With the holidays right around the corner, restaurant brands of all types and sizes are gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year. To help you maximize revenue, guest loyalty, and employee satisfaction this season, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of winning strategies—from menu optimization to ticketed events.
When creating your plan of attack, consider the time investment, resources, value-add, and potential ROI—short-term and long-term—for your specific brand.
1. Holiday Promotions
Get in the holiday spirit with an irresistible limited-time offer that motivates guests to take action. Fear of missing out (aka FOMO) can be a powerful tool.
Food For Thought: Give guests $20 off orders of $100+, free delivery with a purchase of $50+, or a free appetizer with their first online order.
Level Up: Generate excitement around the promotion on your brand’s social media channels via a holiday-themed countdown or photo contest that incentivizes participation and helps to grow your following.
Launch an omnichannel marketing campaign across email, SMS, social media, and digital ads to inform new and existing guests about your holiday offerings. This multi-platform approach will increase your brand’s reach and help you meet guests where they are.
Food For Thought: On Dec. 23, ask guests if they forgot someone on their list and need a last-minute gift. Use this opportunity to promote your best-selling cookie cake, gift card, merchandise, etc.
Level Up: Leverage your restaurant CRM to segment guests—high-LTV, big spenders, churn risks, online orderers, etc.—and then personalize communications based on their order history and preferences. A tailored message, served at the optimal time, on a guest’s preferred channel is a recipe for marketing success.
3. Restaurant Gift Cards
Gift cards have been a staple in the restaurant marketing playbook for years, but demand has never been higher. According to research conducted by the National Restaurant Association in 2021, “62% of consumers hope to receive a restaurant gift card for the holidays.”
Food For Thought: Give guests the choice of purchasing a physical gift card that can be sent by mail or a digital gift card that can be sent electronically.
Level Up: Offer a “Give a gift, get a gift” deal to incentivize gift card purchases (e.g. Earn a $10 bonus coupon for every $50 spent on gift cards).
4. Retail Items
Retail can serve as an additional revenue stream, advertising vehicle, and method of strengthening guest loyalty during the holidays and year-round.
Food For Thought: Restaurant regulars go wild for branded merchandise like BBQ sauce, T-shirts, and tote bags. Not to mention, they pair well with restaurant gift cards. Put them front and center in your restaurant, on the website, and on social media.
Level Up: A wine or beer club with membership perks like exclusive events, discounts on food, and priority seating can provide a predictable revenue stream for restaurants. Plus, subscriptions make great gifts at any time of year.
Restaurant brands can put a festive spin on their menu with holiday meal kits, family bundles, and/or seasonal items such as hot drinks and other cold-weather favorites.
Food For Thought: Alleviate the stress of cooking for a crowd with “Thanksgiving-to-go” or appeal to your guests’ nostalgia (and tastebuds) with LTOs like hot toddies or pecan pie.
Level Up: Full-service restaurants can offer an exclusive, holiday prix fixe menu for guests that want an elevated dining experience.
6. Online Ordering
Given how busy we all are during the holidays, online ordering is a no-brainer for maximizing revenue. Just be sure your digital order management solution can keep up. The right system will enhance front-of-house operations, streamline the order flow, and provide capacity management tools (e.g. throttling, item availability customization, lead time extension, etc.), so your team feels supported and can focus on guests.
Food For Thought: Encourage guests to order holiday favorites like honey-baked ham in advance. Then, recommend menu items that pair well or irresistible add-ons to upsell during checkout and increase average check.
Level Up: Provide a suggested tip during checkout to ensure team members get an extra boost during the holidays.
7. Multiple Handoff Modes
Consumer demand for convenience is at an all-time high during the holidays. Restaurant brands can ensure that every guest has access to their preferred method of ordering by enabling multiple handoff modes, including curbside pickup, delivery, and dine-in.
Food For Thought: According to Olo data, brands that enable four or more handoff modes typically see their conversion rate increase by at least 12%.
Level Up: By integrating third-party delivery couriers to your native online orders, you can grow guest loyalty while opening new revenue channels through a direct digital experience.
Holiday parties present a valuable opportunity to boost restaurant revenue via catering. With many businesses and families gathering to celebrate, brands should consider offering holiday packages for pre-order that meet the needs of guests and also increase brand awareness.
Food For Thought: Promote your Christmas feast or taco party pack—complete with utensils, napkins, plates, reheating instructions, etc.—on your website, social media channels, and digital ads.
Level Up: Create a catering-focused marketing campaign, including email, SMS, and/or digital ads, specifically targeting guests that have placed large orders in the past.
Reservations play an important role during the holiday season when demand for dine-in soars due to cold weather and the desire to celebrate with loved ones. They can be a source of stress relief for guests who want to plan for an occasion and make guests feel special by eliminating the wait. On the flip side, reservations enable restaurant staff to better prepare for busy shifts and large parties.
Food For Thought: Boost reservations by enabling guests to book from any platform—your website, app, Google Business Profile, social media channels, and beyond.
Level Up: Paid reservations or prepaid bookings are proven to drive down no-shows. Consider introducing a nominal, nonrefundable reservation fee to improve guest show rates and generate revenue.
10. Ticketed Events
Build a community around your brand and maximize revenue at the same time by hosting holiday-themed ticketed events at your restaurant. These events can appear right alongside your regular reservations, piquing interest among repeat and new guests.
Food For Thought: Host an Ugly Sweater Party, Friendsgiving, or a cooking class geared toward achieving guests’ New Year’s Resolutions, and promote the event(s) across your marketing channels.
Level Up: Use your table management solution to create customized floor plans and table assignments before the event, and be sure to accept payments ahead of time to take the guesswork out of your guest list and drive down no-shows.
11. QR Code Ordering
QR code ordering can boost revenue by enabling guests to access the restaurant menu, order, and pay, all from their own mobile devices while sitting at a table. When guests order from a digital interface—without having to stand in line, wait for a server, or stress about indulging in add-ons—check averages and tip income increase.
Food For Thought: To encourage adoption, display eye-catching signage in the restaurant with straightforward instructions for how to order and pay at the table, and designate a team member to assist guests if they need help.
Level Up: Incentivize guests to use QR code ordering during the winter months with targeted marketing campaigns that feature a special holiday deal (e.g. Free dessert with your first QR code order).
12. Outdoor Dining
To extend the outdoor dining season and maintain a steady flow of revenue in winter, restaurants should think creatively about their physical space and offerings. Outdoor heaters, branded blankets, a thoughtful menu featuring warm drinks and hearty fare, and a little bit of ambiance (bistro lights, anyone?) can transform any restaurant patio into a culinary destination.
Food For Thought: Promote an outdoor Winter Ale tasting or turn the parking lot into a drive-in theater with a family-friendly menu.
Level Up: Add a fire pit or an Instagram-worthy backdrop—think flower wall, large mural, patterned wallpaper, or a neon sign—to attract guests and generate buzz on social media.
13. Make Every Guest Feel Like a Regular
A lesser-known but highly effective way to boost restaurant profit year-round, but especially during the holidays, is by personalizing the guest experience. Brands can thoughtfully tailor every guest interaction, whether dine-in or takeout—no matter which team members are on duty—with an integrated tech stack that ties order history and other guest details in the CRM to the waitlist, reservations, order, and table management solution. In other words, make every guest feel like a regular.
Food For Thought: Alert managers about which table touches to prioritize during a busy shift or have a regular’s favorite drink prepared upon arrival.
Level Up: Send a targeted and timely SMS message to guests featuring an image of your new candy cane milkshake (or another seasonal menu item) that feels like it’s coming from a friend.
Contact us to discover more ways to maximize restaurant revenue during the holidays and year-round.
Photo Credit: Emilie Farris from Unsplash