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How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Historically, the holiday season is a very profitable time for restaurants, and this year promises to be no exception. As a matter of fact, Experian predicts 2013 holiday spending will increase by 11 percent over last year.

So how can your restaurant really take advantage of this season of spending? Let’s run though some smart holiday promotion strategies …

Communicate with your current patrons

Time to put that email list to good use! Email is an easy way—and quite cost effective—to spread the word and bring in customers over the holidays. If you don’t have an email marketing provider, MailChimp is a great option, and they have a free plan that will accommodate the needs of most small establishments.

Table displays (tents, postcards, etc.) are another good option because they take advantage of your captive audience. Also: train hosts and hostesses to mention your holiday hours, promotions, menu items, etc., when answering the phone.

All the work you’ve put into building your social media presence and attracting a following? That effort is going to pay huge dividends during the holidays! Be sure to beat the drum over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, et. al, to get folks excited about your seasonal offerings.

Another idea: a direct mail campaign, while somewhat pricey, can be an effective way to reach potential customers over the holidays.

Connect with folks who haven’t dined with you yet

Have you considered running a promotion on a daily deal site? Sites like Groupon and Living Social have gotten a bad rap lately, and there some truth to the notion that these deals can be great for customers but terrible for small-business owners. However, there’s still a time and place for this marketing tool, particularly if you don’t have a large email list or social media following and you want to reach a big audience quickly. What’s more, if you design the right offer you can certainly make the financials work!

Do something special

It’s the holidays, so business as usual won’t cut it. (Nor will simply changing the satellite/Pandora radio station to Christmas tunes.) If you want to attract customers this November and December, we suggest tapping your creative imagination. Maybe new table displays, a cozy cocktail list, or even a totally revamped holiday menu.

Make sure hungry holiday shoppers can find you

These days everyone carries a smartphone, and they’re using them to find nearby bars and restaurants. According to one study from Nielsen, 64 percent of mobile restaurant searchers convert immediately or within an hour!

Does your restaurant show up when customers search online? Improve your visibility and ensure accuracy by updating your important local directory profiles on Google+, Yelp, etc.

Ideally you have a website that looks decent and displays quickly on a 4-inch smartphone screen, but if you don’t … at least try to position the key info that customers need—your address, phone number, hours, menu link—front and center. It’s hard to hunt for information on a tiny screen! Smartphone users are famously impatient, so don’t make them work/wait for it—because they’ll just tap away to competitor’s site.

Another method you might try is slightly “Minority Report”-ish but could be really effective this year: reach nearby shoppers with geo-targeted ads. Google, Twitter and Foursquare currently offer this service. Why not give it a shot?

Last-minute catering services?

In most cases, larger companies have already made holiday-party plans, but if you’re late to the catering party (so to speak), you might still have a chance to pick up some catering business, because this time of year there are always contingencies—companies that forgot to book a venue (small firms are notorious procrastinators) or catering companies that accidentally double booked themselves. You never know!

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