Restaurant Marketing Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas

Christmas marketing isn’t limited to just the immediate holiday but includes your winter menu changes, catering services, increased promotions of cookies, cakes, pies, pastries and side dishes for holiday meals, holiday party bookings and gift card sales. You have a great opportunity to attract new customers, show your chef’s skills in preparing holiday favorites and exotic foods from other countries and cultures and host special tasting events that attract convivial crowds.

12 Christmas Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

As the song goes, special gifts for the 12 days of Christmas include wildly exotic gifts, homespun treasures and a partridge in a pear tree. Christmas marketing ideas for restaurants can follow a similar template for 12 restaurant marketing ideas.

  1. Offer a Set Menu for a Special Price
    Hosting a prix fixe meal during the holiday season is a great way to encourage customers to try your complete meals from appetizers and soups to luscious desserts. The special can run for the month of December or for as many days as you choose.
  2. Two-for-One Meal Promotions
    Often underutilized by restaurants but very effective ways to promote in-house dining with friends, bounceback two-for-one incentives encourage people to bring guests and larger groups to your restaurant during the holiday season. This marketing idea is particularly effective when offered to lunch diners who often eat alone or have never visited the restaurant in the evenings.
  3. Three-Course Special
    Offering a three-course special in December is a powerful inducement when diners can choose from several appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts. The power of holiday marketing is that you don’t have to offer a big price discount to get customers to order a three-course special because you can promote the special as a perk that’s just available for the holidays. Few customers will actually average the prices of each course to see how much they’re saving.
  4. Four Ways to Market Gift Cards
    Gift cards can extend your holiday sales bonanza into the new year and encourage recipients to bring friends, family members and workplace associates with them because people seldom want to dine alone. You can market your gift cards in the following ways:

    • Start Early
      Set up a display in the front of the restaurant or at the cash register to promote gift card sales. You can include attractive packaging for the card that makes it a suitable gift for putting under the tree. Another alternative is to include a greeting card.
    • Provide Giveaway Gift Cards
      Give small denomination gift cards as marketing incentives during the holidays. Customers will get the idea that gift cards hold value and make good gifts for casual or restaurant acquaintances and fellow diners. You should also promote the gift cards through your website, social pages, in-house marketing and traditional advertising.
    • Promotional Video
      Filming a promotional video is a clever way to market your holiday events, seasonal menu and gift card sales. Film your chef preparing traditional holiday foods or special menu items that you’re going to serve. Post the video online at YouTube, on your website and on other social platforms to encourage holiday bookings and direct gift card sales. Include a link to the video in any emails and customer correspondence.
    • Gift-Giver Incentives
      Provide your gift card buyers with incentives for purchasing higher denominations. For example, you might offer a free $20 gift card for the buyer for each boxed or mailed gift card or gift cards totaling $100 or more. (Using this language will prevent customers from stocking up on gift cards to save money on their regular meals at the restaurant.)
  5. Five Golden Events
    December is an ideal month to promote special events at your restaurant and attract new customers. Try to come up with at least five special holiday events in December. These gold-generating events might include:

    • Hosting a party at the restaurant for your customers
    • Holding a contest for the best holiday or winter photo, original work of art, festive recipe or children’s essay competition
    • Providing special meals, treats, boxed dinners, children’s favors, holiday merchandise and other incentives
    • Extending business hours for holiday shoppers or providing special holiday services, such as children’s story times or holiday cooking classes for adults or children or cake-decorating tips
    • Organizing entertainment, live music, dances or a singles or couples event

    Contest prizes might be catered holiday meals with all the trimmings, gift certificates or holiday platters of hors d’oeuvres or tempting desserts. If your city sponsors a holiday parade or Dickens-type Christmas festival, you can provide special dining incentives, decorations or other in-house dining incentives for family shoppers, such as warming soups, signature coffee and tea beverages and hot chocolate for kids.

  6. Six Holiday Meals Earn a Bonus
    You can easily get regular customers to increase their patronage during the busy holiday season when people eat out often. Offer a loyalty incentive exclusively for the month of December, such as getting a free meal with each half-dozen paid meals. These incentives can accrue consecutively or apply immediately for large groups.
  7. Lucky-Seven Charity Event
    Holidays get people thinking about charities and the less fortunate, so you can get big promotional benefits by hosting a fundraiser, providing food for needy families, giving a percentage of sales to charity or encouraging customers to donate to worthy causes. You could host a gambling event to raise money for charity, auction off goods or dates with local eligible celebrities or just donate a specified percentage of gross sales or for certain menu items or holiday specials
  8. Provide Meals to 8 Percent of America’s Diners on Christmas Day
    According to the National Restaurant Association, 8 percent of people are willing to eat at restaurants on Christmas Day. Your restaurant could easily earn record-breaking profits by offering a traditional or elegant holiday menu, Christmas brunch, dinner buffet or full-service dining from the regular menu. The 8 percent of people looking for dining venues include your competitors’ customers and people who have never tried your restaurant, and serving Christmas meals is an excellent strategy for attracting new diners. By the way, don’t forget Christmas Eve, when one in 10 people go out to dinner.
  9. Nine Decorating Ideas
    Holiday decorating ideas include everything from winter landscapes to religious symbols, but most restaurants prefer to use décor that’s not religious to avoid offending people of other faiths than Christianity. Nine holiday decorating ideas for the Christmas season include:

    • Dressing the staff in red and white colors
    • Trimming a live or artificial tree with lights, presents and decorative accents
    • Adding silver, gold, green, red or white accents to tables
    • Transforming the dining room into a winter wonderland or Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole
    • Hanging holly, mistletoe and decorative wreaths
    • Printing special holiday scenes, promotional-event notices or seasonal messages on carryout containers
    • Painting your windows with holiday scenes
    • Dressing the restaurant’s team leaders or shift managers in Santa costumes or Santa hats
    • Hanging Christmas cards from customers, well-wishers and vendors where people can view them
  10. Book 10 Meals, and the 11th Diner Eats Free
    December affords tremendous opportunities to book Christmas parties, large family gatherings, office parties and group events. You can target business groups, local factories, office buildings and medical offices with holiday incentives, such as providing a free meal for every 10 paid bookings. For larger groups and holiday parties, it’s effective to set time limits for receiving these booking incentives, and asking for a nonrefundable deposit is acceptable for holiday bookings (which helps to prevent no-shows and cancellations)
  11. Begin Multichannel Promotions by the 11th Day of the 11th Month
    Regardless of which marketing ideas you choose, it’s best to start promoting early. You should begin actively promoting your holiday initiatives by Veterans Day at the latest. The Armistice and Armed Services holiday allows you to attract a patriotic audience to kick-off your holiday marketing ideas. People begin planning holidays early, so it’s important to remind them when they first begin thinking about their holiday plans. Promote your ideas through in-house signage, website copy, content on your social media pages, press releases, traditional advertising and even guerrilla marketing, such as decorating a local eyesore with festive holiday decorations or putting reindeer-hoofprint graffiti in unusual places.
  12. Selling Pastries by the Dozen
    The holidays are great times to gear up for bakery sales of pies, cookies, candies, pralines, chocolate éclairs, brownies, blondies, cupcakes, muffins, cheese straws and pastries. You can sell these products by the dozen in attractive gift baskets and boxes to ignite holiday sales. You can even offer mailing service for out-of-town customers or charge for deliveries of holiday food gifts within certain mileage limits.

Promoting Your Brand During the Holidays

Bounceback offers, introducing winter menus, previewing promotions for the new year and fostering feelings of warmth and nostalgia are some of the goals of Christmas marketing for restaurants. However, to run a successful promotion, you’ll need to research your customers’ preferences, offer discounts to promote early bookings, decorate your restaurant in a timely manner, promote your events through multiple marketing channels and prepare your staff to deal with increased business, extended working hours, suggestive selling and meeting high standards of customer service.

Using any opportunity to promote the holiday season, engage customers and generate loyalty is important in today’s competitive mobile and digital marketing landscape. During this time of year, people willingly spend more money to celebrate with families, friends and business associates. You can provide a memorable experience for each guest by embracing the holiday spirit and season, encouraging your customers to entertain, offering high-profile holiday events and giving diners a wide selection of traditional and special holiday fare.