Heat up your holiday sales with these restaurant marketing tips

8 min read
Rebecca Coleman

The holidays are upon us! And while many restaurants get an uptick in sales from Christmas and New Year’s parties, there are lots of things you can be doing this time of the year to market your restaurant to everyday customers. But don't worry — restaurant marketing doesn’t need to be expensive or complex.

You need just a little creativity and a plan.

Here are some hot tips to help market your restaurant heading into the holiday season.

Editor’s note: No website? Now’s the time to get one, with everyone and their brother going online to order food online. Get one up quickly with GoDaddy’s easy site builder tool (truly, no tech skills needed).

1.   It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (and New Year’s!)

Our first restaurant marketing tip is obvious — deck your halls!

Person holding a Christmas wreath

Decorate your restaurant for the holidays with a seasonal tree, lights, fir swags — even window decorations to draw in your customers. Make your space feel warm and cozy with tablecloths, centrepieces and candles.

Play Christmas music on your restaurant’s sound system, or go one step further and hire a live musician to really make things special for your guests.

Play a classic, holiday-themed movie on your screens. Setting the stage goes a long way towards creating a memorable experience.

2.   Create special holiday-themed food and drink menu items

Create a special themed holiday drink that will keep your guests coming back year after year.

Although it’s now closed, YEW at the Four Seasons in Vancouver famously served “Cogg Nog” in a moose-shaped glass. It was widely lauded as the best thing about the holiday season in that city.

They also had a stollen that was the stuff of legends; fans were eager to get their yearly loaf.

Your special menu item can be a cocktail, a baked good or dessert — or even an entire meal.

3.   Get it to go

With the pandemic and smaller numbers for holiday gatherings still advised, many customers are opting not to go to restaurants for their holiday staff parties or family gatherings.

Instead, they are hosting a smaller group at home, or doing Zoom parties. In this case each person gets a package ahead of the party, and then they participate together, virtually.

So another no-fail restaurant marketing tip is to offer a full holiday dinner with all the trimmings, fully prepared and delivered ahead of Christmas for family gatherings.

Want something that requires a little less effort? You could create:

  • Cocktail kits
  • Wine-and-cheese pairings
  • Charcuterie

You could even offer your own gingerbread house or cookie kit for corporate virtual parties.

4.   Offer gift cards for easy holiday gifting 

Gift cards to your favourite restaurant make great gifts for Christmas, so be sure that you have them as an option.

You can even offer incentives for buying gift cards.

For example, if someone buys a $50 gift card, they get an additional $10 gift card for themselves or to add on to their gift.

To go the extra mile, you can create holiday-themed gift cards or sleeves to present them in.

5.   Invite your customers to get into the spirit

During the holidays, there is a great deal of awareness around the plight of those less fortunate, and you can help do something about that. Raise money for your local homeless shelter or a charity of your choice.

A few ideas:

  • Donate the proceeds of sales from a specific menu item, or create a matching program where, for each dollar raised, you match it.
  • Become an official drop-off location for the local food bank, and offer an incentive for doing so, like a free coffee or pastry. Alternately, start a toy, sock, blanket, or jacket drive.
  • Invite them to go with you to hand out bag lunches or toiletries and supplies to your local homeless population, or to help serve at your local shelter or soup kitchen.
  • “Adopt” a family in need and fundraise to supply them with everything they need for Christmas.

The idea is to give your customers an opportunity to contribute and pitch in.

6.   Make your space Instagrammable

Everyone, whether they are an influencer or not, loves to get cute photos for the ‘gram. At Christmas, we love to post photos of us dressed up and with our family and friends and co-workers.

If you have room, set up a corner of your restaurant as a photo booth.

Furnish it with fun props and a festive background and even lighting for people to take holiday photos in. Then be sure to post signage asking them to tag you in the post or give them a unique hashtag to use.

Related: How to manage a business Instagram

7.   Treat your regulars

So often, when it comes to restaurant marketing, we focus on bringing in new patrons.

Don’t take for granted your regular clientele.

A hand-written holiday card that thanks them for their business is a great way to thank them for their business during the past year. You might include an offer of say, a free dessert, appetizer, or a bottle of wine.

Bake some holiday cookies to surprise guests with when you deliver their bill.

Don’t forget: gaining one new customer costs more than reattaining a current customer. So be sure to not overlook them and make it clear to them you appreciate them.

Maximize your efforts by promoting them online

No matter what you do to market your restaurant during the holidays, be sure to amplify your efforts by promoting them online.

This can include:

Sending a virtual Christmas Card to your email list. If you don’t yet have one, add a sign up form to your GoDaddy website and begin to build your list. You can even create separate lists.

For example, you can put regulars and VIPs onto different lists, and send them a different email (with a bonus based on their value to the restaurant).

Dressing up your website with holiday colours and advertise your promotions there.

Creating scroll-stopping images for your holiday promotions or charity drives using this easy graphics tool. There are lots of free templates you can use for the holidays, and even m

Happy holidays restaurant marketing card

ore are available with a pro subscription. Post these on your website, include them in your emails and share them on your social media.

Related: Kill it on social with GoDaddy Studio

Host a virtual class with your chef or bartender. Do a livestream with your chef or bartender teaching your audience a simple Christmas cookie or cocktail recipe. This restaurant marketing effort doesn’t need to be complicated. Just be sure to advertise it widely in advance so patrons can tune in.

Invite an influencer in to experience your holiday meal or special holiday drink/dessert. Just be sure to invite them early in the season (maybe even before it is available to the public) so that they can promote it to their followers.

Related: Influencer marketing on a shoestring

Holiday contests. Announce a social media contest and have the prize be a gift card.

Have people take photos and post them online, tagging you and using a hashtag you provide, with the best photo winning the gift card.

This can be either photos from your restaurant of your dishes or it could be the best “fill in the blank.” Ideas include: ugly Christmas sweater, pet photo, most beautiful tree, etc…

Create and post social media content that will get clicks, likes and shares.

Using GoDaddy Studio, you can share click-worthy social media posts like:

  • How to make Christmas decorations or gifts
  • Recipes for eggnog, Christmas cookies, etc.
  • Fun ideas for Christmas or New Years’ parties
  • Gift ideas for specific people (e.g. The vegan in your life, the wine lover, etc)
  • Safety tips (what Christmas plants are toxic to pets)
  • Christmas or New Years’ playlist (create your own on Spotify and share the link)
  • Share a list of classic Christmas movies to watch with friends or family
  • 12 days of Christmas-themed posts — choose a theme and then post for 12 days
  • Fun holiday memes and jokes

Turn up the heat on your restaurant marketing

While many restaurants tend to see a surge in business during the holiday season, there are many creative ideas that you can use to increase traffic (in person or carry out) to your restaurant.

The holidays give you license to use your imagination and try any crazy idea (like egg nog served in a moose-shaped glass!).

After the last two years, people are looking for reasons to celebrate.

So give it to them in the form of restaurant marketing ideas that put them in the mood to eat, drink and be merry.