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Holidays are a busy time for restaurants. Festivities can bring more customers into your restaurant as they spend more time eating out with friends and family. Plus, with the regular lineup of Christmas parties, concerts and winter festivals, many people don’t have time to cook at home. It’s the perfect time to kick your promotional strategy into high gear. Holiday marketing campaigns capture the joy of the season and encourage your diners to indulge in a special meal.

10 holiday marketing ideas to attract more customers this season

When the end of the year rolls around, customers are looking for reasons to celebrate. It doesn’t take much to convince them to dine out — all you need to do is capture their attention with recognizable themes and colors. Not sure where to start? Fill your winter marketing calendar with these fun and festive ideas.

1. Create a holiday menu

A holiday menu gives your customers a chance to enjoy dishes that are hard to find the rest of the year. As you craft a seasonal menu, think about big, bold flavors and comforting ingredients. For entrees, consider holiday dishes that incorporate sweet potatoes, pumpkin, roast turkey, pasta or prime rib. Holiday appetizers might include rich offerings such as baked brie, soft pretzels and cheese, bacon-wrapped scallops or stuffed mushrooms.

As you plan desserts and cocktails, look to sweet winter treats such as peppermint, cranberries, gingerbread and sugar cookies. Diners can start the meal with a glass of mulled wine or spiked eggnog and finish it off with a peppermint milkshake or a piece of red velvet cheesecake. Don’t forget to add some mocktails to your menu so that everyone can get in on the festivities.

2. Run a holiday promotion

Showcase your holiday menu and appeal to diners’ budget-conscious side by hosting special promotions. Customers love to save money, especially after completing their holiday shopping lists and buying stocking stuffers. Fill your tables during the late afternoon and early evening with holiday happy hour deals; if you’re located in a busy retail area, this is an effective way to capture tired shoppers.

Other holiday promotions include:

  • Free dessert with the purchase of an entree
  • Holiday prix fixe menu that includes a drink, entree, and dessert
  • Special discount between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Free decorative cup with Christmas cocktails
  • Unique deals for each day of the week

When you’re marketing your holiday promotions, try to center them around your seasonal menu. This creates a sense of urgency among customers — they know these special meals and drinks won’t be around for long. You can do the same with your delivery menu by running promotions on Grubhub Marketplace.

3. Push a holiday social media campaign

Social media campaigns are the ideal way to reach more customers without adding extra work for you during the busy holiday season. You can create everything in advance and add it to your holiday content calendar. When the day arrives, simply hit the “post” button and get back to work. Some social media platforms, including Facebook, allow you to schedule posts that publish automatically.

What should you include in your holiday social media campaign? You can feature special holiday dishes, showcase beautiful Christmas cocktails and let guests know about seasonal specials. Each post should maintain your restaurant’s branding while incorporating festive colors and graphics. If your looking for more ways to celebrate winter, try centering a campaign around national food holidays. Post a photo of your delicious hot cocoa on National Cocoa Day (December 12) to encourage diners to celebrate at your restaurant.

4. Promote your restaurant gift cards

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, customers start looking for gift ideas. Position your restaurant as the perfect solution by highlighting your gift cards. Create holiday-themed signs and place them on your host stand, bar and individual tables so diners remember to grab one on their way out. You can also promote gift cards on your website, marketing emails, and social media profiles. Make sure to add a direct link to the ordering page.

To create an extra incentive to buy gift cards, offer a small discount code or a special gift with purchase. For example, if a customer buys a $100 gift card, you could give them $10 off their next food order. Sometimes, that small perk is all it takes to convince customers to buy. 

5. Update your website

Restaurant websites often see a spike in traffic during the holidays as customers look for gift cards and verify opening hours. Make sure visitors can find what they need by updating your hours, menu and other offerings. If you offer online ordering, ensure you have a direct link in a prominent location. To improve the customer experience, try Grubhub Direct. This service allows you to create a branded ordering site with zero commissions.

Keep in mind that your in-house diners can also get value from your website. Make it easy to find by creating a special QR code and placing it in locations around your restaurant. It gives customers something to look at while they’re waiting for a table or before their drinks arrive.

6. Create holiday meal kits

After weeks of office parties and family events, many people are too exhausted to cook. You can make their lives easier by offering holiday meal kits that include all the supplies for a multi-course meal. Customers can order the kit in advance and ensure their families are well-fed — without the need for extensive prep work.

Since meal kits have a preset menu, they can have big benefits for your restaurant. You can prepare the components in advance to streamline assembly and reduce labor costs. Plus, since you can buy ingredients in bulk, it’s easier to get discount prices. Diners get a budget-friendly group meal and you can add revenue without unreasonable workload increases.

7. Treat your loyal customers

Repeat customers are the cornerstone of any restaurant’s business. Show your loyal customers that they’re on your “nice list” with exclusive promotions. It’s a lovely way to show how much you appreciate their patronage, and it encourages them to come in for a meal. Customer appreciation is what can make diners really value your restaurant.

What’s the secret to a truly meaningful promotion? Go out of your way to make it special and unexpected. Provide them with a one-of-a-kind discount code, add a free dessert to a meal or give them a branded piece of merchandise. When you give the gift, stop by the table to say thank you, or send a handwritten note with a delivery order. This personal touch can leave a lasting impression and make the loyalty reward feel more meaningful.

8. Throw a holiday event

Give your diners a reason to visit your restaurant by throwing a holiday event. Make it something special, such as a taste-testing evening where participants try out Christmas menu items at a fixed price. Create a sense of ownership by asking for feedback about which dishes should make it to the final menu.

Other event ideas include:

  • Cooking classes featuring seasonal recipes
  • Cocktail workshop featuring your holiday drinks
  • Christmas afternoon tea for families with kids
  • Dinner and a Christmas movie night
  • Holiday-themed trivia evening
  • Charity event to raise money for a local cause

Plan your events well in advance so you have time to promote them on social media. You can also use menu inserts and delivery flyers to build excitement and interest.

9. Don’t forget the decorations

When diners walk into a restaurant that’s decorated for the holidays, they instantly feel cozy and festive — and they’re more likely to stick around for dessert and drinks. It doesn’t take much to transform your space. Start with twinkle lights or candles to create an inviting vibe; you can’t have too many. Then, swap out your standard centerpieces with holiday versions. Finally, decorate high-visibility spots such as the windows, host stand, and doors.

Complete the effect by playing holiday music softly in the background. You can mix holiday songs into your standard playlist for an effect that’s fun but not overwhelming.

10. Buckle down on delivery

Winter weather often causes a spike in delivery orders as customers may prefer to eat in the comfort of their own homes. Make sure your delivery menu is ready by updating it with your holiday dishes and drinks. That way, diners can enjoy a cheerful experience without the need to drive.

Prepare your team and your restaurant for the influx of orders by stocking up on ingredients. This is particularly important before New Year’s Eve, which is one of the most popular days of the year for delivery. To prepare your restaurant delivery for demanding ordering times, consider partnering with Grubhub. You won’t need to worry about coordinating with delivery drivers, and your customers will get their food on time.

Get into the holiday spirit with Grubhub

Holiday marketing can help your restaurant maximize revenue this Christmas season. By promoting your campaigns to both dine-in and delivery customers, you can boost participation. Make sure you’re ready for the increase in demand by signing up for Grubhub today.