The upcoming holiday season presents a huge opportunity for restaurants: Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve – these holidays can help you increase your profits. However, in order to take advantage of the season, you need to have a plan. That’s why I created a holiday checklist for your restaurant.
This checklist is quite extensive and should give you at least a few solid ideas for the holidays. And if you haven’t started your preparations yet – this is the last call!
People want to be transported to a magical, worry-free world during the holidays, even if just for a few minutes. Delicious, aromatic food and beverages always help with that. Also, nothing says “winter” like a hot toddy or a mulled wine. That’s why you should invest your time in developing a seasonal menu.
Festive dishes and drinks will make your customers’ experience at your restaurant even more special. And from a practical perspective, it’s great to have a few hot drinks this winter when a lot of customers dine outside.
Don’t be scared to experiment with your holiday specials. You can serve them for the whole winter season or change them every day or every week. Your special menu will certainly depend on the cuisine you serve and the type of your restaurant but besides that, let your creativity guide you! The whole process can be both profitable and fun. Assess changes in your inventory
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. As you prepare for the holiday season, it is crucial to think about your inventory. Analyze what happened in the previous years to see how your revenue changed. Moreover, consider the specials you’re working on or have already added to the menu and add the ingredients, both food, and beverages, to your inventory list.
Furthermore, think about the private events, catering gigs, or any other ventures you have signed up for. Try to identify other changes in your routine. What do you need more of and what do you need less of? Write everything down.
Another great idea to put people in a festive spirit is to upgrade your packaging in December. If you take orders to go or work with a delivery service, make the packaging special. Because who said your delivery orders can’t be awesome?
For example, you can pack all your to-go orders into a holiday-themed bag. As an alternative, you can attach a Christmas bow to each bag. When you buy products in bulk, your cost will be minimal, but the impression you leave on each customer will be huge.
Some people love to decorate their houses and apartments, while others put a minuscule Christmas tree in the corner and call it a day. I have noticed that it’s the same with restaurants. Even if you are in the segment that doesn’t decorate every inch of the restaurant, I would strongly recommend adding a few subtle touches that say “It’s the holiday season!”.
Let’s take the image below as an example. The main additions are paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and red lights around the window. The decorations are not disruptive but still create a special holiday ambiance. Your holiday decorations don’t have to be cheesy or overwhelming (but they can if that’s your creative vision).
Holiday gift cards are a great way to make some cash. You can start selling them at the beginning of December and finish the process right before Christmas. If you add a little bonus such as 10% off the gift card value, you might generate very high revenue. A lot of the gift card recipients may not have known about your spot before, which would mean that you build your brand awareness at the same time.
Of course, you can offer gift cards all year round, but it’s good to make them special for the holiday season and promote them more forcefully in order to increase sales.
Gift cards are an extremely popular idea. In 2019, for the 13th year in a row, gift cards remained the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 59 percent of those surveyed, according to NRF’s report. Also, as BlackHawk Network found, the holiday gift card spend in 2019 increased 7% from 2018, with shoppers spending approximately 35% of their total holiday gifting budget on gift cards.
Whether it’s an office holiday party or a private family gathering, you can make the day’s worth of revenue in three hours of very little work. This holiday season, customers are also more cautious about big gatherings or going out to restaurants. That’s why promoting your private parties can attract a lot of diners who want to celebrate the holidays but are trying to minimize their contact with strangers.
Alternatively, you can offer catering services for both corporate and private customers. Currently, offering catering for the holidays can be your best option to increase sales.
Most families prefer to spend the holidays in a small circle with just the closest family members due to the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that they have to settle for mediocre food or spend days cooking. You can offer all-inclusive holiday packages with food, wine, and/or cocktails for a specified number of diners; for example, a Christmas dinner for six with appetizers, main courses, desserts, and three bottles of wine.
As far as New Year’s Eve is concerned, you can organize an open event for your customers or just have a regular dinner service with a toast at midnight. Alternatively, however, you could rent the space for a private event with food, drinks, maybe an open bar. The second option could generate much higher revenue for a fraction of the effort.
If you decide to do catering or private events, start promoting them well in advance. Early December is the very last minute for advertising your holiday-related special offers.
Let’s move on to the next subject on the holiday checklist for a restaurant. Once you have the special menu and/or special events planned – it’s time to let people know about them.
The best way to do it is by conducting a multi-channel marketing strategy, which is a strategy involving multiple marketing channels. For example, you can announce your specials on the website, send a series of emails with the news about the seasonal menu, and post about it on Instagram and Instagram Stories.
The idea behind a multi-channel strategy is to reach your audience wherever they are. Your general message should be the same, although, the specifics will differ based on the platform. For example, you can describe the menu in more detail on the website than on Instagram; however, your Instagram posts can announce the same menu through pictures of the dishes and the drinks.
If you are looking to cater corporate events or organize private parties for companies at your restaurant, you should ask yourself where your ideal clients are. In this case, I bet they are on LinkedIn, so I would invest a few hundred dollars on advertising on that platform (only if you know what you’re doing though). Additionally, you can email people who have held events at your restaurant in the past to ask if they are interested in doing it again.
For more tips on how to increase your sales through private events, click here.
The holiday season can be a great time to build your email list! Why is an email list important anyway? Because once you build it, nobody can take it away from you (unlike social media where your content delivery is controlled by an algorithm); also you can easily control who to email with what message and when. Generally, an email list can serve you for years to come.
Before you start building your list, make sure you have your infrastructure set up. You can read my blog post about email marketing to see what I mean. If you would like to take your email marketing to the next level, consider taking my Email Success For Restauranteurs course.
So how can you build your email list this holiday season? Make it fun! I would recommend doing a giveaway or a contest that would require participants to sign up for your newsletter. You can promote it on your social media profiles, your website, and even run an advertising campaign to gather more email addresses.
As an alternative, you can design holiday-themed postcards that encourage customers to sign up to the email list and add them to each check. Providing an incentive for the email signup would increase your results by a lot. For instance, you can give a 10% discount on the next meal once a customer joins your email list. All they would need to do is show you the email confirming their discount.
Do research online to see if there are any holiday fairs or events in the area. If so, try to participate in them as a vendor. It’s a great way to not only build awareness about your restaurant among a broader circle of people but also to make additional revenue.
The holidays are the season of giving. As a part of your community, you should help those less fortunate. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture – every little act counts. For example, you can donate food to food banks, hospitals, or schools.
As an alternative, you can organize a raffle for your customers. They could win prizes such as a bottle of wine, and the money raised in it would go to charity.
Giving back is obviously a good thing to do, but it will also build your brand image if you look at it from a selfish perspective. For example, if you run a raffle, you can post about it on your social media and ask your followers to participate – that would boost your brand image and probably your sales.
This is the last but by no means the least important item on the holiday checklist for any restaurant. Whatever changes you need to implement this season, make sure you communicate them with your staff so that everyone is on the same page.
Regardless of how big your team is, you should have a meeting and talk to everyone in person to explain any changes and ask for your team’s preferences. Some people will be happy to pick up extra shifts, some will want to work less during that time.
Sometimes you may talk to people separately and have the impression that you conveyed the news to everyone; however, later on, it turns out that some people were uninformed or confused and you have to explain the issue all over again. That’s why it’s more efficient to talk to everyone together. Alternatively, write an email.
If you get involved in any off-site events or catering this season, you might need additional help from your staff. In case you offer them a position that they don’t usually work in, make sure to specify the pay and the responsibilities beforehand.
After the tough year that the restaurant industry has had, it is important to take every opportunity you can to increase your profits. The holiday season is one of the rare opportunities to do so since virtually everyone is eager to spend some serious money.