This article first appeared on Modern Restaurant Management
by SESHU MADABUSHI
If you want to promote your restaurant in this holiday season, you need to prepare in advance. While the holiday season traditionally starts in November or December, for some it starts much earlier – 40 percent of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween each year. And it’s the busiest season with some retailers accounting for 30 percent of their annual sales. The projected retail sales during the holiday season is around $700 billion with the average holiday spending over the past 10 years is around $740. Spending on gift cards has been increasing over the past 10 years.
Start Early and Have a Plan
Hire and train staff: Given seasonal nature and high competition start looking at hiring and training staff. You want to put the best foot forward and a highly trained and motivated staff is what you want to have to handle the holiday season rush.
Plan out the specials that you want to have, events you want to organize: Halloween contest, black Friday/cyber Monday deals and Christmas specials.
Inventory Check: Make sure you have or lined up required inventory for your events and specials.
Back Up Plan: Based on your prior experience come up with “what if” scenarios and have back up plans for these scenarios.
Focus on Customer Engagement
Now that you have lined up your ducks in terms of events and specials it is time to let your existing and potential customers know about these specials. The earlier you let your customers know about these specials/events the better off you are.
~Create events/specials on your website and social media sites. If you plan to host any kind of event, it is better to have a landing page where your customers might sign up (on Facebook or on your website).
~Build your customer email list and start informing them along with links to events and specials so that your customers can plan accordingly.
~Use social media to the hilt – have an advertising budget that you would like to spend for promoting these specials and events.
~Decorate your store early on based on your planned activities. Have posters, lights and other kind of decor that would give the festive look.
Plan Co-Marketing Activities
The more the merrier and this applies to holiday season. Have a plan as to what other local merchants/partners you can work with for cross marketing and promotions.
~Identify strategic partners with whom you can work with to execute co-marketing activities.
~Come up with a value proposition for your partners, their customers and your customers. For example if you are a retail toy store reach out to local Montessori schools with specials for kids or if you are a restaurant work with a local mall and see if you can give customers with black Friday bill a freebie.
~Come up with an execution and promotion plan (see customer engagement) that includes the customer base of yours and your strategic partner.
Emphasize Gift Cards
Over the past ten years there has been an increase in the amount that customers are spending on gift cards. As a small business you can ride this wave by:
~Identify whether you want to have physical or e-gift cards or both.
~Identify potential partners. For example, you can join OpenTable Gift program.
~If possible have an offer on gift cards and promote the availability of the cards. Sell them online, social media and in the store.
Partner with a Local Charity
Even though this falls within the ambit of co-marketing activities we want to emphasize the fact that the holiday season is also considered the season of giving.
~Identify a local charity that your customers associate themselves with.
~Approach them to organize a fund raiser or some sort of an event. For example work with local Salvation Army or Toys For Tots to raise funds for kids/toys.
~If possible involve your customers. For example if you are a restaurant explore the option of involving your customers in organizing a Thanksgiving feast at a local soup kitchen.
~Promote the partnership and announce the results so that your customers can understand what kind of impact you/they had on this non-profit.
To have a great holiday season it is imperative that you start early with a plan and set of activities that are inline with the plan. Define a set of metrics that you want to measure so that you can understand whether your plan was successful for this year and how it can be improved for future holiday seasons.
A serial entrepreneur with a focus on restaurant marketing, Seshu Madabushi has more than 15 years of experience. His latest venture, mKonnekt, is a marketing platform that mines customer data to create personalized dining experiences and consists of different modules for online ordering (FoodKonnekt) loyalty (FreeKwent) and more.