Christmas Marketing Ideas to Secure More Restaurant Bookings

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

The countdown to Christmas 2023 has begun, which means it’s time to start turning your restaurant into a wonderland of festivities.

Read on to discover what to expect from the upcoming festive season, as well as top promotional ideas to help you secure those Christmas bookings.

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What to expect from restaurant goers this festive season

Many of the Christmas and New Year festivities were put on hold last year, resulting in sales across the UK’s major pub and restaurant groups declining by more than 70%. Luckily, the 2023 festive season looks as though it’s set to return with a bang.

Festive bookings are already on the rise across the country, as customers are eager to make up for missing out last year. Christmas party booking site, Fizzbox, reported a four-fold increase in festive bookings as far back as August.

Similarly, industry titans like D&D and The Restaurant Group have confirmed the return of Christmas work parties and family events has had a positive impact on December bookings.

So how can your business make the most of the festive period and secure more bookings?

How to attract more customers to your restaurant during the holidays

Decorate your website

Get into the festive spirit with a quick revamp of your restaurant website. You can use Square Online’s web templates to set up a digital platform, then add a festive spin for the winter season.

Create an eye-catching header image to capture the spirit of your Christmas menu, with optional delivery and click-and-collect options to cater to those who prefer an at-home celebration. Change up your on-site content to engage with the theme, or even feature a dedicated page for Christmas dining.

Early Christmas booking incentives

The festive season has started earlier than ever this year, with Christmas adverts already rolling out and early birds stocking up on gifts. So why not encourage advanced meal and party bookings too?

Using online reservation software such as OpenTable can make advanced Christmas bookings easier, for you and your revellers. OpenTable integrates directly with Square’s restaurant POS software and has lots of ways to incentivise customers to book their Christmas meals nice and early. You can offer tailored Christmas specials and events you know they’ll love with diner insights based on their order history and past spending.

Festive film nights

What better way to attract the attention of potential bookers than with a festive film night at your restaurant? Choose an off-peak evening – most likely mid-week – to set up a big screen and host a series of festive films, from A Christmas Carol to Die Hard.

You could even design a special set menu for the event with easy-to-eat dishes and popular snacks to create the full cinema experience.

Check out our guide to large viewings for tips and tricks on maximising floor space, changing up your layout and making the most of the big screen. And if you’re thinking of moving around the furniture, Square for Restaurant’s OpenTable integration lets your servers see floorplans in real-time so there’s less room for error on the big night.

Christmas quizzes

Not enough space for a big screen set-up? Opt for a more low-key promotional event such as a Christmas quiz night. It’s the perfect post-work event for local businesses and a great setting for groups to exchange gifts, enjoy a meal and celebrate ‘Friendsmas’.

Advertise the weekly quiz night online across your social media accounts for added exposure, then hand out leaflets to current diners and passers-by to spread the word. If it’s a success, it could even become a permanent feature on your weekly event line-up.

Countdown to Christmas email strategy

With December on the horizon, you should also start to think about your email marketing strategy. Also known as customer relationship management, your email strategy should engage your existing customer base to build on their loyalty.

In the run up to Christmas, ensure you have a weekly email that summarises upcoming events, offers and promotions to encourage previous diners to re-book for the festive period. You can link directly to your booking page for added convenience.

Festive packages for events

A great way to build on bookings during the winter months is to target large groups. This could be colleagues and event coordinators looking for a work party location or families wanting to celebrate the festivities with an extended meal.

Offer a special package especially for these customers and include all the event essentials, such as:

  • A festive set menu
  • Drink pairings
  • Decorations – such as candles, Christmas crackers, etc.
  • Live entertainment

You could also offer a large group discount depending on the party size.
Include an ‘Events’ tab on your website to showcase your festive dinner packages. This will help customers know exactly where to go and encourage them to book directly with you.

Planning ahead for the festive season

During planning your Christmas promotions, it’s also important to keep in mind what we have learnt from the past year or so.

You should continue to adhere to any Covid safety measures during the festive period, whether that be hand sanitiser stations at the entrance of your restaurant or staff health and hygiene.

Make sure you have adequate staffing for the Christmas period in advance – especially as there’s a hospitality shortage in the UK at the moment. Talk to each member of staff about scheduling so they know what to expect and can plan their own celebrations around the December rota.

You may want to have a customer cancellation policy in place to lower the risk of no-shows, while mandatory deposits can be crucial for larger group booking and events. Having these contingency plans in place, means you’ll be able to deliver on the expectations of your customers.

With these Christmas promo ideas under your belt, your restaurant is sure to be booming this festive season. For extra support, Square Restaurants all-in-one POS system can help ensure your small business thrives throughout the festivities.