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The Best Holiday Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

10/26/18 11:42 AM

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Let’s admit it: The holidays are a bit of a mixed bag for restaurants. Depending on how you look at it, the upcoming winter months are either a time for friends, family, and festivities—or time for hectic, relentless consumerism. For restaurant owners, however, they present an opportunity to reach new customers and engage with existing ones.

Looking for holiday advertising ideas for restaurants?

You’ve come to the right place. From video tutorials to coupons, let’s review the best marketing ideas for food service businesses during this happy yet hectic time of year.

Create Helpful Video Tutorials

It’s no secret that food is at the center of the holiday spirit. Your restaurant can capitalize on this by creating video tutorials that provide valuable content around cooking and meal planning for the holidays. Video is a great way to reach an audience that’s looking for step-by-step visual content, plus most social media and email platforms make it incredibly easy to share with your followers.

Your tutorials could include: 

  • How to cook a turkey in your restaurant’s signature style
  • Etiquette rules for ordering from a local restaurant
  • How to pick the freshest fruits and veggies from your local grocery store
  • Tips for plating and presenting your holiday meal

Create an Exclusive Seasonal Dish

Diners love seasonal menu items—peppermint mochas at Christmastime, pumpkin spiced beverages in the fall, corned beef and hash around St. Patrick’s Day, and so on. Limited releases of fan favorites can be a great marketing opportunity for restaurants. Think about McDonald’s McRib. Consumers now expect this menu item to show up in the fall, and when it does, people can’t get enough of it. This year, McDonald’s even released an app to help people find the nearest McRib location. But even though BBQ pork sandwiches certainly aren’t a traditional fall food, the exclusivity around this menu item sends consumers running to a McDonald’s location year after year.

To replicate this at a local level, think about a dish your restaurant could serve. Can your bakery make a scrumptious pumpkin roll for the fall? Or maybe your restaurant could serve a phenomenal beef stew in the winter? Whatever it is, make sure the dish is unique to your restaurant, meets the same standards as the rest of your menu, and can reasonably be associated with a particular season. Then, hype it up! Make it clear that the dish is a limited time offer, and when the season is done, take it off your menu. The next year, those that haven’t tried it before may come in just to see what all the fuss is about. And for those loyal patrons of yours that couldn’t get enough of it, they’ll flood your doors just trying to get a bite of their favorite seasonal dish.

Host a Canned Food Drive

The holiday season is a time for giving, as individuals are more willing to donate to charity during this time. According to some research, the last three months of the year account for 34 percent of annual giving.

Hosting a canned food drive at your restaurant is a seamless way to combine charity with the restaurant industry. First, find an organization that is hosting a canned food drive or check with your local food bank to see if they are accepting donations. Then, run a promotion that encourages customers to bring canned and non-perishable food items in exchange for a discount on their meal.  A free appetizer or a BOGO 50% off deal is a great incentive for new customers to come to your restaurant instead of the competitor’s. Plus, they get to participate in a great cause and will associate those positive feelings with your restaurant.

Run a Coupon Promotion

We’ve discussed how the holidays are a time for celebration and giving. What’s the natural byproduct of this revelry and goodwill? Money. Spending it, to be exact. Take advantage of the season and offer your guests discounts to your restaurant. Because we’re certain they’ll take advantage of these promotions. In fact, 77 percent of consumers are influenced by coupons and promotions during the holiday season.

What’s a foolproof place to reach consumers during the holiday season? The grocery store. Grocery store receipt advertising enables business owners to target specific customers, menu items, events, or holidays. This location targeting, combined with the possibilities of customization, enables businesses to distribute relevant, time-sensitive messaging to the right audience. Consumers—both new and returning—are always looking for a chance to save a buck; the holiday season is no exception.

Do you have any additional marketing ideas for restaurants during the holiday season?

*Originally published 12/1/2017. Updated 10/26/2018.

Anna Ruby

Written by Anna Ruby

Marketing Analyst. Theatre nerd. Dog-lover. Obstacle course-racer. Small business owner.