The holiday season is fast approaching, and it’s the perfect time to transform your restaurant into a haven of festive delight. Imagine twinkling lights, seasonal decor, and the unmistakable buzz of holiday cheer. But beyond the decorations, it’s about turning this season into an opportunity to boost your bottom line.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you how to make the most out of the busiest time of year. From crafting and promoting irresistible holiday party offerings to streamlining your operations, we’ve got the recipe for turning the holidays into a season of abundance for your restaurant.
Restaurant Holiday Party Planning Tips
1. Transform Your Space
First and foremost, no restaurant holiday party is complete without a little bit of magic. Newcomers and regular guests who return to your space during the holiday season will squeal with delight as your space transforms from a fall retreat to a winter wonderland.
Deck your halls with festive lights and seasonal decor to bring the cheer. (Don’t forget to decorate your outdoor space, too.) Think: tall Christmas trees, lush garlands, sparkly bows, large menorahs and more spread out across your main dining rooms, lobbies and private dining areas.
These seemingly small touches create an experiential surprise and put your guests in a cheerful, money-spending mood.
2. Nail Down Your In-House Event Offerings
If you want to become a “destination” space for holiday parties, decide what role your restaurant will play and the event spaces available to large groups. For example, and depending on your setup, you could rent out the entire restaurant or offer private dining rooms with a more intimate ambiance. Both options have their pros and cons — just make your booking fees cover your desired nightly revenue if you plan to use your entire space for one party.
Also, determine whether the events booked will include a full bar or wine bar, partial- or full-service staffing, and the dining options guests can choose from, such as brunch spreads, family-style dinners, or prix fixe menus.
3. Spread the Word
Whether you plan to offer private holiday parties hosted at your restaurant or public events for large parties like a New Year’s Eve ball drop party with food, live music and dancing, it’s imperative to tell people about them. Advertise on-site and digitally.
Digital Marketing Channels
Email marketing: Use email marketing software to create a campaign made up of several emails that promote your holiday offerings. Emails and newsletters work best when you personalize them for different segments of your subscribers, such as their visit history, interests and preferences.
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: Make sure your Google Business listing is updated so people 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 toward 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 restaurant 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.
QR codes: Add a QR code that links to your holiday party information landing page to your posters and postcards.
4. Let Guests Pre-Book Events Online
Restaurant technology tools are your best friends when it comes to planning a stress-free holiday season. If your restaurant is planning on throwing public holiday celebrations, leverage event technology, like SevenRooms, to put ticketing, payment collection and reminders on autopilot.
5. Avoid No-Shows
Collecting payment in advance is a great way to also prevent costly no-shows for reservations-based holiday events or meals during the peak holiday season. SevenRooms’ reservation tools let you collect payment in advance and store payment information in case you need to enforce your no-show fee.
Pro Tip: Add verbiage that details your cancellation and fee policies to avoid bad reviews from angry customers!
6. Digitize Catering Orders
Taking catering orders over the phone holds up your phone lines and limits you to confirming only one order at a time. Phone ordering also makes it so that you can only take orders while your restaurant is open.
To streamline catering orders, add a large-format order section to your online ordering menu during the holiday season. Catering customers can place orders on their own time and easily prepay for food via card. More importantly, preorders help your business plan staffing and inventory.
FYI: White-labeled online ordering tools like SevenRooms allow for additional customizations that can help you manage higher-than-average ordering requests. Set expectations by letting customers know how long your restaurant needs to fulfill large group orders.
7. Reign In Your Menu Offerings
Limited menus help your team manage inventory and staffing needs — especially during busy seasons. 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.
The key here is to focus on doing a few things well, so your staff can focus on delivering quality experiences every time.
8. Debut an Exclusive Seasonal Menu
This year, market your menu as “exclusive” and “elite” by limiting your prix fixe menu to a certain time period and available by reservation only.
For example, Pivot introduces a seasonal Christmas menu that runs from November through December. Guests who book a table early on receive a complimentary bottle of Prosecco.
9. Sell Upgrades
Holiday parties present a great upselling opportunity because both businesses and individual customers are feeling festive and generous, and want to splurge. Include at least one upsell option for each holiday party package you offer.
For private events, allow party planners to add custom cocktails or valet parking (if space permits) to their reservations. For public holiday parties, let guests upgrade the experience with a champagne toast, VIP seating, or a “surprise” Buche de Noel dessert delivered to the table after the entree.
Restaurant Holiday Ideas to Get People In the Door
Host Dinner and a Show
Usher in the holiday season by hosting a feel-good “dinner and a show” concept.
For example, North Carolina-based French fine dining restaurant, Sante, offers annual Christmas dinner shows that pair a three-course dining event with professional caroling entertainment. (Guests are encouraged to sing along between courses!) Any holiday event that promises to warm hearts and fill bellies is sure to become an annual family tradition guests mark their calendars and return to year after year.
Offer Holiday Happy Hours
Give people a reason to gather by holding recurring holiday happy hours. Feature festive-themed drink specials each week and supplement the libations with nibbles like passed hors d’oeuvres, warm bar-style snacks, or an over-the-top charcuterie board.
Limit your restaurant holiday event to a one-to-two-hour reservation window, so you leave room to host additional guests for your regular dinner service.
Give 12 Days of Deals
Ongoing promotions help get — and keep — guests in the spirit. Bandwidth permitting, create new, unique dinner specials each night or run a daily promotion using your existing menu. Alternatively, you can set up a contest that allows a different guest to win a goodie box each night.
Advertise this series on social media for even more exposure. Then, announce your daily deal (or winner) at a dedicated time each day to generate excitement.
Pro Tip: No matter what deals you offer or contests you run, be sure to collect key guest data like their name and email at the onset so you can market to them later.
Consider Being a Charitable Drop-off Center
Market your venue as a place to give back. Decorate a corner of your restaurant for the season and encourage guests to drop off canned goods or unwrapped gifts. You can also partner with a local community center to set up an Angel Tree. Those who donate gifts at your restaurant get a discount on their next visit.
As guests start planning their holiday season shindigs, make sure your restaurant stays top of mind as the restaurant holiday party destination. Meet them where they are by offering a variety of options like catering, buyouts, events and prix fixe meals available from late November through the New Year.
Amidst all the pre-planning, marketing, and operational duties, we want to make sure it’s the most wonderful time of year for you and your staff, as well. Book a SevenRooms demo to learn how our restaurant technology can help you plan, please and profit this season.