Many celebrations, including holiday parties, were put on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Friends, families and colleagues largely didn’t gather for the holidays in 2020.
With vaccines readily available now, some folks are ready to come together this year and will be organizing holiday parties both big and small. In fact, 72 percent of events are being held in person this year. Others will still feel more comfortable hosting virtual gatherings.
This holiday season, your restaurant should be ready to give guests plenty of ways to celebrate. After all, you don’t want to miss out on the lucrative holiday party season.
If you’re wondering how to host holiday parties in the “new normal,” you’ve come to the right place. We’re sharing eight holiday party tips you need to know. You’ll learn to:
- Start planning now
- Create a menu of options
- Spread the word
- Let guests buy tickets online
- Avoid no shows
- Digitize catering orders
- Offer prix fixe menus
- Sell upgrades
1. Start planning your holiday parties now
It’s never too early to start planning your offerings for holiday parties.
From Friendsgivings and family Christmas parties to office holiday parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations, there are a lot of opportunities to profit from the most wonderful time of the year. However, there’s also lots of competition, and your customers’ calendars are booking up quickly. That’s why you need to make your holiday party offerings available as soon as possible.
If you’re reading this article after the major winter holidays have passed, don’t fret. You can still take advantage of lucrative winter events like the Superbowl and Valentine’s Day. Check out our holiday inspiration guide for ideas.
2. Create a menu of options
One size doesn’t fit all this holiday season. Some guests will want to host their holiday parties at your restaurant, while others will want to do virtual events with their colleagues or loved ones.
Cover a variety of needs by creating a menu of holiday party options, including:
- Private holiday parties hosted at your restaurant (think partial to full buyouts).
- Public parties organized and hosted by your restaurant, such as a New Year’s Eve ball drop party with food, live music and dancing.
- Traditional catering in which you prepare food in bulk that’s eaten off-premises.
- “Catering” for virtual parties, for which the host sends attendees gift cards that they use to place an online order with your restaurant to be delivered in time for the event.
Many customers will still have COVID-19 safety concerns, so communicate the safety measure you’re implementing to keep guests safe, whether they’re ordering delivery for a virtual holiday party, or are buying out your restaurant.
3. Spread the word about your restaurant’s holiday party options
Once you’ve figured out your holiday party offerings, it’s imperative to tell people about them. This holiday party tip is all about leveraging both digital marketing channels and on-site promotional tactics.
Digital marketing channels
- Email marketing: Use marketing automation software to create a campaign made up of several emails that promote your holiday offerings. You should personalize these emails for different segments of your subscribers. For example, you could create one campaign for subscribers who have engaged with your holiday offerings in the past, and another for those who haven’t.
- Social media: Share posts across your social accounts announcing your holiday offerings. Ramp up post frequency as you get closer to the holidays. Link to your catering, reservations or events ticket page on your profiles and in updates.
- Google My Business: Share updates via Google to let people who are searching for your restaurant, or ones similar to it, know what you have planned for the holidays. Take advantage of Google’s event listing posts to promote public holiday parties your restaurant is hosting.
Pro tip: Direct all digital marketing efforts towards your event or catering landing pages. Leverage digital tracking tools to understand which promotional channels are leading to the most sales.
On-site promotional tactics
- Guest interactions: Train front-of-house staff to tell customers that you’re offering buyouts, public events and catering for holiday parties.
- Posters and postcards: Hang posters up around your restaurant to let guests know about your holiday offerings. Place postcards promoting them in check holders and in takeout order bags.
Pro tip: Add a QR code that links to your holiday party information landing page to your posters and postcards.
4. Let guests buy tickets for holiday parties online
Technology is your best friend when it comes to planning a stress-free holiday season. If your restaurant is planning on throwing public holiday parties, leverage event technology, like SevenRooms, to put ticketing, payment collection and reminders on autopilot.
5. Avoid no shows
For reservations-based holiday events or meals during the peak holiday season, collect pre-payment upfront or charge a cancellation fee if guests don’t show up. SevenRooms’ reservation tools let you collect payment in advance or store payment information in case you need to enforce your no-show fee.
Pro tip: Place fee policies front and center to avoid bad Yelp reviews from angry customers!
6. Digitize catering orders
Taking catering orders over the phone holds up your phone lines, which can make you lose business if other customers who are trying to place orders can’t reach you. Phone ordering also makes it so that you can only take orders while your restaurant is open.
Instead of taking catering orders over the phone, create a section of your online ordering menu for large-format orders during the holiday season. Catering customers can place orders on their own time and easily prepay for food via card. Preorders are also a win for your business because they help you plan staffing and inventory.
Pro tip: Set expectations by letting customers know how long your restaurant needs to fulfill large-format orders.
7. Offer prix fixe menus for the holidays
Prix fixe menus are a great way to drive profits during the holiday season and to streamline back-of-house operations. When your menu is limited for the holiday party season, it’ll be easier for you to manage your inventory.
For catering and private parties hosted at your restaurant, offer several tiers of food packages, from basic to premium. For virtual party catering, offer prix fixe menus for takeout or delivery. The basic offering could include an appetizer and entree, while a premium offering could also come with dessert and a bottle of wine
8. Sell upgrades
Holiday parties present a great upselling opportunity because both corporate and individual customers are feeling festive and generous, and want to splurge. Our last holiday party tip is to come up with at least one upsell option for each holiday party package you offer.
For example, for private holiday parties at your restaurant, you could add a custom cocktail to your open bar offering as an upsell.
For public holiday parties at your restaurant, you can let guests upgrade the experience with a champagne toast instead of prosecco toast, a take-home floral arrangement or even VIP seating.
With SevenRooms’ event and experience software, guests can prepay for these upgrades online.
Wrapping up: Tips for lucrative holiday parties for restaurants
Whether they celebrate over Zoom, at your restaurant, in the office or at home, your guests want to host holiday parties. Meet them where they are, no matter how they want to host a holiday party, by offering a variety of options. By making catering, buyouts, events and prix fixe meals available from late November through the New Year, you’ll reap the benefits of the most wonderful time of the year.
Remember to leverage technology, like marketing, ticketing and online ordering software, to make managing your seasonal offerings a breeze. Book a SevenRooms demo to learn more.
Check out more best practices for the winter holidays, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and more in our holiday inspiration guide.