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Winter wonderland: getting customers in the festive mood

10 December 2019 Small Business Advice

The run up to Christmas is a key time for restaurants, but it requires careful planning and promotion to be a success. Here we offer some top tips to help businesses get ready for the festive season. 

The festive season has arrived. Shops are playing Christmas music, street-lights have been switched on and people will be rushing around trying to find last minute gifts for loved ones. 

For restaurant owners it’s a particularly busy time of the year. According to a recent report from Paymentsense, Restaurants 2020: The Inside Story on Eating Out, restaurants take a much bigger share of their revenue in the winter – typically 12% more than in the summer. 

Nor is that just because of Christmas (Christmas Day itself is usually a quiet day for restaurants with only 15% of us eating compared to 29% on Valentine’s Day, according to the report). The upwards trend starts as soon as summer finishes, and doesn’t slow down until January when eating out hits its lowest point of the year. 

But how can restaurants capitalise on the festive season as people begin to unwind for their Christmas break with a nice meal and a few drinks with friends, family or work colleagues? In this article, we look at five ways you can help drive sales in the run up to Christmas. 

Create a special Christmas menu

Perhaps the most obvious way restaurants can increase sales is to create a special menu for the festive season. Obviously, this should have a number of options, including meat, vegetarian and ideally vegan choices (according to the vegan society there are now 600,000 vegans in the UK, up from 150,000 in 2006).

One idea may to create dishes using local products, including seasonal vegetables such as mushrooms, squash and pumpkin. Conversely, you may want to include festive dishes from around the world such as the Italian Vigilia (otherwise known as the ‘feast of the seven fishes’) and Speculaas, a type of Cinammon spiced shortcrust biscuit that’s popular in the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg). 


Christmas Themed Drink

Offer fixed price deals

At Christmas people do like to push the boat out so they may well be tempted by a special all-inclusive package – for example a five-course menu with matching wines. Make sure you offer a Christmas lunch option for local businesses that want to reward their staff for all their hard work throughout the year.

Also remember to offer a fixed price menu that’s suited to groups of diners, either for lunchtime or dinner. How about offering Christmas brunch at your restaurant too which may be popular with tourists or those simply stopping for a quick bite to eat during a Christmas shopping session? For more Christmas holiday brunch ideas, click here

Promote your Christmas deals

We can’t say this strongly enough. In a competitive business environment, it’s not enough simply to prepare a lovely Christmas menu and hope people will come through the door. Instead you need to promote your Christmas offering as much as possible. 

One idea is to invite social media ‘influencers’ to a tasting session where they can sample your dishes and hopefully encourage their followers to book up. Another is to use your own social media channels for promotion. For example, Instagram is ideal for showing photos and video clips of your delicious Christmas dishes and you can even include a link in your Instagram bio so that people can book online directly.

If you have a small budget, use Facebook to target certain people who you want to book (maybe owners of local businesses) while you can use your email list to single out loyal customers for a special discount or promotion. Finally, why not organise a competition where a group of people can win a Christmas Day dinner (sure to be popular with those who don’t want to slave away in the kitchen) or consider giving a share of profits to a worthwhile charity such as Crisis At Christmas. See here for more information. 


Use Christmas imagery and decorations

While it may not be appropriate for every restaurant, using Christmas images in your promotional material is certainly one way to get your customers in a festive mood. Printing special Christmas themed menus complete with decorations of Christmas trees and baubles is one option. Another (if time allows) is to redesign your online presence in Christmas colours such as reds and greens. 

Finally, why not give your restaurant a festive makeover? Getting a real Christmas tree and decorating it with a few ‘presents’ wrapped in gold wrapping paper always looks good and you could also add snow imagery or even Christmas scenes to your windows. Other ideas include red, white or green accents to tables and hanging holly, mistletoe and decorative wreaths throughout. Some restaurants even get their staff to dress up in red or white colours or look like Santa’s helpers. However, that might not always go down too well with staff so be sure to consult them first!


Small Shop Decorated for Christmas

Make people feel special

Finally, we all want to feel special and going to a restaurant is one of the few times these days that we get to dress up and feel spoilt. Obviously, it goes without saying you should be friendly and welcoming throughout the year, but it’s especially important at Christmas. 

According to Paymentsense’s latest report, Restaurants 2020: The Inside Story on Eating Out, rude staff is the biggest frustration for 51% diners, across all age groups, slightly behind having to wait too long for food (59%). As well as welcoming your guests when they come in this Christmas, why not offer them a special glass of complimentary festive fizz before their meal or a liqueur on the house at the end? It won’t cost too much and it will certainly make your diners feel like they’ve had a good experience. 


While Christmas can be a stressful time, with a little bit of thought it can be an enjoyable period for staff and diners alike.

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