Restaurant Marketing Tips to Drive Holiday Sales

By TriMark R.W. Smith

Seasonal décor may keep the air festive and merry, but frenzied holiday shoppers are hungry for more than a cheery atmosphere. Since the holiday season is the foodservice industry’s cash cow, restaurants need to be pro-active to get a sizeable slice of the dining market. Stay ahead of the holiday dining competition and guarantee return business all winter long with these smart promotion ideas and savvy marketing techniques.

Types of Restaurant Holiday Promotions

Holiday promotions should boost sales and bring value to customers without simultaneously slashing your margins. Shoppers are in a celebratory spirit, which means they’re more open to spending.  With October already in full swing, it’s time to start planning your promotions and creating memorable experiences for loyal and new customers alike.

Gift Cards

During the holidays, gift cards offer customers a quick solution for appeasing even the most difficult to shop for. Restaurants can skip the cost of plastic and opt for virtual gift cards instead, which are much easier to share and are a better choice for last-minute purchases. Plus, including a “reserve now” link will make it easy for customers to take advantage of reservations. Sales tend to drop off in January, and though gift cards are pre-purchased, guests who redeem them can boost post-holiday revenue in way of cocktails, tips and order totals that exceed the gift card amount.

Return Deals

Get even more out of gift card sales by offering a “gift for you, gift for me” deal. For instance, if a customer purchases a gift card of $50, they will receive one for $10 on the house. Another option is to offer a complimentary appetizer or dessert with a gift card purchase. Discounts may create a sense of drumming up business; instead, offer something that drives return sales and makes customers feel appreciated.

Catering Services

With the holidays comes the influx of group celebrations. From corporate parties to family reunions, there are a multitude of opportunities to employ your catering services. Drive sales by letting your guests know these services are available. Consider private reservations at times when business is slow, or bring your menu to the guest with off-site event services. Take advantage of post-holiday celebrations by offering special deals on your catering services during the winter months.

Loyalty Program

Loyal customers are more than just regular diners – they’re your brand enthusiasts. Reward them with extra incentives available only to program members. Keep them coming back by offering free menu items on their next visit. Also, reward new members with a complimentary dish or beverage just for signing up.

Limited Time Menu Options

From holiday treats to seasonal soups, it’s easy to whet customer appetites by offering something new. Create a delectable holiday menu with distinctive seasonal fare that will motivate customers to dine at your restaurant because of the limited time it’s available.


Tips for Marketing Restaurant Holiday Promotions

Whether in-restaurant or online, spreading the word about your holiday promotions should be a snap. The best time to begin your marketing campaigns is in October and the early weeks of November. Vying for the attention of hungry holiday diners can be difficult, so your best course of action is to create awareness early and across as many channels as you have available. Below are just some of the myriad marketing tricks you can use this holiday season.


  • Strategically place promotional brochures and window signage where customers are most apt to see them.
  • Encourage wait staff to remind guests about upcoming promotions, catering services and gift cards.
  • Create a business card that highlights your loyalty program and include it with the guest check.
  • Let customers know about special offers available exclusively to email club members and tell them of the simple steps to sign up.


  • Incorporate social media links and an email sign up field for easy cross-promotion of your marketing channels.
  • Provide details about purchasing gift cards and buy one, get one deals online.
  • Increase guest reservations by including a “reserve now” button at the top of your home page. Designate a web page (or two) to your loyalty program and list all of the great features included with enrollment.
  • Create a web page that highlights your catering services for private holiday parties and off-site events.
  • Feature your limited time appetizers, entrees or desserts with mouthwatering photos.
  • Not all guests have the same palette. If you opt to roll out weekly menu items, showcase them here to generate greater interest among customers.


  • Send a holiday newsletter featuring your seasonal promotions, a catering services blurb, links to online reservations and digital gift card pages, and value-add content such as a warm beverage recipe or chef video.
  • Motivate guests to dine at your restaurant by offering an offline incentive through your newsletter. One option: give guests who dine in December a special offer redeemable in January with proof of purchase. Or, grow your list by giving the first 100 subscribers in November a sweet holiday treat from your dessert menu.
  • Engage with loyalty program and email club members weekly. Announce promotions and programs to them before posting to other marketing channels, and offer a sneak preview of upcoming holiday menu items.

Social Media

  • Cross-promote deals to get your fans and followers excited. Social media makes it easy for customers to share your content on their own timelines and micro-blogs.
  • Keep the festive spirit going and encourage guests to share snapshots with friends and family from your restaurant.
  • Announce special offers for email club members and include a link to your email sign up form, which can also be a tab on your Facebook page.
  • Create a Facebook fangate with an incentive for liking your company page, then share the link on Twitter.
  • Upload enticing photos of seasonal menu items that will tempt their taste buds.



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