One would think that restaurateurs around the world are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of the inevitable Christmas rush. After all, Christmas is a proven time of robust economic activity where people are giddy with the gleeful anticipation of a little time away from work to (over)indulge with their friends, family and loved ones. The pervasive mentality seems to be “spend now, worry about it in January”. For better or for worse, it’s the perfect opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs in the service industry to capitalize. From businesses looking for the right place to host their office parties to hungry Christmas shoppers looking for a quality lunch, the season is ripe with opportunity.
If you’re concerned about your restaurant’s financial wellbeing there is absolutely no excuse for your profits to slump over the festive period. Here we’ll look at some ways in which you can attract and retain custom to ensure that business is booming all through the winter through a combination of strategies both on the premises and in the digital realm. The strategies here will involve minimal or no costs to yourself, although ordering more supplies in to accommodate the increased demand is always a good idea, especially when it comes to non-perishables. If you’re in the midst of a cash flow problem or are experiencing difficulty with credit it may place restrictions on certain types of loans. Nonetheless now is the time to invest however you can to ensure that you’re able to meet the spike in demand without compromising quality or choice.
Remember… Image is everything
Christmas is a time when memories are made and consumers of all kinds are aware of this. They want to make sure that when they dine out they do so at a place that offers the kind of atmosphere and experience they’re looking for. This means that you must show that your restaurant is a fun and jovial place to gather over quality food and drink. Since many people will have exhaustive Christmas shopping lists to get through, they’ll take any extra value they can get too (more on that shortly). Your restaurant needs to create an atmosphere that is a warm, welcome reprieve from the dark, cold and dismal weather outside. You need to use your decor and lighting to bring out warming colors like reds, oranges, golds browns. Be sure to add a little rich green here and there for that festive feel. Don’t go overboard with the seasonal affectations, however, you don’t want to hammer the point home so much that it becomes unsavory for people who don’t “do” Christmas.
Take a step outside and if what you see through your window doesn’t make you want to rush in immediately and order something hot, something needs to change. While this should be your strategy when it comes to foot traffic, how will you get hermetic customers suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder to leave their homes when the world outside seems so cold, dark and forbidding? Here’s where social media will be your new best friend….
Get social and tell your story
They say that the first bite is with the eye, and the presentational flair with which you design your every dish should also be ascribed to your social media and content marketing campaign. If you don’t already have a presence on social media, get one. Now! Your competitors are already using social media to get in front of new customers, promote their seasonal offers and dishes and build a clientele of loyal, repeat customers and every day that you don’t embrace social media your competitors get one step ahead of you.
Make sure that your social media feed is chock full of delicious food, sumptuous wines, warming seasonal cocktails and indulgent desserts. With the winter comes a human hibernation instinct that compels people to indulge their taste buds and engaging this desire will be instrumental in your success in getting people out of their homes and around your tables.
Social media is a wonderful platform upon which to build good customer relations and give customers a peek behind the curtain, introduce them to your staff and alert them to special promotions like happy hours. It’s also a great place to promote your content.
If your business is not embracing content marketing you should remedy this as soon as possible. It’s vital in telling the story behind your business and helping customers to build a personal relationship with your restaurant. Blog posts and videos are great for giving the place a sense of personality and character. If you haven’t updated your web site since 2003 now’s the time to endow it with these customer-catching accoutrements.
Make your place the place for office parties
Every restaurant accommodates office parties, but yours needs to be the place for office parties. Encourage customers to tag you in images they post on social media so that their friends and family will see what a great time they’re having. This is also the time to build value into your Christmas dinner experience. Build in extras like a free bottle of wine for parties over a certain size or promise a level of quality that they won’t get from your competitors. You should also incentivize customers to refer their friends to join you for their office parties.
Embrace market trends
Over Christmas, as at all times, an entrepreneur underestimates the trends of the market at their peril. While the majority of your custom may be coming to you for Christmas classics, a sizeable proportion of people are embracing vegan diets. While most restaurants offer vegetarian options to diners, many alienate themselves from a fast growing market by neglecting to offer delicious meals that are entirely plant based. Don’t be one of them. Putting your vegan options front and center in your advertising or social media posts will draw you an appreciative and loyal stream of custom.
Of course, all the marketing wizardry in the world won’t amount to a thing if the in-house experience doesn’t match what people see on their social media feed. Now is the time to make sure that every dish is expertly cooked, every member of front of house staff is smiling, welcoming and courteous and to make sure that when someone steps through the door this Christmas they’ll want to keep coming back again and again through next year.