For retail businesses, the holiday season is pure gold – an opportunity to make nearly all of the profit that the retail company will see throughout the year. Restaurants have historically had a much different relationship with the holidays though – since it is difficult to market to people during the Christmas season when they are traveling or spending time with friends and family. For restaurants that are willing to put a little extra effort into their holiday marketing plans, Christmas can be one of the best times to create special restaurant dinners or to offer delivery and take-out.

Holiday Specials

Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the other “end of year” holidays, you have a substantial opportunity to create dinners and special events at your restaurant that will bring in all kinds of new customers. Not everyone is able to travel home for the holidays, and many people don’t celebrate the holidays in any meaningful way, so your restaurant could be one of the only restaurants that is open during the day.

Added to this, holidays are the best time to start people on traditions – and a good restaurant creates an atmosphere and environment that lends itself to the formation of new traditions. Whether you choose to offer a fixed-price “off menu” production during the holidays, or you go all out with your decorations and your advertising, you can turn your holiday meals into a complete “production” that makes people feel comfortable and happy – and that brings them back the next year with their family and their friends.

Gift Cards and Holiday Promotions

Christmas is a great time to advertise your business to a new audience using gift cards.  Gift cards not only allow you to pre-sell your food and services (thus helping you start the next year with a bang), but they are usually given to people that haven’t been to your restaurant before – and people with gift cards almost always spend more than the value of their cards when they come in to redeem them.

If you want to encourage your patrons to purchase gift cards as stocking stuffers and presents for their loved ones, consider offering some kind of promotion where the person purchasing the gift card also gets a small gift card (or a discount on their food order) in exchange for their gift card order. It is virtually guaranteed that you will get more of a return on your gift card sales than you will spend on the promotion to encourage people to buy them.

Charity and “Giving Back”

The holidays are a time of generosity, and you can tap into that spirit in a way that will be good for your restaurant’s image and will help some people that need it.  Many restaurants sponsor some kind of charity dinner – whether to raise money, or to give food directly to the people in your community that can’t afford it. Consider opening your doors on Thanksgiving to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to your community’s poor or to a retirement home.  Not only will you be making some people very happy over the holidays, but you can also use your charity events as an opportunity to get some publicity in local newspapers and with your civic leaders.