Thanksgiving (and the leftovers) are so last week. A holiday that once seemed so far away—likely because it fell a few days later this year—has come and gone. We’re now in the thick of the official holiday season, with one of the shortest Thanksgiving to Christmas windows we’ve had in recent memory. For compassion, last year’s Thanksgiving fell on November 22 vs. November 28, the latter of which we’ve only experienced as late three times in the last 20 years.
So, as restaurants + marketers, how can we still make these next three weeks as effective as possible?
Focus on what you do best.
Sales are inevitable this holiday season, but how you get there and how you feel come January 1, 2020—that’s a different story. At Fishbowl, we know how busy you are this time of year. You don’t have time to throw multiple new initiatives in the mix, so we’ve crafted a few tips & tricks to enhance the core holiday competencies you’re likely already focused on today.
You likely sell gift cards in-house and online. These are your money makers. Guests with gift cards that do come in tend to splurge more (cue the upsells). On the flipside, up to one third of gift cards can go unused every year. Wal-a, you still made a profit on a guest that never stepped in your door. If you aren’t already promoting gift cards regularly, now is the time to really push. Specifically, consider:
– Bonus Buy Gift Cards. For example, offer a guest a $10 “bonus” for every $50 they purchase in gift cards. Then go up to $25 for every $100 purchased, etc.
– Promote gift cards on nearly all marketing emails sent in the month of December. We’re not saying to send 10 emails about gift cards, but use a mix of gift-card focus mailings (especially if you’re offering a Bonus promotion) along with gift card mentions in the footers of other mailings.
– Surround social strategy around gift cards. When available online, gift cards can be purchased in just a few clicks in less than 2 minutes, something that particularly social savvy audiences love. Make sure your audience is aware of gift card sales and include a link to buy in all gift card posts. Bonus: Allocate Facebook/Instagram Ad dollars toward gift card traffic + awareness to maximize your reach.
Last Minute Party Planners
Guests are still looking for places to gather their colleagues, friends or family—and chances are, you have select openings. Continue to promote any private party or large group availability for the month of December—be specific, provide clear next steps on how to book asap. Alternatively, consider offering party perks for January/February bookings made by 12/31 to incentivize these planners to book at your restaurant vs. others. Examples include: complimentary round of drinks or appetizers, percentage off booking, etc.
New Year’s Eve
Are you ringing in 2020 with an all-out party, prix fixe menu, regular service, etc.? Before the clock strikes midnight, it’s very recently struck December, which means guests are now thinking about their NYE plans.
– Call to Action. When promoting New Year’s Eve, a clear “call to action” is key. A call to action (a button for tickets, clicks to reservations) always helps to lock in more guests and yield a greater sense of urgency.
– Differentiator. Beyond a CTA, be mindful of what sets your New Year’s Eve experience apart from competitors. Ditch the common complimentary glass of champagne and amp it up. For example, provide guests an incentive that’ll get them in the door for dinner—and stay through midnight. Examples include BOGO options exclusively offered from 10 pm through midnight or bottomless cocktail options in select time windows like this.
Other Festive Events
If you’re not open for New Year’s Eve (and likely closed for Christmas), chances are you have another unique event during the month of December like a Community Night or Cocktail Party. In recent years, an event that has become increasingly popular is National Ugly Sweater Day. As a company and industry that loves National “Day Of” Holidays, this one checks all the boxes—festive, fun, food, booze. Always falling on the third Friday in December, guests are really into the holiday spirit by this point.
Take advantage of this by having guests dress up for a Christmas Sweater Party or Happy Hour featuring festive cocktails and small bites options to bring guests (new + return) in the door. Or, simply encourage guests to come dressed in their favorite festive sweaters on this day. Pick your favorite sweaters throughout the day and reward them with a gift card to bring them back in the door soon in the slower winter season (more on this in our next blog).
Here’s to a successful + happy holiday season for you and all your guests!
This blog was written by Fishbowl’s William Lilly, Account Director.