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Best Holiday Marketing Strategies and Promotions for Restaurants

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By Tock Staff

The holidays are a prime time to unleash your boldest ideas. Discover how to turn a profit from every corner of your restaurant space and how to take care of your staff while providing excellent hospitality for your guests.

In Tock’s recent webinar, “Mastering the Holidays,” our expert panelists share insights to make this season your most successful yet.

1. Experiment with innovative offerings this holiday season.

During this time of year, people want to create memories around the holidays and are willing to spend to get them. “Guests want to feel indulgent. That is kind of the expectation around the holidays—they want to feel special,” explains Tock hospitality manager Elan Palmitessa. 

Now is the time to get creative and think outside the box. Whether offering a menu with high-end ingredients like truffles or caviar or pouring vintage wines and premium spirits to enhance your dinner service, you have room to play. 

That said, not every experiment will strike gold—and that’s okay. Sophie Brochu, senior copywriter at Tock and business owner at Brochu’s Family Tradition in Savannah, GA, advocates for honing in on your strengths. “You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You can choose what you’re good at and not try to do every single thing with every single holiday. It takes an amount of confidence and restraint to be able to say no—and that’s okay, too.”

2. Provide your special offerings throughout the season instead of just the major holidays.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the main acts, but why limit your business to just two blockbuster occasions? According to senior account manager Melissa Maciejewski, restaurants that earn substantially during the holidays offer holiday-themed menus, upgrades, and experiences throughout the season.

 “The businesses with the most traffic and revenue on Tock offered ongoing experiences from the end of November through the first week of January. People are primed to celebrate and spend money, so definitely think big during the season because guests are ready for it,” said Maciejewski. 

We’ve got some ideas to get you started:

  • Run a weeknight Friendsgiving menu for the month of November.
  • Host a Feast of the Seven Fishes. 
  • Add luxe upgrades to everyday offerings like caviar and champagne with fried chicken. 
  • Curate cocktail or wine kits as to-go packages.  

3. Incorporate deposits to cover your bottom line and help your staff.

No-shows impact everything from your bottom line to the overall vibe in your restaurant. Maciejewski knows firsthand that no-shows hit you where it hurts—revenue and staff morale.  “You put in all of this time and effort to crafting a beautiful holiday experience, make sure that the people who said they would join you will be there,” she advises.

Tock’s prepayment feature is proven to reduce no-shows, helping to keep guests on the hook for their reservations. With deposits, you can safeguard your revenue even if a cancellation occurs. By minimizing no-shows, you can keep your restaurant buzzing with holiday cheer, ensuring your team is met with appreciative guests.

Nervous about implementing deposits? Don’t be. Studies show that even requesting a deposit of a nominal amount, like $10, significantly reduces no-shows.

4. Utilize every inch of your restaurant to set up unique, revenue-driving experiences.

Have a private dining space? Deck it out with festive gear—think lights, tinsel, and wreaths—and invite big groups to celebrate. At the bar, pop champagne and whip up cocktails paired with holiday appetizers for the after-work crowd. And, if your business has a patio, go all out with igloo dining—fire up the heaters and serve a curated menu of food, desserts, and hot cocoa to keep everyone warm and toasty.

Each of these dining experiences can vary in pricing to cater to various guests, from luxury seekers to happy hour revelers. Tock’s seating options lets your guest handpick their preferred experience.

5. Put a bow on top of what already sells.

We’re here to assure you that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel during the holidays. Palmetiessa noted that restaurants with a retail element easily repackaged items for a special Christmas kit available for pick-up on Tock. Meanwhile, Brochu is capitalizing on the success of her restaurant’s happy hour promotion, dubbed “Sour Hour,” which offers pickled goods and drinks exclusive to the bar, and weaving it into their New Year’s Eve celebration.

When it comes to crafting an entirely new dining experience or tweaking an existing offering, the choice depends on what aligns best with your restaurant’s goals.

6. Consider scaling back to prevent additional stress on your staff.

The holidays, while celebratory, can add a mountain of stress upon your employees. Brochu emphasizes the value of limited, exclusive offerings. “It’s okay to do things in small quantities. If your offering runs out, great. Selling out means there is high demand and a bit of exclusivity. Not everyone has to get it that year, but maybe they remember for next year and get in early.”

Maciejeweski echoes that organizing intimate gatherings works wonders for both staff and guests and helps to generate buzz all its own. “I’ve worked at a few restaurants that have done very exclusive holiday experiences where there are only 20 seats,” she adds. “It creates so much buzz, and it’s a great marketing opportunity.” 

7. Strategically market your experiences with guest data.

If you’re a Tock customer, our dashboard is the only tool you need in your marketing toolbelt. It provides access to valuable insights, from your busiest months to the type of guests who have stopped in down to what experiences performed well (and not so well) last season. Palmitessa recommends diving into your data leading up to the holiday to see what hits the bullseye with your audience. “You can go through your guest visit counts, even look down to the granular level to see how many people visit per experience, to see what might appeal to them most,” she says. 

Tock goes the extra mile to arm our customers with marketing resources, like the option to tag experiences with campaign tags (for example: “Thanksgiving” or “Christmas”). These automatically create holiday collection pages prominently featured on the home page. What’s more, Tock keeps potential diners in the loop with weekly newsletters highlighting the latest events and buzz in your area.

For an added touch of hospitality, consider personalized outreach to your regulars alongside promotional reminders via social media and email.

8. It’s not too late to start planning. 

There’s still a window of opportunity to iron out your offerings, and now is the time to get on it. With Tock, you can set up and remove your dining experiences with the push of a button. For Brochu, it’s all about being agile and making every moment count: “If something is selling, you’ve got time to get ready. And if it’s not, you can change the game plan.”

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