Until recently, Christmas Eve and Day made for a somewhat difficult time for restaurants: people traditionally would spend this holiday with their families at home and are generally not looking to go out for dinner — unless they have an incentive to.
Today the situation is changing, and 2016 brought big news that retail sales at U.S. eating and drinking establishments have for the first time outrun those of grocery stores. Quite a surprise for restaurant owners.
People are eating out more than they cook at home with Millennials leading the trend, and restaurants are responding to it by staying open for Christmas.
Restaurants are more than likely facing their fiercest competition yet in bringing in the families, shoppers and friends who are looking forward to a holiday from cooking and enjoying the service, food and atmosphere served up at a local restaurant instead. So, here are a few tips for marketing leaders that can help your restaurant stand out and fill the reservation lists for Christmas Eve:
Create a Unique Selling Proposition
The first thing is to have a unique incentive that makes your restaurant stand out from the rest. Choose a unique sales proposition according to your restaurant’s target audience or the audience you want to attract for Christmas eve and prepare a fantastic and differentiated offer that specifically caters to their needs for a holiday meal. It can be anything from a healthy Christmas dinner for health-conscious diners, a special holiday dessert, or thinking even further outside the box, a speed dating event for singles looking to focus on fun. When targeting families, organize a photo session with Santa himself and prepare invitations signed by Santa to send out or give at the restaurant. You don’t need to make it a long event, but rather arrange something special that the audience you are addressing can really relate to.
Encourage Social Sharing of your Announcement
You are probably already engaging with your online community via social media and running holiday season campaigns to build a closer relationship with your customers. Don’t stop at just getting the message out about your special Christmas Eve event on social. Offer an incentive for people to actively share this communication or campaign with their friends. For example, concerning a promotion for a Christmas dinner, ask people to share the announcement and tag 2-3 friends on the picture or in the comments to get a 10-20% discount for that particular offer or to take part in the Christmas prize draw at the event. Don’t forget to choose a stunning picture of your best dish or another image that customers would like to share—an important part of your holiday campaign’s success.
Check What your Customer Database Enjoyed Last Christmas
If you had a Christmas-themed event last year, it is always a good idea to contact customers who were previously interested in or visited your location at Christmas. You can use this contact opportunity to gather feedback and invite customers to the upcoming event. Even if some customers can’t visit this year, their feedback is valuable to fix any issues they experienced. As a tip for 2017: in a perfect world feedback would be received immediately following the 2016 Christmas dinner events allowing you to spend the entire next year building rewarding relationships with your customers alongside further building out your database. If not—make a New Year resolution to prioritize this activity in 2017.
Address Customers Who are Already Inside Your Restaurant
Let all of your visiting guests know about the upcoming event and make sure you capture their attention in these last few days before Christmas. As they already chose to come to your restaurant—leverage that readily available opportunity to start building a relationship with them. Give customers a reason to come back within the next week! Bring a personalized invitation to the table or better use your mobile app to send all of your December visitors a bounce-back coupon to be used for that Christmas Eve dinner or in January. We are seeing overall a very high conversion from bounce-back coupons in our customer campaigns, and guests who visit twice are likely to come back again.
Personalize Your Approach Even Further
If you are targeting guests with an invitation inside the restaurant, segment the audience and further personalize the incentive for each customer. Be sure to prepare a few incentive options. For example, if you see people with children, offer them a free kids meal with a reservation for two or more adults. A couple could get a free bottle of wine or champagne with their dinner offer. The more specific and tailored the offer is for an audience segment, the better are the chances of them making that reservation.
With a few days left before Christmas use this time to plan multiple activities with a focus on mobile channels (research shows that overall activity on mobile devices now accounts for two-thirds of digital media time and Millennials represent the most “mobile-engaged” customer group).
Help your customers make last-minute plans and have memories about the festive atmosphere you created for them and their families at Christmas. Don’t forget to start 2017 by gathering feedback, start growing your customer database and building true loyalty, so that your reservation list is full all year long.