We know that as a restaurant owner or manager, December is an extremely busy month for you. If you’re struggling with coming up with Christmas restaurant promotion ideas or if you just want to add to your existing list, here are 20 ways to get your customers’ attention this holiday season and boost your sales.
Note: this article has been updated to cater to restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 1.Let people know if you are one of the restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
- 2.Take Christmas restaurant reservation
- 3.Upgrade your menu for the occasion & make sure you stock up on food
- 4.Come up with unique, creative restaurant specials
- 5.Take advantage of the latest restaurant marketing ideas and trends
- 6.Keep it simple with your restaurant marketing ideas for December
- 7.Decorate for a Christmas themed restaurant look
- 8.Offer Christmas restaurant deals & gift cards
- 9.Be the go-to restaurant for safe Christmas parties & events
- 10.Organize and advertise Christmas photography promotions
- 11.Create your own Christmas promotion message
- 12.Host a Christmas giveaway
- 13.Try out some of these Christmas contest ideas
- 14.Partner up with food influencers
- 15.Reward loyal customers & invite them to your restaurant
- 16.Give back to front-line workers
- 17.Feature your team in a fun and festive holiday video
- 18.Make your restaurant pet-friendly - #petsof(restaurant name)
- 19.Offer party packages for companies and families
- 20.Take advantage of the post-Christmas hype
1. Let people know if you are one of the restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Is your restaurant still open? Since there aren’t many restaurants open on Christmas, especially in the middle of a full-blown pandemic, this is your chance to stand out in the crowd. Spread far and wide that you’re the exception. Make sure you target every possible means of communicating with your customers.
Update your website
When users visit your website, they should see that they can spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at your restaurant. Create a festive banner featuring traditional Christmas colors like red, green, and gold to make the announcement in style, and post it on your homepage. Even a simple “We’re open on Christmas Day!” can do the trick.
Post on social media
Most people are probably going to see you’re open on Christmas on social media, so don’t forget to create posts for each of the platforms you use. Here is an example of a festive post you can use on Facebook.
Pin your posts to prioritize them over the rest and give them more visibility.
Give out flyers
Social media might be the new and improved flyer, but let’s not completely disregard what seems like neanderthal forms of communication just yet, okay? Give out flyers and put up posters throughout the neighborhood. Use your specials board to let passersby know that they can visit you at Christmas.
2. Take Christmas restaurant reservations
Now that you’ve convinced people spending Christmas at your establishment is the best choice, it’s time to figure out how many people to expect and where to sit them. Make sure you keep everyone safe by abiding by all social distancing regulations in place.
That becomes easier if you take reservations and don’t allow walk-ins, at least for this holiday season.
3. Upgrade your menu for the occasion & make sure you stock up on food
Most Christmas offers in restaurants are traditional, and that’s good, but it’s not enough. To draw customers in, create a to-die-for Christmas-themed menu that includes both traditional dishes and options for people for whom Christmas is just another day of the year (we call those Grinches). Here are some easy dinner specials for restaurants that spell D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.
- Herb-roasted turkey and stuffing
- Honey glazed ham
- Sour cream and cheddar baked mashed potatoes
- Cranberry-apple gravy
- Brussels sprouts with ginger and orange
- Christmas pudding
- Gingerbread topped fruitcake
Remember to also make sure you have enough of every ingredient needed to create your signature specials. You wouldn’t want to have to tell a customer you’re out of their favorite dish.
Consider offering a buffet option as well, for people who want to eat something quick and on the go. You can serve dishes like:
- Wreath-shaped appetizer
- Caramelized mushroom tartlets
- Steak on sticks
- Sausage, cranberry, and chestnut rolls
- Chocolate dipped chips with festive sprinkles
- Cupcake Christmas tree
For that sweet spot between morning and afternoon, come up with some festive Christmas brunch ideas that feature treats like:
- Glazed blueberry rolls
- Egg and ham breakfast sandwiches
- Kiwi Christmas tree
- Rudolph pancakes
- Apple pie granola
Vegetarian and gluten-free Christmas menu
Don’t forget to cater to everyone’s needs by including vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on your Christmas menu. Some options would be:
- Honey balsamic glazed brussels sprouts
- Pumpkin penne
- Brown and wild rice stuffing
- Flourless chocolate and pear cake
The old saying might not go Ho, Ho, Ho, and a bottle of rum, but alcoholic beverages are a must at Christmas dinner. How else are your guests going to survive this pandemic and chatting about politics with their loud relatives for 2 hours? These Christmas-themed drinks not only look nice, but they’re also delicious:
- Christmas snowstorm margaritas
- Hot buttered rum
- Pecan pie martini
Of course, not all beverages have to be alcoholic, so brainstorm some virgin Christmas cocktail ideas as well, and don’t forget about the coffee and hot chocolate. Christmas coffee specialties are a man’s best friend when that midday slump hits hard.
4. Come up with unique, creative restaurant specials
To attract even the most non-traditional of customers, let your restaurant Christmas specials speak for themselves. Consider some of the following dishes:
- Christmas pizza featuring turkey, pigs in blankets, and stuffing
- Lamb meatballs with curry sauce
- White spinach pesto lasagna
- No-bake mint Oreo cheesecake pie
5. Take advantage of the latest restaurant marketing ideas and trends
Restaurant marketing is a changing landscape, which is why you have to keep up with the trends to discover the best types of promotions for restaurants this holiday season.
Christmas marketing campaign ideas
Since December is a time of giving, many of the most successful Christmas restaurant promotion ideas for the season involve gift-giving, charity, discounts, vouchers, and anything else that can spread the joy of Christmas to as many people as possible. Below, we’ll get into detail regarding each of these Christmas marketing ideas for restaurants.
Christmas social media ideas
Tap into the gold mine that is social media marketing to draw in even more customers this Christmas. Decorate your social media profiles as you would your restaurant using festive banners and profile pictures. Use Instagram to post stories showcasing some of the delicious meals customers can expect or “this vs. that” questions like “What is your favorite Christmas dessert, pudding or pie?”
Create your own hashtag and encourage customers to use it when they inevitably share photos of the food they eat at your restaurant (yes, it’s that delicious). Engage your followers by asking them typical Christmas questions like who they are celebrating with, what they’re most thankful for, or what the best part of Christmas day is for them.
These two brands have managed to use social media to their advantage at Christmas, and the results are inspiring. Take a page out of their book for extra engagement on social media:
- Costa Coffee got Reverend Kate Bottley to taste their Chocolate Yule Log blindfolded and shared the results on Instagram stories. Partner up with influencers and get them to taste some of your dishes.
- M&M’s released a special edition Gingerbread Cookie Bites M&M’s just in time for Christmas and shared an appealing photo of them on Facebook. Plus, they provided a link to the full recipe. Consider sharing some of your recipes with the public on social media.
Social media is also a great platform for giveaways and contests, but more on that later.
12 days of Christmas promotion ideas
12 days of Christmas give you 12 Christmas restaurant promotion ideas to make your customers happy. Take advantage of each and every one of them. Here are some examples of what you can do to celebrate these 12 days:
Day 1: Free dessert for people wearing a Christmas-themed mask
Day 2: 50% off all Christmas-themed drinks
Day 3: Everyone who posts a picture of your Christmas meals gets a complimentary coffee
Day 4: Customers who make reservations for Christmas Day get 10% off
Day 5: 3-for-2 appetizers
Day 6: Everyone who donates to a charity gets a coupon for a free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink
Day 7: Open bar for people who make a reservation for Christmas Eve
Day 8: Bring a loved one and they get a complimentary dessert of their choosing
Day 9: Everyone who buys the full Christmas Day menu gets a mystery gift box
Day 10: People who subscribe to your newsletter get 30% off Christmas brunch
Day 11: Complimentary gingerbread for anyone wearing a Santa hat
Day 12: Free coffee voucher that you can use on January 1st with any purchase
If you need even more unique restaurant promotion ideas, feel free to check out our article: 15 Unique Restaurant Promotion Ideas that Will Increase Loyalty in 2019. Having a wide range of Christmas restaurant promotion ideas is great.
6. Keep it simple with your restaurant marketing ideas for December
Holiday marketing for restaurants doesn’t have to be complicated. Especially since you don’t have a lot of time left to prepare, you should focus on simple holiday campaigns that capitalize on people’s emotions. This year is a particularly emotional holiday season, and people will respond better to heartfelt ideas.
Christmas is all about good feelings and positive thinking, so your Christmas restaurant promotion ideas should exude that. To get inspired, here are some simple yet effective taglines you could use:
- From Our Kitchen to Your Belly
- Sugar and Spice Make Christmas Nice – Delicious Christmas specials and desserts at [restaurant name]
- Christmas Just Got Cheesier – 50% off all our holiday cheese platters
- All We Want for Christmas Is You
- A Quarantined 2020 Christmas – We Made It Together!
- Christmas 2020 – Thank God for the End of the Year
Whenever you brainstorm campaign ideas, remember not to stray away from your brand’s message. Experimenting is good, but make sure you remind loyal customers why they chose you in the first place.
7. Decorate for a Christmas themed restaurant look
Hang a wreath on your door
Nothing says Christmas like a winter greenery, pine cone, and berries wreath welcoming customers into your establishment.
Decorate your windows
Attract passersby with a cozy and festive window display. You can use white spray paint to draw snowflakes on your windows, and hang red and green ornaments.
Hang fairy lights
Fairy lights are classic Christmas decorations for restaurants. Hang them everywhere, making sure you don’t go overboard. Put some on your windows, around the bar, or even hanging from the ceiling.
Bring in a Christmas tree
There’s nothing better than a Christmas tree to get you in a festive mood. Show you care about the environment by buying an artificial one that you can use for years to come, and decorate it with your staff.
Pro Tip: Take pictures of the process and post them on social media.
Put together themed centerpieces
Centerpieces featuring candles, ornaments, berries, greenery, and pine cones are traditional choices that you can’t go wrong with. For a unique centerpiece, decorate bottles with greenery, ornaments, and fairy lights.
Blast Christmas music
Last but not least, put the finishing touches on the Christmas atmosphere by putting together a festive playlist featuring beloved Christmas songs.
8. Offer Christmas restaurant deals & gift cards
Take advantage of the 12 Days of Christmas campaign to offer people who come into your restaurant unique deals and gift cards. From discounts on specific dishes to free drinks or desserts if they order the full Christmas menu, your Christmas restaurant promotion ideas won’t go unappreciated.
If your restaurant is closed indefinitely, gift cards customers can redeem when you reopen will ensure a crowded restaurant when all of this madness is over.
9. Be the go-to restaurant for safe Christmas parties & events
If local regulations allow it, make your restaurant the place to be this holiday season by throwing some amazing (and safe) themed parties. You don’t even need to hold them indoors. If you have a terrace and some heaters, you can organize a Christmas party outdoors as well. Spread tables far apart and give everyone a cozy blanket to keep them warm.
In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic, people might also be looking for restaurants with private rooms this Christmas so they can have an intimate celebration with just their family. If you can offer them that, make sure to advertise it on your website and social media.
If you’re wondering how to advertise Christmas parties on a budget, the easiest answer is to post them on your website, share them on social media, and spread the word offline using flyers and posters. Here are some themes you can use:
Karaoke Christmas bash
‘Tis the season to sing our hearts out even if we’re tone-deaf, and everybody has to just deal with it. Organize a karaoke party with exclusively Christmas songs and offer a free drink to everyone brave enough to sing.
Ugly Christmas sweater contest
A classic that you simply can’t go wrong with. The ugliest sweater gets a free meal and you get cheap publicity.
Everyone who brings a gift will get a voucher, as well as a lovely gift from a kind stranger. We suggest a White Elephant gift exchange for fits of laughter and good cheer.
***Download our free flyer designs for these 3 Christmas-themed events and start spreading the joy!***
10. Organize and advertise Christmas photography promotions
People love taking photos at Christmas to remind themselves of the holiday cheer all year long. Get in on it by organizing a contest on Instagram.
Dare people to take a picture in front of your Christmas tree wearing the most Christmasy outfit they can think of. The person who gets the most likes will receive a 2-people voucher that they can use with a loved one.
To get even more from your Christmas restaurant promotion ideas, don’t forget to encourage people to use your personalized hashtag. This brings me to my next point.
11. Create your own Christmas promotion message
Overtly promotional messages won’t get you where you want to go in the long run. You want people to remember your brand, but the best way to do that is not to constantly remind them of it, but to create a message or a hashtag that is representative of your business and the Christmas spirit.
For example, in 2016, Spotify partnered with Sonos and created the #PlaylistPotluck, in which everyone could add a song. This hashtag, together with the tagline “One home. One host. Everyone brings a dish.” was extremely successful, and you can replicate that success in your restaurant.
Replace “playlist” with your restaurant’s name (e.g. #GloriaRestaurantPotluck) and create an event on Facebook. Encourage people to bring one dish each, with the promise you’ll be in charge of the drinks (open bar for everyone all night long featuring cocktails, long drinks, soft drinks, coffee, etc.). Sprinkle some surprises throughout the night like a raffle or a giveaway to get people excited.
12. Host a Christmas giveaway
Everyone loves free stuff, especially around the holidays. Host a giveaway on your website or social media and offer the winner a gift basket filled with delicious Christmas goodies.
To get even more engagement, make the giveaway user-generated. To participate, users have to submit their favorite Christmas recipes. As a surprise, you can make their wish come true and cook that meal for them in your restaurant.
13. Try out some of these Christmas contest ideas
We Make Your Wish Come True
Ask people to come into your restaurant and submit their Christmas wish into Santa’s Miracle Box. A couple of days before Christmas, draw one of the cards and make that person’s wish a reality.
This trend has taken social media by storm, and holiday images are perfect for coming up with creative Christmas restaurant promotion ideas. Post a funny Christmas photo on your Instagram and ask people to “caption this.” The person who gets the most likes receives a discount voucher.
Walmart used a kitty on a skateboard and asked their followers to “caption this.” You can use a photo of a kid enjoying a plate of food and take the opportunity to announce your Christmas specials are kid-friendly as well.
We all know those awkward family photos where everybody is wearing matching sweaters. Ask people to submit theirs for a chance to win a meal for everyone in the picture. AwkwardFamilyPhotos has a full archive inspired by this idea.
14. Partner up with food influencers
Food influencers have been making people drool ever since social media became a thing. This Christmas, consider partnering up with a local food influencer that can promote your brand and delicious food to their followers.
Find influencers in your area using tools like the one from Socialbakers. All you have to do is select your region, an interest (in this case, food), and click on the “Find Influencers” button.
15. Reward loyal customers & invite them to your restaurant
Even though one of your main goals should be to get new customers, it’s important to remember the old ones as well. Show them you care by sending them a Christmas card featuring a heart-warming message and an invitation to visit your restaurant for 20% off the holiday menu.
Ask them to RSVP online by making a reservation. Check out GloriaFood’s table booking system for restaurants to add the feature to your website in a matter of minutes.
16. Give back to front-line workers
Christmas is a time to be kind, generous, and remember those in need. One of the most effective Christmas restaurant promotion ideas involves focusing on making someone else happy. Set up a donation box for front-line workers in your restaurant and reward people who donate.
We particularly like the “buy one give one” idea that encourages customers to buy more from you knowing that every purchase they make means one purchase for someone who has been working hard ever since this pandemic began.
17. Feature your team in a fun and festive holiday video
Are you familiar with H&M’s 2016 holiday short film directed by Wes Anderson and starring Adrien Brody? Without making their brand obvious, H&M managed to create a compelling story featuring quirky characters (that just so happened to wear H&M clothes).
18. Make your restaurant pet-friendly – #petsof(restaurant name)
Pets are family for many people, especially for those who don’t get to spend their holidays with other people. Allow customers to bring in their pets and ask for their permission to feature them on social media using the hashtag #petsof and your restaurant’s name.
19. Offer party packages for companies and families
Especially if your restaurant is located around office buildings, offer packages for companies that want to show their employees some appreciation. The same goes for large families that don’t feel like cooking and want to enjoy a restaurant dinner. Offer discounts and perks like an open bar or get inspiration from the 12 Days of Christmas restaurant promotion ideas above.
20. Take advantage of the post-Christmas hype
Christmas may be over, but that doesn’t mean your holiday promotions have to be too. Keep the hype going until New Year with post-Christmas events and offers. Introduce a limited-edition dish that will only be available from the 26th until the 31st or have a Last Day of the Year Sale on all your Christmas dishes.
Move Your Christmas Restaurant Promotions Online This Year
Given the delicate situation created by the Coronavirus pandemic, many of you might have to close your doors this Christmas season. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take full advantage of these Christmas restaurant promotion ideas. All you have to do is apply them to delivery and takeout.
Don’t have those services active yet? What are you waiting for?
That’s a Wrap
Whatever your budget or time limit, you can find a couple of Christmas restaurant promotion ideas that work for your business. The important thing is to get creative and come up with a marketing plan that will both draw old customers to your food and entice new ones to give it a try.
Tradition is important, but keep an open mind and experiment with out-of-the-box restaurant marketing ideas for December to give your customers an unforgettable Christmas experience.