Dec. 9, 2015

Face the Holidays with a Killer Marketing Plan

by Larissa Zimberoff

From filling tables to making your menu stand out, the holidays are no walk in the park. But with a strong marketing plan, you can skip last-minute mishaps and boost sales. Get ahead with these holiday marketing tips:

Plan ahead

As a third-generation pastry chef and restaurateur who runs five dessert brands in New York, Francois Payard is already thinking Christmas in July. That includes getting in local publications’ gift guides, which are planned months in advance.

“From Halloween to Mother’s Day, my bakeries are running at full speed, so I plan my entire year’s worth of seasonal dessert collections and marketing outreach from June to August when I have the time to be creative,” Payard says.

Spread the word

After you’ve made holiday menus, post them on your website and social media along with reservation information. Shari Bayer, a PR consultant based in New York, recommends restaurants using OpenTable make sure their special menus gets published on the site.

To promote holiday menus offline, include promotional fliers in check presenters in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s.

Know your customer

Creativity can pay off, but don’t waste your time on items that won’t sell. “While the idea of basil in a truffle might be interesting to me, it probably won’t sell well to the average Joe because it’s too exotic,” Payard says. “If people continue to ask for something, give it to them.”

Case in point: Payard used customer feedback to add Jewish desserts to his holiday line up, which now make up a major part of his business.

Flaunt the goods

Visual cues make the biggest impact, particularly among customers planning private parties late in the game. Restaurant consultant Leiti Hsu recommends sharing images of event spaces on social media and email newsletters.

“In anticipation of the season, [people] can visualize having the best time in your restaurant,” she says. “Sometimes, the first step is letting people know that you should be on their shortlist in those last-minute scrambles.”

The same goes for capturing walk-ins. Hire a chalkboard artist, or ask a talented staffer to deck out a sign for your entrance. A hilarious, eye-catching message can go a long way, especially if it hits social media.

Tell a story

The old adage rings true: Show—don’t tell. Share compelling stories about your food and business by showcasing what your staff is up to, whether it’s making pies, baking bread, or putting up holiday decorations. Just as important: hashtagging appropriately on social media. Hsu reminds her clients that #FoodPorn works year-round, but around the holidays, there are more niche hashtags to get people engaged.

Do you swear by a holiday marketing tactic? Share your tips on Facebook.

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