While we all hoped for complete normalcy for the 2021 holiday season, that still isn’t the case. The pandemic is still ravaging parts of the country, and uncertainty continues to abound. However, the food and beverage industry learned a lot from 2020, and the shifts we all saw in consumer behavior are poised to continue. Here are a few ways food and beverage purveyors can prepare for and make the most of this holiday season.
1. Offer online ordering for pickup and delivery.
Traditionally, consumers spent the holidays cooking at home or gathering at events; ordering out wasn’t top of mind. But the pandemic shifted consumer behavior in 2020, and Square Online food and beverage purveyors saw a 66X increase in online orders from October through December compared to the same time period in 2019. That trend appears to be continuing in 2021. According to Square’s Future of Restaurants report, restaurants expected 62% of their revenue in 2021 to come from online ordering channels.
Consumers are used to this convenience, so as it gets colder out, they’ll likely turn to restaurants that deliver when they don’t want to venture out or turn to delivery when they are hosting friends and family but don’t want to cook a full meal themselves. Consider offering both small-format and large-format prix fixe holiday meals available for online ordering, pickup, and delivery.
2. Offer alcohol delivery if your state and local laws allow for it.
On-demand delivery of wine, beer, and cocktails boomed over the past year. As consumers entertain at home for the holidays again, there’s a big opportunity for food and beverage businesses to increase order value by supplying alcohol delivery on demand.
Case in point: Kate Vourvoulis, owner of Pasadena, California-based Good Luck Wine Shop, paused on alcohol delivery as on-site purchases rebounded. But then she ended up seeing a surge in delivery requests and brought it back in September 2021, and says that she has only seen an increase in demand for delivery ahead of the holidays.
Consider offering cocktail kits, large-format holiday cocktails for a crowd, or curated wine options that pair with popular holiday meals or items on your menu.
Be sure to check your local and state laws, as there are a patchwork of rules around the country regarding alcohol delivery.
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3. Set up order scheduling.
Capture business from customers who know they are entertaining and want to plan ahead, and allow your kitchen to plan ahead as well with order scheduling. Any special holiday meals on your menu, larger format options, or holiday bundles can be pre-ordered by customers, and you can add a cutoff date for orders so there’s no last-minute scrambling in the kitchen.
4. Make your merch the ultimate gift.
Now more than ever, consumers want to support their favorite local businesses. Joggers, hats, aprons, cocktail tools, and more with your business name, logo and/or a tagline that represents you can serve as great gifts for the holidays. Learn how you can easily dip your toes into creating merch—and make sure you promote these items clearly on your website, via social media, and through email marketing.
5. Promote gift cards.
Gift cards are an even easier way to galvanize customer support this holiday season. This year, as businesses face supply chain woes and delivery delays, gift cards are poised to become a go-to gift — especially for last-minute shoppers. Let consumers give their loved ones and colleagues the gift of an experience at your establishment. You can design holiday-themed gift cards that feel extra special, and sell physical gift cards, eGift cards, or both. Make sure you promote your gift cards via email and even SMS marketing, particularly once it gets close to the holidays.
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6. Curate giftable meal kits.
Meal kits became a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic when onsite dining restrictions were in place. If you made that pivot, consider bringing them back or marketing them as holiday gifts. Who wouldn’t love to get a kit that allows them to make your most popular dishes at home? Add some festive touches to the packaging and promote them to your customers as great gifts for loved ones, a couple’s experience, or even as a host/hostess gift.
7. Run holiday offers and let your customers know about them.
From discounts on bundles that include your merch, to coupons and extra loyalty rewards on specific purchases, holiday-specific offers can be the push customers need to make or increase purchases. Be sure to promote these offers via email marketing with an attention-grabbing subject line and SMS notifications that highlight the benefits to customers.
8. Make it easy for customers to discover your business.
Your holiday promotions provide a great opportunity for new customers to find you and become regulars. There are steps that you can take so they find your business online when they search for, and ultimately, either order directly from your site (rather than third parties) or get your info and dine onsite.
- Update your Google My Business profile, so that you accurately show up in search results and on Google Maps. You can also enable Order with Google, which helps customers using Google Search & Maps easily find your business and order directly from your Square Online ordering page.
- Make sure your profile and offerings are updated on sites like Yelp and Nextdoor.
- Optimize your website site for SEO, so customers find you when they are researching restaurant options.