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10 tips to spice up holiday marketing

Gear up for the holidays with some tried-and-true marketing ideas.



Winter and the coming holidays provide a wonderful season for marketing your brand. With so many festivities in motion, this can be one of the most crucial times of the year to promote all aspects of your restaurant. No matter what their religion, consumers enjoy eating, drinking and being with family during the holidays. 

The season provides ample ideas to increase profits and get the community involved. However, no matter what options you decide are best for your restaurant, planning ahead of time is crucial. Determine what specials and sales-driving promotions you’ll want to create, and devise a timeline for execution.

1. Partner and give. The holiday season is a great time to give to those in need. Partner with a local organization, such as Toys for Tots or The Salvation Army, to donate money or goods to charity during the holidays. Have a donation box or bin in your restaurant for guests to donate canned goods or toys throughout the holiday season. Be sure to create a flyer or poster for the event, and provide event information to the area media and surrounding businesses.

Make sure you invite the local press to participate!

2. Decorate. With the weather getting chilly, people want a comfortable, cozy and inviting atmosphere to make them forget about the winter weather. Put candles on the tables; decorate in holiday colors, such as metallic shades of red, green and silver; and incorporate other touches, such as mistletoe in doorways and poinsettia plants at the register.

3. Merchandise. When guests are busy shopping during the holiday season and stop in for a bite to eat, be sure to appeal to their holiday impulse-buying behavior—have a well-lighted merchandise shelf or unit with signs and prices for T-shirts, mugs, sauces, or any other examples of your brand’s signature items. If your pizzeria has enough items, put together gift baskets and display them with signs and pricing. Spice up the holiday atmosphere with branded items for guests to purchase!

4. Create a holiday treat. Offer festive treats for a limited time, such as a dessert or beverage on your menu that uses traditional holiday flavors, or incorporate seasonal ingredients, such as cinnamon or peppermint. Adding a special peppermint cheesecake or pumpkin pie can be a welcome addition to your holiday dessert menu, or you can even hand out a small cookie in a little bag with your restaurant logo on it as a thank-you at the end of the meal or with to-go orders. Find a local bakery to provide the specialty items at an inexpensive price for you to sell, or ask your food distributor about holiday items.

5. Motivate staff. Get your staff excited about the holiday. Create a contest for a specific menu item or beverages with a holiday focus, or maybe a gift card selling contest. Make the prize for the staff winner something valuable, such as cash, gift cards or movie passes! Have a holiday party for your staff members to thank them for all of their hard work. This is a great opportunity to show how much you appreciate them.

6. Sell gift cards. ’Tis the season to promote gift cards, which may have gone virtually unnoticed for months. Gift cards are an easy and instantly satisfying gift, and it’s important that you make them accessible and obvious to your customers. A great way to do this is to create an interesting display that attracts the attention of your customer right when he walks in the door. Use lights and decorations with your logo and a holiday theme to interest your guests. Packaging your gift cards is another way to get people interested; new creative packaging techniques may cost you more at first, but will definitely serve you better in the long run. Another way to increase gift card purchases is to create an offer with purchase, such as “Buy a $25 gift card and get a $5 gift card for you!” Create a staff contest to see who can sell the most gift cards, and let them help promote these.

7. Host an event and promote. Hosting an event for a local charity with a holiday theme is a great way to spice up your holiday marketing. For a donation at the door, guests can enjoy food and drinks while supporting the charity. During the event, introduce yourself, thank guests for attending and supporting the charity, and ask the executive of the charity to say a few words. This event will make your staff feel like they are making a difference, and the guests who frequent your restaurant will also feel inclined to spread the positive news about your restaurant’s goodwill. Be sure to create a flyer or poster for the event and provide them to the area’s media, local chamber members and surrounding businesses. Use signage, flyers, check presenters, table tents, advertisement and email blasts to spread the word about each promotion.

8. Give back. Be sure to send holiday cards to your staff, important community members and businesses that have helped your business throughout the year. Send an email blast to loyal customers thanking them for their business all year. Also make sure you give gift cards to other businesses you use, such as the local newspaper, printers or other people who have helped create success throughout the year. Once again, make sure that you order these well in advance so that they are delivered in time.

9. Remember catering, delivery and large to-go orders. During the holidays, businesses are looking for ways to thank employees or provide lunch for them during the holiday rush. Try visiting local big-box retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club or Best Buy before Thanksgiving and providing them with a catering menu and perhaps a special holiday offer to purchase their party pizzas from your restaurant. Develop a holiday party pricing or group pricing for generating large orders, and take flyers and menus to area nonprofits, employers and businesses with a lot of employees in your immediate three-mile radius. Ask about providing coupons for employee paychecks or hosting a fundraiser for the organization when you are there. Be sure to take at least a small pizza for the person you leave the information with—this is a great way to drive sales and provide a holiday thank-you to an area business.

10. Plan for the new year. Finally, get excited about the approaching new year. Meet with your team to talk about their goals for the upcoming year. Develop a promotional calendar for the coming year—which months will you promote which items? Calendar any important dates (i.e., school’s out, anniversary of your business, new menu item introduction, etc.). Be sure to share the year’s plan with your employees to keep them involved and motivated, along with clear expectations for after the holidays.

Linda Duke is the CEO of Duke Marketing and author of Recipes for Restaurateurs (marketing-cookbook.com), a “cookbook” of marketing ideas for restaurant owners. She publishes a quarterly industry resource, Restaurant Marketing Magazine, and an educational program, LSM-U, Local Store Marketing University. Find out more at dukemarketing.com.

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