Nine marketing ideas to get your restaurant ready for the holidays

By Diane Chiasson
December 6, 2010

The holiday rush is in full force right now, which means that it is the busiest time of year for everyone. Non-stop shopping, year-end parties, school concerts, family gatherings, out-of-town guests… the events are endless. As a restaurant or foodservice operator, December is a great month to promote your business, boost sales and generate more interest in what you have to offer.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consulting firm in Toronto, offers some advice on how you can increase your sales and bring in more customers this holiday season:

1. Send your database a holiday card and a small gift

As a token of your appreciation, send all the contacts in your database a Christmas card with a voucher for a free appetizer or $20 off to thank them for being a loyal customer this year. Small gestures and gifts impress people, and they work to help keep customers loyal and convert prospects into customers.2. Sell gift cardsGift cards are great stocking stuffers. Make your gift cards visible to customers by keeping a stack next to your cash register with proper POP materials, or have your serving staff mention the gift cards to their customers. Make it worth their while by offering a $10 gift card for every $50 gift card they purchase.
4. Decorate your restaurant

Get into the holiday spirit by decking out your restaurant. Hang lights, put up a tree and play holiday music. Christmas is a fun and festive time, and you want to evoke that feeling and holiday spirit in your restaurant or foodservice operation.

5. Have a prix-fixe menu

If you run a full-service restaurant, create a Christmas/Holiday-themed prix-fixe menu. This is ideal for large groups of people or for businesses looking for a place to hold their Christmas party. Offer different menus at different price points to target a larger market. Include choices for either a three- or four-course sit-down lunch or dinner, or offer a cocktail party menu for larger groups.

6. Target office parties

Many businesses may be scaling down their party budgets this year and opting to throw a lunch party at the office instead of hiring out a ballroom in a hotel. Target all the office buildings in your area, and send them your catering menu, along with your holiday specials via direct mail, email or fax.

7. Create retail ideas

Save your customers an extra shopping trip by offering some retail products for your restaurant or foodservice operation. Depending on the type of operation you run, you could be selling t-shirts with your branded logo and statement, bottled sauces and dressings, recipe books, beer mugs, kids’ items or hundreds of other possibilities. Make gift baskets of your products, and be sure to include a $20 or $40 gift card in each gift basket to ensure that the receiver of the gift basket visits your restaurant for a meal in the future.

8. Run a food drive or donate to charity

The holidays are also about helping others. Consider putting together a food drive, whereby you give customers a 10 per cent discount or a free drink to anyone who brings in a non-perishable item. Stack all the items at your store entrance, and put appropriate POS materials to let customers and passersby know what you are doing. You can also donate a portion of sales from one of your popular menu items to your favourite charity.

9. Use the Internet

Internet deals are all the rage right now, and buyers are snapping up deals on a daily basis. These deals can be also be purchased as gifts for others, so there is a greater opportunity for multiple buys from one single person. Sell your restaurant or foodservice operation on sites like Groupon, Living Social, WagJag or

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto.  Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or, or visit

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