11 marketing tips for a great holiday

Holidays reliably bring a rush of people to restaurants. Everyone wants to celebrate a special day in a fun, festive atmosphere. It’s a big opportunity to welcome regulars back and attract new guests—capturing demand is the name of the game. Here’s how to maximize marketing efforts, raise your profile, and make any holiday a blockbuster day for business.

1. Add services

Even if you don’t typically do brunch, adding it around a holiday can bring in additional guests. There’s no need to stick to the usual eggs-benedict-and-waffles menu. Afternoon tea has become an increasingly popular option for guests who want a shorter, potentially less expensive meal. It’s also a great way to add a new service, and therefore a new revenue opportunity, on already popular days. Get creative with the menu, and of course, make sure to promote it on your restaurant’s website and social media well in advance, so people know what you’re offering.

2. Get family-friendly

Almost all holidays are family events—sometimes extended families. If your restaurant is a great place for diners of all ages, spread the word. Use social media channels to let potential guests know they’ll find booster seats and kid-friendly menu items ready and waiting for them.

3. Decorate

If the dining room looks especially fun and festive, guests will handle some of the holiday marketing themselves. They’ll encourage others to visit through word-of-mouth marketing. Put some thought into photogenic, seasonal decor that will have diners snapping pics they can’t wait to share online. Their friends just may make a reservation to come see for themselves. No one wants to miss a great Instagram opportunity.

4. Book live music

Nothing enhances ambiance like a band. If space and budget permit, bring in a guitarist, jazz band, or pianist to liven things up. Not only will the promise of entertainment entice people to visit, it will give you something to advertise in advance. Bonus: the band may share information about their upcoming gig via their own social channels, website, or email newsletter, potentially bringing in a totally new audience. One caveat: Just be sure that the noise levels aren’t too loud, particularly for older customers.

5. Partner with other businesses

Is there a gallery, book store, gift shop, or jewelry store in the neighborhood? Ask if they’d be interested in going in on a package that includes, say, a meal and some special discount or bonus that you can then use to promote each other’s businesses. Plus, it’ll give booking at your restaurant that extra selling point.

6. Run an Instagram promotion

Everyone’s Instagramming their holiday celebrations anyway, so why not use this as a marketing tool? Encourage diners to post a picture of their meal on Instagram and tag the restaurant for a chance to win prizes, like a free drink or dessert next time they dine.

7. Create holiday experiences

A lot of restaurants do prix fixe meals for holiday brunches or dinners, but what about doing smaller scale prix fixes, like a wine and cheese tasting, or a chocolate tasting? Setting it up and taking reservations or selling tickets is easy with OpenTable experiences. It’s yet another way to get creative with people who don’t want to do a big, elaborate meal, but still want to do something special to celebrate.

8. Post menus online

Today, people are searching for places to eat and certain menu items before even leaving their couch. These researchers want accurate, detailed information at their fingertips immediately. This goes double for special occasions when the stakes are high. An OpenTable survey concluded that 93% of people view menus online before dining out. And 49% of people perform local searches without a specific place in mind. Having menus posted online can help those people decide to celebrate a holiday with you.

9. Consider major holidays

You may not think a holiday as big and home-oriented as Thanksgiving would be big for restaurants, but it can be. Restaurants that stay open see a high volume of bookings on OpenTable for Thanksgiving Day. To capture that demand, it’s critical to get the word out in advance that you’ll be open. Many people assume most restaurants are closed on major holidays. Making an announcement that the restaurant will start taking reservations four weeks out is a good rule of thumb. You’ll also want to start publicizing the holiday menu as soon as it’s ready.

10. Send some emails

Email marketing provides a great opportunity to capitalize on the extra interest in dining out that comes with a holiday. In other words, being able to send good emails to customers can be the difference between a great holiday and an exceptional holiday, sales-wise.

With relationship management tools with custom, automated emails, you can reach out in advance to share holiday happenings, like live music or a special menu. Just remember: Email is not just for shooting out offer after offer. Consider creating a digital greeting card with photos, highlights from the year, or just a simple “thanks for being our customer!” message. These will go a long way in building loyalty and in keeping people on your email list.

11. Promote gift cards

When people aren’t dining at restaurants around a holiday, they’re likely shopping for gifts. Don’t miss the opportunity to remind them about gift cards as part of any holiday marketing efforts. Spread the word on social media and via your email list. A well-placed notice in the restaurant, at the bottom of the menu, or on the guest receipt can give people a great gift idea when they need it most.

Each one of these tips contains ideas for something to promote, whether it’s through your own channels, via partners you’ve teamed up with, or to the local media. Holidays are the perfect reason to get more people talking about your restaurant and ultimately filling the place with returning regulars and new guests alike.