9 Winter Marketing Ideas to Keep Your Restaurant Bustling
When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, your restaurant might see an inevitable dip in diners. This can be for many reasons, from tapped-out bank accounts and New Year’s resolutions to blustery winter weather.
But just because January and February can be slow for some doesn’t mean your restaurant has to experience a post-holiday slump. Keep your restaurant bustling all season long with the following winter marketing ideas.
1. Promote Seasonal Winter Menus
January is the perfect time to heat up your marketing efforts with a seasonal menu. From locally sourced winter produce to themed craft cocktails, a seasonal menu creates a unique dining experience for your customers.
For example, U.K.-based restaurant and SevenRooms’ client, etch. by Steven Edwards, created a “Winter Series Tasting Event” featuring local produce to boost seasonal restaurant traffic. To widen the menu’s appeal and make it more inclusive, they added options for pescatarians and vegetarians.
But that’s not all — etch. also offers winter-themed upgrades through SevenRooms’ booking widget to drive incremental revenue. Customers can prepay for a winter wine flight or a non-alcoholic winter soda experience to enhance their reservation.
To make this winter marketing idea your own, incorporate local ingredients and consider partnering with nearby breweries, wineries, bakeries and local guest chefs to create a standout seasonal menu.
Advertise your winter menu as “limited time” to drive a sense of urgency, encouraging customers to make immediate reservations — and don’t forget to offer upgrades to boost revenue and improve the customer experience.
In 2022, 35% of U.S. consumers participated in Dry January, a popular wellness challenge where participants abstain from alcohol for the month. But if customers want to avoid temptation, that could also mean avoiding your restaurant.
Help customers reach their goals without hindering your profits by creating an enticing mocktail menu and promoting it all month long. Consider a seasonal theme and offer a mix of indulgent and low-calorie options to appeal to all diners. Think cranberry “sangria,” peppermint “white Russians” and pomegranate “margaritas.”
Tempt diners with happy hour specials and rotating deals to encourage reservations and walk-ins. But don’t stop at mocktails. While 23% of consumers drank mocktails in 2022, 29% reached for non-alcoholic beer and 26% opted for alcohol-free wine.
Creating a new menu is an investment, but it’s one you can keep going long past Dry January. Non-alcoholic and low-alcohol global beverage sales topped $11 million in 2022, which is only expected to increase in the coming years, according to International Wine & Spirits Research.
3. Capitalize on Cold Weather
The weather outside might be frightful, but that doesn’t mean diners have to stay at home. With strategically placed heaters, baskets of blankets, winter decor and fireplaces, you can keep guests toasty warm while creating a memorable winter dining experience.
Pair the experience with fan-favorite winter drinks like mulled wine for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids. If you have the space, put in multiple fire pits so guests can gather on the patio and socialize. Bonus points if you sell s’mores kits as an interactive dessert item.
Give it a theme like “cozy cabin” or “ski chalet,” and encourage patrons to share photos on social media. Create a custom, catchy hashtag and ask guests to use it when they post photos or videos.
To sweeten the deal, announce a giveaway for those who post photos of your outdoor winter wonderland and tag your restaurant. Offer rewards such as a free s’mores kit, hot cocoa, cocktail or meal.
The user-generated content will help spread the word about your winter-themed patio, leading to more organic exposure and customers for your restaurant.
4. Turn Gift Card Redeemers Into Regulars
If you sold gift cards during the holidays, you may start to get some visits from guests eager to redeem them in January and February. Creating a retention strategy for gift card diners can help you capture new relationships and nurture existing ones.
Engage First-Time Diners
Don’t miss a chance to impress new customers who received a gift card to your restaurant.
Train servers to ask tables if they’ve been to your restaurant before so they can highlight your most popular items so first-timers don’t miss out.
Once you know new customers are at a table, take the opportunity to grab their information so you can focus on retention. When the check comes, have servers point out that diners can sign up for your loyalty program in exchange for an email address or phone number.
This will allow you to collect essential guest data for future email and SMS marketing to help transform newcomers into regular patrons.
Strengthen Loyalty With Existing Fans
For the loyal patrons who received a gift card, your approach should be different. These diners already know and love your restaurant. Instead of highlighting popular menu items, servers can offer expensive champagne, wine and desserts.
When someone else is paying for their meal, regulars might be more likely to treat themselves to high-dollar items.
You can also show your appreciation for these customers and deepen their connection to your restaurant by integrating gift card promotions into your existing loyalty program. Personalized offers, such as exclusive menu items, will make them feel valued and keep them coming back for more.
Pro Tip: Next holiday season, promote limited-time gift card deals to help drive traffic during your slower months. For example, $20 off a $150 gift card that guests must redeem by the end of January.
5. Plan Promotions Around Winter Holidays and Observances
November and December might get all the glory, but they aren’t the only months worth celebrating. There are multiple national and federal holidays and observances you can create winter marketing campaigns around in January and February.
Customers can add a bottle of Prosecco and chocolate souffle to their reservation or opt for a VIP table, bottle of champagne and dessert.
Reservation upgrades like this can be big revenue drivers and enhance the customer experience. Why? Because they get guests excited about the reservation, helping to reduce cancellations. It also gives you a tempting way to showcase food items, like your dessert menu, that guests might not consider in-restaurant after filling up on apps and entrees.
Other winter marketing ideas include:
Offering a catering package for Super Bowl Sunday to drive takeout orders or hosting a game-viewing event with drink and food specials.
Discount on your cheesiest appetizer for National Cheese Lovers Day in January or gift a free dessert for Celebration of Chocolate Month in February.
Promote these events heavily (and early) to encourage reservations. Use social media, email marketing and in-restaurant flyers to spread the word. Either way, participating in federal and national holidays provides many opportunities to attract new customers and repeat business.
Slow day? Adjust your floor plan to help maximize tables and revenue. For example, let a smaller party book a larger table so you’re not turning away customers and missing out on revenue. Lowering or removing deposits and minimums can also help you fill your restaurant on lighter days.
Use email marketing to your advantage when you have open tables or are removing minimums. The restaurant and food industry has an email open rate of 35.34%, making this tactic effective at driving same-day visits.
Alert email subscribers when you have last-minute availability to encourage impromptu reservations and walk-ins. Throw in a limited-time offer for same-day reservations, like a percentage off or complimentary glass of wine, to seal the deal.
The holiday season can be hard on consumers’ bank accounts, making January a particularly slow month for restaurant owners. But you can combat this by offering happy hour deals during your restaurant’s slowest hours.
Put together a special menu with snacks and drinks at prices that won’t hurt the wallet. This is a chance to showcase hidden gems from your kitchen and try out new offerings. Send emails, post on social media and advertise your deals on table tents in your restaurant to ensure customers are aware of your new specials.
Turning those not-so-busy hours into a money-saving experience attracts budget-conscious diners and adds a lively vibe to your place. It’s a win-win that keeps your restaurant on customers’ radar even during quieter months.
8. Offer Takeout and Delivery Deals
After a season filled with Christmas parties and holiday events, your customers may be reluctant to make reservations anywhere other than their own couch. But easy meals will be on their minds. The key to winning these customers’ hearts is convenience — aka takeout and delivery.
Invest in a high-quality direct online ordering system that allows for fast, easy order placement and delivery (if applicable) for customers. Direct online ordering is crucial because it enables you to eliminate third-party apps that eat into your profits.
Next, create rotating deals exclusively for takeout orders. Think a free appetizer, 10% off coupon or BOGO meal. Promote your takeout deals via social media and email marketing.
Keep in mind that the most effective email subject lines pique curiosity, include promotional offers and are personalized to recipients’ interests. When writing your own subject lines or email content, take advantage of guest data and highlight deals to grab subscribers’ attention and make them feel valued.
For example: “10% off takeout for your birthday tonight” or “Takeout BOGO: Get that linguini you love for less.”
Remember, convenience is the language of love for your takeout customers. Make pickup effortless by designating a pickup window exclusively for to-go orders or offering curbside pickup.
FYI: SevenRooms’ CRM and reservation software allows you to collect guest data, like email addresses, behavior, preferences and special occasions, to surprise and delight takeout customers. Encourage repeat business with a coupon for their next takeout order or persuade them to make an in-house visit with a complimentary glass of their favorite wine.
9. Lighten Up Your Menu
According to a Statista Consumer Insights study, the third most popular New Year’s resolution in the U.S. is to eat healthier. With nearly half of respondents (47%) choosing this resolution, it only makes sense to consider catering to health-minded diners.
However, it’s not just about lightening up after holiday indulgence — it’s about embracing fresh, vibrant flavors that resonate with those seeking healthier options.
Here are some winter menu marketing ideas:
Winter salads: Introduce hearty, protein-packed salads featuring seasonal ingredients like kale, pomegranate seeds, roasted sweet potatoes, lean meat or chickpeas drizzled with a zesty vinaigrette.
Lean proteins: Highlight creative dishes with lean proteins, like ceviche tacos, chicken soup with root veggies or macadamia-crusted halibut, to give customers a satisfying way to reach their fitness goals without compromising on taste.
Seasonal vegetables: Elevate your vegetarian options with flavorful dishes centered around winter vegetables, like butternut squash risotto or cauliflower steaks, providing a comforting and nutritious experience.
Mindful modifications: Offer flexibility with customizable options. Let customers tweak their meals to accommodate dietary preferences or restrictions, ensuring everyone can find something to suit their taste and nutritional needs.
Lighter menu items that are both comforting and health-conscious will help make your restaurant the go-to spot for a fresh start in the new year.
Keep Your Restaurant Bustling This Winter
The post-holiday slump can be a real concern for restaurant owners, but with a little creativity and the right technology, you can keep your tables full all winter long.
What Are the Best Ways to Advertise In the Winter?
There are many creative ways to advertise your restaurant in the winter. Collaborate with local influencers for winter-themed content, implement loyalty programs and offer discounts for repeat visits during the season. Showcase limited-time winter menus on your website and encourage reservations with exclusive perks. Finally, emphasize takeout and delivery options to promote comfort food for home enjoyment.
How Do You Build Marketing for a Restaurant?
Restaurant marketing starts with identifying your ideal customers and crafting a distinct brand persona. You’ll also want to test a strategic mix of online tactics, such as search engine optimization, email campaigns, content marketing and influencer marketing partnerships.
What Are Some Food Marketing Strategies?
Effective food marketing strategies include exclusive limited-time offers, collaborating with local influencers for tastings and reviews and sending promotions to your customers via email or text message marketing.