Year of the Dragon: 9 Marketing Ideas for a Successful Lunar New Year
Get your red lanterns, lucky envelopes and dumplings ready because Lunar New Year (LNY) festivities are about to begin. As a restaurant owner, Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year (CNY), gives you an opportunity to attract new customers and delight regulars with themed celebrations and events.
The event marks the beginning of the Chinese lunar calendar and is a time for families to welcome the new year with various customs and traditions.
In 2024, the Lunar New Year falls on Saturday, Feb. 10, and celebrations last until the Lantern Festival on Feb. 24. This gives you two weeks’ worth of opportunities to promote your restaurant in a colourful and festive way.
9 Lunar New Year Restaurant Marketing Ideas
Every year, the Lunar New Year is represented by an animal sign from the Chinese Zodiac. With 2024 being the Year of the Dragon, you have a great starting point for your Lunar New Year marketing campaigns. The dragon is associated with strength, health and good luck, making it the perfect theme for LNY promotions and parties.
The Lunar New Year marketing ideas below will help you embrace the Year of the Dragon and make your restaurant the go-to place for celebrations.
1. Decorate Your Restaurant in Red and Gold
Red and gold are the most common colours associated with Chinese New Year — and for good reason. Red is associated with good luck and is seen as the colour of prosperity and celebrations. Gold and yellow are also said to signify power and prosperity.
Decorating your restaurant in these colours, from dining tables to the front door, will create an immersive experience for your guests. Plus, you can modify this marketing tactic to fit any budget — go all out if you’re planning a big event or just incorporate a few red and gold elements to keep things wallet-friendly.
Hang lanterns around your restaurant to drive bad luck away.
Use red and gold tablecloths, napkins and/or plates.
Decorate your restaurant’s entrance with a traditional Lunar New Year paper banner to symbolise good wishes.
Arrange a centrepiece of red and yellow flowers on each table to wish guests a prosperous new year.
Use red, gold and yellow balloons throughout your venue.
Incorporate red or gold lights or candles for a colourful ambience.
Decorate the walls with colourful Chinese calligraphy or art.
Have your staff wear red and gold uniforms or accessories to match the theme.
2. Serve Lucky Food Items
Whether you create one special menu item or a full prix fixe menu, consider serving lucky foods traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year.
Dumplings are a staple during Lunar New Year celebrations because they symbolise wealth. This is due to their shape, which is similar to gold ingots, or yuanbao, a type of currency that was used in ancient China.
Add a variety of dumplings to your menu filled with ingredients like shrimp, pork or vegetables to entice a wide variety of diners. Or, elevate classic dumpling flavours and pair them with other lucky menu items to create a feast of good fortune like Australian restaurant and SevenRooms’ client Mya Tiger.
Mya Tiger’s Chinese New Year banquet menu features lobster dumplings and a “prosperity salad” with Hiramasa Kingfish and ginger plum dressing.
Using SevenRooms’ booking widget, Mya Tiger showcases the details of their Lunar New Year event to encourage reservations. Each ticket includes lunch or dinner, a traditional dragon dance and a glass of champagne to give their event a celebratory vibe.
Long noodles, or longevity noodles, are another popular dish for the Lunar New Year because they symbolise a long and healthy life. The longer the noodle, the better — especially if you want to create an Instagram-worthy experience that gets attention online.
Fish is also considered to be a lucky dish that brings abundance in the new year. This is because the Mandarin word for fish sounds like the word for “surplus.”
Yusheng is a popular dish for Lunar New Year because it symbolises abundance and good fortune. While it’s traditionally served with raw fish, like salmon, chefs can elevate the dish by adding abalone or other delicacies to increase the price.
You could do something similar at your restaurant, serving this dish as a special appetiser for your Lunar New Year celebrations.
Pro tip: To help retain guests who join you for CNY, add an email marketing opt-in box to your reservation page to get more subscribers. This allows you to capture their information and permission to send them future promotional deals.
3. Create Themed Cocktails
Get guests excited and boost revenue by creating a themed cocktail menu for the Lunar New Year.
Research traditional Chinese flavours: Ingredients like lychee, green tea, ginger and plum make great bases for cocktails and mocktails. For an authentic touch, use a Chinese spirit like Baijiu, which is typically distilled from fermented sorghum, or Huangjiu, a Chinese yellow wine.
Create a signature cocktail and mocktail: Develop a signature drink for your Lunar New Year celebration. For example, you could make a “Red Lantern” cocktail with lychee juice or a “Lucky Dragon” mocktail made with — you guessed it — dragon fruit.
Garnish your glasses: Decorate glasses with red and gold cocktail umbrellas or top drinks with bright red cherries.
Offer a limited-time deal: Encourage customers to try your new creations by offering a special deal. Discount your Lunar New Year drinks for happy hour or offer a free cocktail with certain dishes.
Pro tip: Offer upgrades with SevenRooms’ reservation software to increase spend and improve the customer experience. With SevenRooms’ booking widget, restaurants can offer special add-ons or upgrades when guests make a reservation, like new cocktails created for Lunar New Year or an exclusive tasting menu for the event.
4. Create a Special Takeout Menu
Not every customer wants to dine in for CNY. In fact, a Statista survey on Lunar New Year dinner preparations in China noted that some respondents would prefer to stay home — as long as they have a little help preparing their meal.
Over 49% of respondents said their preference was to supplement homemade foods with ready-made dishes.
Nearly 30% said they’d rather buy a complete ready-made meal.
While this survey was exclusive to China, any restaurant can appeal to the convenience-loving customer with a special takeout menu. Offer family-sized portions of traditional dishes like dumplings and noodles and a large dessert that makes it easy to celebrate Lunar New Year at home with loved ones.
Mandarin oranges and tangerines are considered lucky fruits, so they’re often given as gifts during Lunar New Year. Consider a “Golden Prosperity Cake” infused with orange to symbolise wealth in the new year.
Package takeout orders in red and gold boxes and include complimentary fortune cookies with well wishes for the new year or discounts on future orders.
FYI: A direct online ordering solution allows you to eliminate third-party fees. With SevenRooms’ online and mobile ordering system, your customers can order directly through your restaurant, increasing your revenue and improving their experience. Plus, direct online ordering means you own guest data, enabling you to send future marketing messages that boost retention.
5. Create a Themed Event With Live Entertainment
Planning a themed event for the Lunar New Year is a fantastic way to attract your target audience while providing an unforgettable dining experience. You’ll want to incorporate some of the lucky foods, themed drinks and festive decor we mentioned above, along with live entertainment.
One popular idea is hosting a lion dance at your restaurant for your Chinese New Year celebration like SevenRooms’ client and Brisbane restaurant Stanley.
A lion dance is a traditional dance in Chinese culture where performers don lion costumes and mimic the animal’s movements. This dance is said to bring good luck and fortune.
Stanley’s lion dance will occur on select nights with a limited-edition menu. This sense of urgency helps drive reservations and walk-ins while providing a memorable experience for guests.
6. Organise Exciting Activities
Stand out amongst the competition by coming up with exciting activities for guests. This could be a dumpling-making workshop, a calligraphy demonstration or a tea ceremony. These activities will entertain your guests while educating them about Chinese culture.
If you don’t want to hold these activities during busy restaurant hours, consider hosting them live on Instagram or Facebook instead to promote your Lunar New Year offerings.
Showcase the special menu items you created for the Lunar New Year during your livestream and invite attendees to celebrate at your restaurant.
Whatever the event, don’t forget to drop a link to your online reservations platform so guests can book dinner or buy tickets in advance.
Pro tip: SevenRooms’ event software makes it easy to create special offer pages for events and activities. Use the unique URL to promote your event through social media, email marketing and paid ads to make tracking reservations and revenue accurate and easy.
7. Make It a Family Affair
Lunar New Year is a time for families to come together and celebrate new beginnings. Encourage families to gather at your restaurant by advertising your venue’s ability to accommodate large groups.
Adjust your floor plan during Lunar New Year celebrations so you have more space for large parties and promote private dining room spaces to encourage bookings. Update your marketing messaging to focus on families — “Bring the whole family” and “Welcome the new year with loved ones” will showcase your restaurant as a family-friendly spot.
Finally, send marketing promotions in the weeks leading up to Lunar New Year to encourage reservations and walk-ins. Include details of any events or special menu items in your promotions, making sure to mention your family takeout bundles for those who prefer to celebrate at home.
8. Offer Themed Discounts
As a restaurant owner, offering creative discounts can be an effective marketing strategy to attract more patrons and spread brand awareness.
Here are some discount ideas for your CNY campaign:
Red envelope giveaways: In Chinese culture, red envelopes or ‘hongbao‘ containing money are traditionally given during Lunar New Year as a symbol of good luck. Instead of money, fill the envelopes with vouchers for discounts, free drinks or desserts that customers can use on their next visit.
Year of the Dragon discount: Offer a special discount to customers born in Dragon years (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2012). This could be a percentage off their total bill or a special set menu at a discounted price.
Lucky number eight discounts: The number eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture. Offer an 8% discount on certain dishes or give a free side dish to every eighth customer.
9. Hold a Social Media Giveaway
Social media giveaways help you gain new followers, boost your restaurant’s exposure and get more reservations and walk-ins. Whether you’re on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or all three, hold a simple contest to celebrate Lunar New Year and promote your specials and events.
Post an image or video featuring a dish or cocktail you created for Lunar New Year on your most active social media account(s). Ask your followers to share their favourite CNY tradition or hopes for 2024 in the comments section. Let them tag friends for extra entries and use your custom hashtag to increase exposure and make it easier to track the success of your Chinese New Year marketing campaigns.
To encourage participation and user-generated content, offer a gift card to your restaurant as the prize. But don’t just focus on the winner. Offer each entrant a discount on tickets or food for your Lunar New Year event to drive more reservations and walk-ins.
Leverage Lunar New Year to Boost Sales and Guest Satisfaction
It takes much more than luck to promote your restaurant for special occasions like Lunar New Year. From creative marketing tactics to advanced restaurant technology, the right strategy and tools can help ensure your success.
You can promote Chinese New Year by organising festive events, offering special deals and incorporating traditional elements like lanterns, lion dances, red decorations and lucky food like dumplings. Use social media to share information about your promotions.
What Are the Seven Lucky Foods for Chinese New Year?
The seven lucky foods for Chinese New Year are dumplings, fish, spring rolls, glutinous rice cake, sweet rice balls, long noodles and citrus fruits. Each symbolises prosperity, good luck and wealth.