant newsletters, email marketing, on menus, and table tents. Inform your staff on what’s happening during the season so they can promote these restaurant holiday marketing ideas throughout service, encouraging people to return.

Now is also a great time to update your restaurant website with specials, news items, and restaurant holiday marketing information that will help drive traffic through your door at this busy time of year. You can use social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to promote these restaurant marketing strategies as well. Make sure you put some time aside to post restaurant holiday marketing updates at least once per week.

Dress It Up

Make everything festive in your dining room helps people get in the spirit of the season and encourages future visits to share the experience with others. Adding Christmas lights, wreaths, and ornaments to your windows and doors, putting up a decorated tree in the foyer all helps. Make your space warm and inviting by bringing the decorations into your dining room and ordering counter. Whether your customers are dining in or grabbing a meal to go, the holiday decor is sure to make a good impression and lift their mood.

The restaurant holiday marketing ideas don’t stop there. You can also provide table centerpieces, special menu items and have your staff dress up in festive clothing or hats. It’s important that you create a sense of wonderment by adding some element of surprise for customers during this time of year.

Holiday Season Marketing Ideas

Here are some holiday season marketing ideas for your restaurant throughout December and into January:

Take-out family-style meals or side dishes to accompany a family’s at-home celebrations are an option, especially if you can tell a story about why it’s special to you and a family favorite. This doesn’t have to be an entire turkey dinner – maybe you make pies, or famous rolls, or pancake-making kits, or cinnamon rolls for big breakfasts. Think about what you make that you can prepare in batches for additional revenue.

Design a “Bounce-Back” offer to entice people to return when you are slow. This is something you can give to everyone who comes into the restaurant in December that they can’t use until January or February. It has to be an enticing offer, and it needs to provide some curiosity or excitement. This is a sure-fire winning promotion, and we’ve got a way to help you easily execute it below.

See how one restaurant owner with a small sports bar in WI increased his sales over $110K
using a bounce-back offer.

Gift Card Sales are hugely popular at this time of year. Everyone needs gifts for babysitters, mailmen, teachers, last minute “I forgot about…” people and some of the harder to buy for friends and family. You can get in on the gift-buying action by offering gift cards.

An easy method to improve gift card sales during this time is to offer customers an extra incentive with the purchase of a gift card. For example, you can offer a free $10 gift card with each $50 gift card purchase. It’s hard to resist free food, so guests end up buying these knowing they get a benefit too. Ideally, the bonus gift certificates can only be used in January/February to encourage them to return when you are expecting it to be slow. In addition to giving your restaurant an immediate infusion of revenue (with no immediate expense), gift cards encourage repeat visits, and studies show that 65 percent of gift card holders spend an extra 38 percent beyond the value of the card. Plus, historically, over 80 percent of gift cards are never redeemed, so it’s like free money in your bank account.

Train your front-of-house staff to ask customers if they would like to purchase a gift card when it comes time to pay the bill and promote gift cards sales prominently at the host station or checkout counter, on your website, and social media, as well as throughout the restaurant. The holiday season is a huge time for gift certificate sales, so make sure you do everything you can to get in on the action.

Incentivizing staff is a great motivator, boosts morale, and increases sales with everyone working so hard during this busy season. Your staff will appreciate it, after all, it is the holiday season, and a bit of extra cash helps everyone. A $25 cash bonus for each of the contest winners is a great prize. Or you could go to with a neighboring restaurant or other business and trade gift certificates, so they can give your certificates to their staff and theirs to yours

Contests for just about anything: most rewards program sign-ups, wine sales, dessert sales, gift certificate sales, whatever you want to use to maximize additional revenue. Remember, your staff members are juggling their own busy holiday schedules outside of work. If your holiday promotions work as you hope, you’ll be keeping them busy all season long — which is great for revenue, but a potential recipe for stress for your workers. Fun contests let them know how much you appreciate them and creates a culture of fun.

Reach out to schools and churches in your neighborhood to check if they are hosting any events for the holidays. You can sponsor prizes or provide gift certificates for any contests or see if they could distribute offers from your restaurant at these events.

Rewards Program Offer first-time customers to your join your rewards program with a holiday-themed welcome offer. This is also a great opportunity to have a contest among your team to see who can sign up the most new members in the month. Partner the front of the house with back of the house teams so everyone feels a part of it and award prizes weekly and them a grand prize.

Speaking of your loyal rewards members, reward your best customers – those who support you the most year-round. Offer them extra perks like priority seating or booking to special events, or welcome mimosas, or a unique take home gift. It’s easy for them to get lost in the busy-ness of the season, and you should find a way to make them feel appreciated and special.

Support Local Charity There’s no better way to build goodwill with your customer base than by contributing to a cause that reflects your business’s values. Identify a local charity that your customers associate themselves with and approach them to organize a fundraiser. Fundraise for charities with a toy or pajama drive and give those who donate get a keepsake ornament off your Christmas tree.

Fill your Christmas tree with wishes from seniors at a local care center or people at a local shelter and customers can select off the tree and bring back the item wrapped for that person.

Host a “Breakfast with Santa” event (or lunch or dinner) and provide a photo opportunity. Often lines at the mall are long and people are happy to have somewhere smaller and more intimate to have this experience.

Spread The Word

Whatever you decide to plan, map it out now. Get out a calendar and prepare so the season goes off without a hitch and generates the most revenue possible. That means you need to promote it loudly and clearly. Use every possible marketing media and method you have at your disposal to ensure that everyone knows what you are doing during the holiday season.

Post everything you are doing on your Social Media feeds – like Facebook and Instagram sharing what you are doing during the holidays. Invite local radio stations or TV personalities into the restaurant during any special events or for live segments during their holiday shows. Promote to your existing customer list through email, your newsletter, direct mail, and in-house marketing.

Now Is The Time

It can be frustrating to think about marketing your restaurant during the holiday season, but it doesn’t have to be! All you need is a little preparation and some creativity, and you will find that the holidays are an excellent opportunity for restaurant owners in any market niche. You just need to come up with ways of promoting yourself that increase your revenue and encourage return visits in the following slow season.

To help make sure your restaurant gets all the attention it deserves this holiday season, follow these tips:

– Plan ahead; start thinking now about how you want things to go down before the rush begins.

– Be creative; there are endless possibilities when it comes to marketing, so don’t let lack of inspiration prevent you from doing something really cool.

– Promote, promote, promote; the more people who hear about your restaurant and its holiday events/specials, the better.

There is one promotion that stands out from all others; a promotion that works better than any other to get your customers back, spending more in the month of January that has been proven and tested by tens of thousands of restaurants over the past 19 years. To bring in more sales during any slow month you might have at your restaurant. See exactly what this promotion’s secret is to why it works for any style, size and location, and how one small sports bar owner in WI used to increase sales over a $110,000 in his slowest month of the year.

Click To see the #1 Restaurant Holiday Bounce Back Promotion of All Time
Michael Thibault
Michael Thibault

Michael Thibault

Known as “The Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.

Follow Us On Social Media