Top Restaurant Holiday Promotion Ideas

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The holiday season breaks up the monotony of winter by adding festivity and cheer. Families look for ways to make the holidays spread further. They might take their kids Christmas shopping downtown or gather together for tree-lighting ceremonies. Restaurants can capitalize on seasonal festivities by getting in on the fun. 

Transforming your restaurant into a winter wonderland can draw people into the warmth of your building. Instead of being one of many potential stops while people are out and about, you can become the go-to restaurant in your area for people who want to celebrate the season. 

Theme everything for the holidays

Half the reason customers choose a restaurant is the ambiance. You can take that ambiance to a new level during the holiday season. Consider selecting a theme for your restaurant during the holiday season, and then keep everything on the theme. 

Take special care to:

Restaurant holiday promotion ideas include decorating your restaurant to make it feel special
Grill 23 and Bar in Boston, Massachusettes is known for its gorgeous holiday decor and festive holiday menu, which brings the community to its door every holiday season.

Make your menu festive, and your patrons feel special

You never know what people are going through during the holidays. Whether they’ve been uninvited from a family event, are celebrating the holidays alone, or are looking for a way to make their day a little more exciting, festive holiday menu specials, take-out options, and catering options can make your patrons feel special. 

There’s a classic scene in the show Gilmore Girls where Lorelai Gilmore goes into Luke’s Diner — her daily haunt — and begs the owner to make her something festive because she’s feeling down about the holidays. The result was the Santa Burger. And while Lorelai deemed it disgusting, she was also clearly touched. Luke’s willingness to make a unique menu item hit many fans right in the feels and helped him stand out as a “flawless human being.”

Got one step further to make your customers feel special
While Luke’s Santa Burger may not the best example of a festive holiday menu item, it effectively raised everyone’s spirits.

Give a gift with every purchase

It may seem counterintuitive to give something away when customers purchase from your restaurant. But the holidays are a time of giving. Providing your customers with a special holiday gift when they visit your restaurant may be just the thing to get them excited to come through the door. 

One restaurant in Hampton made headlines in 2019 by giving a special present and a stocking to every child who visited on a specific day. 

You can also spread holiday cheer by giving away special holiday swag with your restaurant’s branding. Starbucks, for example, is known for offering free reusable coffee cups every holiday season.

Give away a branded freebie that will get your name out there
By offering reusable coffee cups for free, Starbucks incentivizes its customers to return all season long.

Put pep in their steps with staff incentives

Your restaurant staff has the power to make or break the customer experience. Offering special incentives for strong service during the holiday season can help your wait staff break out the good cheer. 

Have some holiday treats for wait staff to enjoy on their breaks. Consider offering small incentives, such as a free dessert, to the person with the most positive reviews each night. Also, consider offering paid time off during the holiday season so that wait staff can spend time with their loved ones. 

These small steps can go a long way toward brightening the smiles of your staff and improving the customer experience.

Design holiday desserts to go

Serving desserts is hard for restaurants. The profit margin on desserts is razor-thin. When customers extend their stay at a table to enjoy a dessert, it can reduce table turnovers and cost restaurants money.

Instead of cutting your losses, you can make this work in your favor by devising holiday-themed desserts that travel well and promoting your desserts on the go. This has several benefits, including: 

  • Increasing dessert purchases from customers who are full but might want something later
  • Encouraging customers to enjoy their desserts away from the table, improving your table turnover time
  • Allowing you to prep and wrap numerous desserts (like Santa cookies) ahead of time so that you don’t have to worry about them in the middle of the dinner rush
  • Encouraging take-out diners — who often spend more money than in-person diners — to order desserts with higher profit margins

Host ho-ho-happy hour events

Happy hour can be hugely profitable for restaurants, attracting new customers while encouraging customers to stay a bit longer and consume more food and drinks. 

The key to making happy hour profitable is to ensure you’re discounting foods with already-high profit margins so that you still profit on each item. You might offer seasonal drinks or specials at a discounted price during happy hour or have certain well-promoted happy hour events throughout the season. 

Take happy hour events to the next level with careful marketing strategies. Find a unique holiday email template to advertise your holiday happy hours or post about your drink specials on social media. 

Offer gift card promotions

Some of the best restaurant holiday promotions center around gift cards. 

Gift card sales more than double during the holiday season. So it makes sense to offer special promotions for customers just coming in to buy a gift card.

Promotion ideas include: 

  • Buy one, get one: Offer a gift card for a small amount of money with the purchase of a larger gift card. Customers will be happy to receive a $10 gift card from your restaurant but are likely to spend more than the gift card covers when they come in to use it. 
  • Coupon booklets: Offer a free coupon booklet with the purchase of a gift card. These coupons, from free desserts to a percentage off on their meals, will encourage gift card recipients to return to your restaurant long after using the card.
  • Charity donations: If you provide a small donation to a local charity with every gift card promotion above a certain amount, you may encourage shoppers to buy higher-priced gift cards while also showcasing the good you do in the community, which can help customers feel more attached to your restaurant. 

Partner with a local charity

The holidays are a season for giving. By partnering with a local charity, you can encourage more people to visit your restaurant while supporting your community. 

Partnering with a charity has several benefits for your restaurant. It can: 

  • Improve your restaurant’s image
  • Strengthen community involvement with your restaurant
  • Promote your restaurant
  • Draw in new customers and new staff members by aligning yourself with their views

There are several creative ways you can partner with charities. For example, you might close the restaurant to regular patrons for one night and serve alongside a charity instead. Or you might donate a portion of your profits on a given night during the holiday season. This is one of the most popular partnerships since the charity organization will be just as eager to promote the event as you are. Plus, you can draw in new customers.

Restaurant holiday promotion idea - partner with a local charity and create a fundraiser that also helps you decorate your restaurant
Onieals Restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey partners with a different charity each year. Patrons who choose to donate get to decorate a stocking, which hangs around the bar area for the rest of the season. This is a great way to combine a charity event with restaurant decor.

Host a holiday contest

Contests can bring people into your restaurant in droves. 

For example, you might host a holiday trivia night and give away a cooking class to the winning team. Or you might use social media platforms to promote online-only holiday contests for your restaurant. 

You could even have a drawing contest and use the winning drawing to decorate your holiday email template. This is a great way to boost holiday sales and increase newsletter sign-ups over the holiday season. 

Have gourmet gift boxes or other unique gifts for sale

Many patrons will enter your restaurant over the season looking for last-minute gift ideas, such as easy stocking stuffers or gift cards. You can help these patrons provide creative gifts while also boosting your bottom line if you have special holiday products available for sale. These products might include: 

  • A gourmet gift box including special foods that your restaurant is known for 
  • A recipe book with at-home versions of some of the most loved recipes from your establishment
  • A unique holiday mug with your restaurant’s logo on it
  • A cozy blanket in your restaurant’s colors

You could also include information about your restaurant’s loyalty program at the front of your restaurant or tuck loyalty cards into the gourmet gift boxes you sell. This can prompt customers to return to your restaurant long after the holiday season has ended. 

Share the cheer everywhere

If you’re already planning to go all out for the season, show off what you’re doing. Consider: 

  • Offering a behind-the-scenes look at how you decorate your restaurant for the season
  • Making how-to TikTok videos on creating special holiday drinks
  • Writing blog posts that share this year’s holiday theme or showcase holiday recipes
  • Sending holiday marketing emails that showcase your holiday specials and events
  • Creating unique holiday content on Instagram
Angus Barn goes all out with it's holiday decor and uses social media to help build the hype
Angus Barn has made headlines for its over-the-top holiday decor. Their Instagram account showcases this success with behind-the-scenes decorating videos, holiday quizzes, and more.

Sharing your restaurant holiday promotion ideas on social media gives credibility to the fact that your restaurant is going above and beyond for the season. Not only can you gain social media followers and boost online engagement, but you can also increase the chances that your target audience will think of your restaurant when deciding where to eat next. 

Go all out with restaurant holiday promotion

The holiday season can be a stressful time for restaurants. But if you go into the season with the right attitude, you can make it your most profitable — and fun — time of the year. 

As part of your restaurant holiday marketing, get started by choosing a theme for your restaurant this holiday season. Consider ways to bring that theme alive online and in person. By getting ahead of the season and finding creative ways to advertise your restaurant’s holiday promotion efforts, you can become the go-to destination for patrons in your town looking for fun ways to celebrate the season.

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