Regardless of what industry you’re in, the holiday season is likely one of the year’s busiest times, and it provides ample opportunity to boost your year-long marketing efforts. This time of the year is when you can offer fun and engaging ways for customers to interact with your brand and products. For restaurant operators, it’s no different. Restaurants will be bustling with busy people grabbing a bite to eat between shopping trips or joining family and friends for special dinner outings.
To capitalize on this profitable time of year, get ahead of the game and plan early. Explore how you can stand out. Brainstorm ways to fill more tables. Read about successful marketing ideas that have worked for others. Here are some tactics that I’ve seen impact restaurant operators’ bottom lines.
Promote Off-Premises Dining
According to L.E.K. Consulting, “Between 2018 and 2023, delivery is projected to grow at more than three times the rate of on-premises sales.” This provides operators with promotional opportunities for off-premises dining and catering. During the busy holiday season, in particular, many operators will see an influx of catering orders for business meetings, parties and receptions — or simply from those who want to avoid the holiday rush and have a meal delivered at home.
To leverage off-premises dining, ramp up your meal deals and promotions in the fourth quarter. Be sure your marketing efforts highlight the convenient options that diners have to get their takeout meals through curbside pickup or delivery from third parties such as Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. When you use third-party delivery vendors to reach new customers during this time, you’ll tap into the growing online food delivery revenues that are expected to reach $28 million by 2023.
Pro tip: Be sure to offer digital ordering for your off-premises sales. Delivery consumers are increasingly turning to restaurant websites and mobile apps for ordering, so digital customer engagement is key.
Push Limited-Time Offers
Limited-time offers (LTOs) can be an effective means for driving more traffic during the holidays. Research seasonal menu items that diners crave and enjoy, and then build exclusivity around those items with your marketing efforts. Use menu engineering to determine your all-star menu items, and then set limited availability or purchase windows for your LTO, as that can create a sense of urgency. Promote the availability window through your social channels and with menu inserts and table tents in your restaurant. Another option is to offer seasonal discounts through buy one, get one free deals or coupons with defined timelines.
Pro tip: Scarcity marketing can be eccentrically appealing and ultimately boost sales. Use terms like “limited time offer,” “limited supply,” “while supplies last,” “act soon” or “ending soon” to evoke a sense of urgency.
Boost Engagement On Instagram
Instagram should be your best friend during the holiday season. Images of themed meals and delicious seasonal favorites like pumpkin pie and festive ham dinners can boost your social engagement and ultimately get diners in the door. Use hashtags to get new social users to your account and build brand awareness outside of your followers.
Pro tip: Use Instagram Stories to provide sneak peeks into your upcoming holiday dishes or promotions. You can use easy and free editing apps like Unfold, Canva, Inshot and Preview to really beef up your storytelling via Instagram.
Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
If you haven’t already, take a few minutes and optimize your Google My Business listing. By doing so, you’re optimizing your restaurant’s online presence not only for the seasonal rush, but also beyond it. Your listing consists of business details like your phone number, address, hours of operation and more that potential diners want to find. With Reserve with Google, diners can book a reservation, see your wait times or get on your wait list directly from their Google Search, Maps or Assistant.
Pro tip: Add photos. According to Google, listings that offer photos receive 35% more clicks through to their websites than those that don’t.
Highlight Special Event Hosting
With many people planning get-togethers during the holiday season, it’s important to promote the fact that your restaurant hosts special events, holiday parties or private parties (such as corporate dinners or large family functions).
In addition, try hosting your own special events. Offer a breakfast with Santa for a memorable guest experience that can create a great deal of social media buzz with parents sharing photos of their children with St. Nick. Other examples include wine tastings, chef demonstrations and live music nights. These exciting events can position your restaurant for an uptick in traffic and revenue.
Pro tip: Be sure to request reservations for these events. This ensures that you’re prepared for those who want to attend, which leads to better customer satisfaction.
Whether your holiday marketing strategy is an extension of your long-term marketing plans or just a quick-hit campaign, making a financial impact at the jolliest time of the year can be challenging. However, you can cut through the seasonal noise and do it strategically. Emerge from the commotion by getting festive, having fun and thinking outside the box. Remember that the ultimate goal is increased traffic and an elevated brand during one of the busiest seasons of the year.