With the first cold snap of the year rolling through and pumpkin spice making its debut at every storefront, many diners are getting ready to cozy up with some of their favorite holiday cravings.
At the same time, the final months of the year and a new season often bring change and challenges for restaurant operators, from colder weather forcing operational shifts to spikes and dips in reservations and demand. Yet, with the right preparation, restaurants can effectively navigate the months ahead—keeping guests informed and enticing customers, both old and new, through the door.
Here are 5 tips to help you get your restaurant ready for the holidays.
Start your holiday planning efforts early
It’s no secret that your customers are already thinking about their plans for the holiday season. These next few months are jam-packed with national and federal holidays, days of celebration, and professional and collegiate sporting events. From micro holidays like National Noodle Day [10/6/22] to football games, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s, the holiday season serves up loads of revenue driving opportunities for your business.
Take Small Business Saturday, for example; this American shopping holiday takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving and encourages consumers to shop and dine locally, supporting independent retailers and restaurants within their communities. In the fall of 2020, 54% of consumers reported that they dined with local restaurants or ordered takeout on Small Business Saturday.
Start thinking about the formal and informal holidays that make sense for your brand and business (check out this site for inspiration). Once you nail down your calendar, you can begin creating special offers, events, and marketing campaigns that tie into those seasonal holidays and activities.
Create cravings with seasonal dishes
Each year when the holiday season rolls around, customer cravings for comfort foods and flavors like pumpkin spice, cinnamon, sweet potato, and bourbon hit all-time highs. It’s the perfect opportunity for restaurants, bars, and cafes to get creative with new, limited-time menu items.
Mason’s Grill & Smokehouse, a family-owned restaurant in Virginia and Popmenu client since early 2022, is known for their special holiday meals.
Last year, the restaurant sent 3 unique emails to their 361 followers, informing them about new holiday menu offerings like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. The emails averaged 41.6% open rate and 3.2% click rate – 1.7x higher than industry averages.
PopTip! Mason’s Grill & Smokehouse partners with the Popmenu Boost team to build and execute a marketing strategy around the holiday season—utilizing included email tools to spread the word about limited-time offerings to new and returning guests.
Drive interest (and additional revenue!) with special offers
In addition to limited-time flavors, limited-time offers (LTOs) are also great for guests and restaurateurs alike. In fact, a 2022 Popmenu survey found that 35% of consumers said special promotions are one of the top reasons they choose a restaurant. So, be sure to share special offers via email, social media, and SMS this season to drive more revenue on your slower days. Not sure where to start? Below we’ve outlined a few marketing and offer ideas to inspire you this holiday season:
- Game Day take-home tailgates
Autumn in the U.S. means weekends filled with football. Create game day meal packages that can be ordered in advance and picked up and promote your restaurant’s menu during some of the season’s biggest game days.
- Thanksgiving to-go meals
Tons of restaurants offer dinner service and/or special menus for takeout and delivery around Thanksgiving. Whether you’re offering pre-made meals or hosting a special holiday dinner service, you can open a new revenue stream throughout the holiday season by providing seasonal dining options for guests. Popmenu client, Winking Lizard Tavern earned $20k in one day during their 2021 Thanksgiving ordering event.
- Partner or community events
Give your customers the opportunity to cozy up this fall by hosting special dinners with local partners—like a dinner centered around ingredients sourced from a local farm, or a wine pairing dinner for a local distributor or vineyard. In partnering with your local community for dining events, you create more awareness for your business, and support other small businesses, too. It’s a win-win!
- Staff appreciation “events”
We’re approaching the season of giving thanks. Take a moment to highlight the smiles behind the service this season! Create a campaign that celebrates and thanks your FOH and BOH teams. Call out different staff members on social media or encourage guests to engage with your restaurant online by telling a great story of service—you can incentivize them to participate by giving a free gift card or a ticket to an upcoming event for the best story or post.
PopTip! With Popmenu, you can create custom ordering events that highlight special menus and generate more revenue opportunities for your restaurant! The best part? With the ability to limit the number of orders that can be placed, pre-set cutoff dates and times, and an ability to collect payment ahead of pick-up times, ordering events integrate right into your existing operations so there’s no need to worry about stretching your staff.
Promote online ordering as the weather cools down
Depending on where your restaurant is located, fall weather may drop temperatures or heavy snow and other challenges that keep guests indoors. If your guests are going to be dining more at home this fall due to weather changes, having a solid online ordering presence is a must. By offering takeout and delivery options, you’ll make it easy for guests to continue to enjoy your food from the comfort of their couch and the warmth of their home.
That said, those warmer weather restaurants shouldn’t sleep on online ordering solutions either. A 2022 Popmenu survey found that 63% of diners order takeout at least twice a week. Offering delivery and pick-up alternatives for guests through online ordering will allow you to generate more sales and serve more guests outside the walls of your restaurant.
PopTip! Keeping direct ordering on your website helps reduce revenue lost to third-party ordering commissions!
Keep your guests informed all season long
There are many of ways to keep guests updated on seasonal changes and special offerings for your restaurant this fall and winter. Consider these channels for keeping your guests informed.
- Google Business Profile
Google is where it all starts. If your patio is closing for the season, update your Google Business Profile service options, and make sure your restaurant’s hours reflect your current or changing operations. Include information like new blogs and events and add any online ordering options and links to your profile. So, your customers always know where, when, and how they can dine with you.
After Google, the next place guests find info about your restaurant is through your website. Ensure your menus are updated with seasonal dishes and clearly emphasize links to revenue drivers like reservations and online ordering. Use marketing tools like website announcements to advertise and encourage bookings for holiday parties and other special events hosted throughout the season.
- Email Campaigns
Email is an incredibly effective way to connect with your guests and keep them in the loop with all the happenings at your restaurant. Create custom email campaigns detailing your seasonal offerings and remind guests how they can dine-in or order takeout from your restaurant. You can also include special offers to drive additional revenue through the door!
- SMS Marketing
Snowed in and need to update your guests about today’s closure? Final day for customers to order your special Thanksgiving meal before the holiday? Text message marketing is one of the quickest ways to keep your guests informed of key updates. In fact, 95% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes of being received.
- Social Media
Sharing your seasonal specials, limited-time offers, and upcoming events on social media is a great way to keep your restaurant top-of-mind. By promoting your crave-worthy menu items across socials, you’ll encourage guests to interact with your restaurant and inspire them to try your newest dishes. And don’t forget to update your social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) with vital updates to operations, too!
Although the holiday season brings the busiest time for restaurants, there are a number ways you can prepare your restaurant to make the most of the season—engaging guests, maintaining operational efficiency, and driving additional revenue.