As the leaves begin to change and sweaters are pulled out of the back of our closets, it becomes time to face the holiday music. Colder weather means that its time for holiday planning, and October is a busy month to start thinking ahead. But what should restaurant operators be doing to plan for the upcoming holiday season and beyond?
Design your restaurant marketing strategies
Know your offer. As you begin thinking of ways to bring in customers and increase restaurant revenue during the slower post-holiday months (January-March), think about your audience, and what kinds of deals drive them. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I looking to bring in new customers, or do I want to ensure that existing customers visit during this time?
- Am I targeting the community as a whole, or do I want to target a specific group, such as catered events, like Super Bowl party planners, and winter-time luncheons?
Define success. Once you know who you’re targeting, you need to define what success means to you. Do you want to bring in a certain dollar amount, do you want to sign up a certain number of people to your restaurant customer loyalty program, or do you have another idea in mind? As you think about what success looks like for you, think about what staffing requirements you might have to ensure the best customer experience.
Make it easy. Don’t make it a struggle for customers to take you up on your offer.Offering to accept a coupon on weeknights, or on any day outside of Saturdays, makes it easy for people to visit your operation.
Build your database. Now that you know what your offer is, and know how you’re planning on defining success, you can start to build your database. Collecting demographics and contact information on the customer type you’re looking to target can help you be sure that your offer is attracting the right attention.
Host a staff meeting for both your front-of-house and back-of-house employees
Keep your employees engaged. You want your customers to be excited about visiting your operation, and your staff should be excited about coming to work too. By running a contest during the busy holiday months, and the slower post-holiday season, you can boost staff morale and gain support around the promotion.
Team up your operation. Pair up groups of front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house employees and offer each of them ways to earn points for their team. Servers might be able to score points by selling a particular profitable dish, while cooks might be able to score points by having fast ticket turn-around times. Depending on your operation, the possibilities to get each staff member involved are endless.
Keep score. Use a whiteboard or blackboard in the kitchen to keep score of how each team progresses. Let your staff see at-a-glance who the competition is, and make sure that there is continued encouragement for those who might fall behind.
Offer rewards and recognition. Set milestones for your teams and reward them along the way. Say a server signed up 10 customers for the loyalty program in one shift – try offering them a gift certificate for a $50 dinner for themselves and another person. Or let your staff know that as a whole they met or exceeded the goal of bringing in a certain number of sales, they win an after-hours pizza party.
Order your marketing materials
During October you should also start thinking about how you want to promote your offer both externally and internally. Think about advertising in newspapers or local sales flyers, about hanging posters inside of your operation, or about setting table tents notifying customers of a deal.
Using a program such as LTO Direct, you have the opportunity to design custom menu inserts, comment cards, labels, and more.
Send out your mailer
It’s important to send your customer mailer out as soon as possible, but aim to have your business-to-business mailers prepared and sent by as soon as possible, with consumer flyers sent out by mid-November. These should include any community involvement flyers and potential corporate catering opportunities. But remember, it’s not just about what you say – it’s also about how you say it.
Don’t look like spam. Snail mail can automatically keep you from looking like you’re sending out spam. With your business-to-business flyers, it might also be a good idea to follow-up with a phone call.
Know your brand. Think about the best approach for your customers – are you the type of operation where a handwritten note might draw the most attention, or would a flashy flyer or email work best? Your customers are more likely to respond to your offer if they feel that it’s personal and not just a sales pitch.
Look for remote opportunities to promote. Don’t be afraid to pound the pavement in search of more business-to-business opportunities. Have your employees hit the streets with flyers, menus, and catering offers, and have them be prepared to answer questions. As a thank you for these employees, you can celebrate the end of the day with a pizza party to say thank you.
Go digital. If you offer a customer loyalty program within your operation, try sending out an email to your database of leads offering them a reward for signing up for your loyalty program. As social media marketing for restaurants becomes more popular, you can use this approach on your social media pages, as well as your websites to lure in people who might have liked you on Facebook or regularly check your website for menu specials.
Regardless of your offer or your approach, October is the perfect time to prepare your operation, staff, and community for the offers you’ll be presenting during the holiday months. Proper planning now can ensure that guests continue to dine at your restaurant, and increase revenue, even during times when foot-traffic is low.