Yes, you read that correctly. We’re approaching Labor Day weekend, in the midst of back to school, and most restaurants are already planning for the holidays. In fact, if you haven’t already given it some thought you’re likely behind. Consumer magazine features were written and “put to bed” a couple months ago. But many companies work against tighter time frames, so we offer these suggestions to get the thought process started for the holidays…and the January slump.
There are so many different things you could do to increase revenue during the holiday season. But it’s important to figure out what will work best for you and your organization. If you take a few minutes to answer these questions, you’ll get started on the right track. And you can also evaluate everyone’s ideas against the answers too. It will prevent you from adding too much to the plate.
What are your goals for the season? How will you determine success?
Who are your customers and what do they want?
Then, take a look at what sets you apart from your competition, and what you’re good at because that’s where you should focus. Since first impressions mean so much the holidays are not the time to create new business offerings or expand your business. Focus instead on enhancing your strengths and marketing some opportunities in your community.
‘Tis the Season to Give Back
The holidays are also a good time to show your support for your community. Lots of organizations are having food and gift drives though so make it simple. Support an existing community effort by being a drop-off point for food and gifts, put up a giving tree, or even send your staff out to deliver meals to those in need.
There are a wide range of special menu options restaurants could offer during the holiday. With the trend toward eating at home, even if the food isn’t cooked there, consider how you could support that movement. This offers an opportunity to expand sales for special holiday meals beyond eat-in opportunities, making sure to remember to take care of those who’ve made reservations. Consider:
Holiday meal kits
Completely cooked meal
Special meals for brunch and dinner
Party in a box -- as a meal kit or completely cooked
Decorate to Celebrate
If it fits with the goals and plans you created earlier, think about having special appearances during the holidays from Santa or community influencers who can bring people into your restaurant. Offer noisemakers, Santa hats, candy canes or other small gifts to the first customers in the door. And, don’t forget to transform what loyal customers see every day into a winter wonderland that will bring them back time and again. For more than 35 years a hotel in Anchorage has created a gingerbread village in their lobby. Visiting it and having a meal in a restaurant have become annual traditional for residents.
Because of the recent explosion in online shopping, retailers could use your help just getting customers in their doors. So, consider teaming up with nearby stores to bring shoppers into both locations. You both win in situations like this.
Free/reduced price drink for those who purchased at the store
Offer a drink special named for the retail location
Shopping break menu or appetizers to help shoppers take a break
Many communities work together to create special shopping nights. While these events focus on shopping and not eating, many groups will shop together followed by drink and a meal. Take advantage of that by offering a good option to them.
Consider an invitation-only evening at your restaurant that’s also a shopping event. Bring your most valued customers in to the restaurant for a special menu and shopping with local artisans whose work you admire, and who also have an invitation list you can use. Or, take your food to a local gallery that will feature your organization at its own shopper’s night.
Card, Cards and More Cards
Obviously, gift cards are a relatively low cost and easy way to promote your restaurant and increase sales during the holidays. Package yours in a way that makes them stand out from others, and so the purchaser doesn’t have to package things anymore. Be sure your brand is prominent.
Some still send printed holiday cards so see if that’s another way to grow your relationships with key, loyal customers. But, weigh the cost of those against the benefit since it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd. Maybe send them in January.
Whatever you mail or email, make sure it’s designed to dominate. Use size, graphics or other tools to make sure your message stands out from the hundreds of other messages we get each day. Also, target your messages to the appropriate customer segments. It might take more time to do this but, done correctly, the benefits are good.
Whatever you do…communicate about it
If you create a plan, decide what you’re going to do you have to remember to communicate about it. Think about how you can get the word out about your plan, again without having a tremendous impact on the regular work you’re doing. Some thoughts:
Radio appearances – can you deliver holiday goodies to radio DJs who’ll talk about what you’re doing?
Use your social media channels to promote what you’re doing using compelling graphics
Use your most valuable customers to spread the word to their friends. Personal recommendations are critical today.
Market your messages to repeat and regular customers
Use membership benefits from business groups like your local Chamber
Don’t forget your loyalty program members
If you need help, reach out to us or a local public relations professional. You need to run your business and we’re the experts in public relations. We should both stick with what we know best.
Most of all, happy holidays. And don’t forget to relax with family, friends and co-workers.