As a child you might have fond, or not-so-fond memories of the man in the white beard. I myself, once saw a picture of Santa with a barefoot child in her home and thought the man in red stole her shoes. Needless to say, my parents couldn’t ever get me close enough to Santa for an actual photo op.
But I recognize that I’m in the minority when it comes to Santa photos.
Only parents (and their unlucky friends) can commiserate on waiting in the hour-long lines to give a kiddo a 2-minute stint on some older man’s knee. Besides the point that in any other circumstance sitting on a stranger’s knee would be frowned upon, thousands of parents flock to mall Santas across the country to give their children the opportunity for a sit on that fabled knee.
So as a restaurant, how can you capitalize on that increase in foot traffic this time of year?
Some restaurants have opted to host a “Santa Brunch” or even selected dinner services where appearances by St. Nick are promised to guests. Santa does the rounds by the tables, stopping momentarily to interact with kids and pose for photos. The “Santa Brunch” is an easy way to make a lasting impression on families who frequent your restaurant at very little cost to you.
Though the “Santa Brunch” is a great way to include some holiday spirit at your restaurant, if you really want to take it to the next level consider providing a true photo opportunity. Some restaurants are creating simple, decorated “sets” for children to have more one-on-one time with the big guy. Plus, as a parent I can say that minimal lines paired with the chance of an alcoholic beverage makes on-site Santa locations at restaurants a big win. Kids get to tell Santa what they want for Christmas, parents get a keepsake photo of their adorable child, and if you plan it right, you can create branded photos or inserts for a little extra marketing power. Throw in a “Next Visit” discount coupon good for January and you can count on repeat business in the following month (a notoriously quiet period).
If you choose to setup a photo opportunity with Santa at your restaurant, consider doing the following:
1. Create a simple set reflective of your brand.
Traditional holiday décor like bells, glitter and evergreens aside, create a photo opportunity that matches your space. Do you specialize in rustic, no-fuss dishes? Or do you have a modern, polished dining room? Keep your voice and message consistent in your design, because if customers already love coming to you for your ambiance and food, chances are they’ll love the photo too. You may find that it doesn’t take much to create a nice setup for photos.
2. Communicate specific times for Santa photos.
It’s probably not a good idea to promote Santa appearances during your busiest service hours. Instead, considering setting up a 2-hour window at the start of happy hour (around 3pm or 4pm) to get more customers in the door during a traditionally slow period. You may even opt to take reservations for Santa to avoid cumbersome lines that might pose traffic problems for staff.
3. Consider this a true marketing opportunity.
Encourage guests to take tag your restaurant if they post the image to social media! Make your social media handles visible. You could even try creating a unique hashtag (#SantaAT[your restaurant]) to promote your event as well. Promote free pictures with Santa to local PTOs, mom groups and more, and count on lots of food traffic.