How to Engage Your Restaurant Customers After the Holidays
January, the arch-nemesis of the restaurant industry. The roar of the holidays has been left behind for the new year. Now it’s time for everyone to drop those extra pounds and all those extra cookies. Not to mention that it’s cold outside, it gets dark too early, and wallets are still recovering from all the gifts and holiday cheer.
In other words, your average person isn’t thinking: boy, it’s time to go out for dinner!
But fear not, restaurant owners! There’s no need to be pessimistic. Although the depths of winter are a challenging time for business, these slow times are also a massive opportunity. Time to try out some new restaurant promotion strategies. Get creative. Have fun. Enjoy your business.
After all, people gotta eat, don’t they? When they do, let’s make sure they choose your restaurant.
The Best January Restaurant Promotion Ideas
There are a lot of general strategies for promoting a restaurant. For instance, we’ve told you about some of our favorite ways to use restaurant stickers.
But you need business now. And we’re here to help. Presenting effective January restaurant promotion ideas.
Let’s get into it.
1. Customize a Healthy, “New Year, New You” Menu
Ah, the three things in life that will always be true: Death, taxes, and vowing to lose weight every January.
We joke, obviously; we support a healthier, happier society. And for those who stick with their resolutions, we salute you.
That’s why we recommend creating a healthy menu catering to these resolutions. Not only is this a solid restaurant promotion for January. It’s also an opportunity to experiment, mix things up, and show off your innovative culinary skills.
This doesn’t mean throwing a salad on the menu and hoping for the best. Put the same love and care into designing healthy options that align with your overall restaurant vision. Patrons notice quality. Plus, healthy menu items enhance your restaurant’s reputation and can reel in some new customers.
You might even find that experimenting leads to an item so popular it becomes a permanent addition to your menu. Keep these ones around to drum up some repeat business.
2. Give Your Regulars Something Special
The nice thing about regulars is that, well, they’re regulars. Even in the downtimes, you can expect ol’ Kim and Bill to be coming in for their routine date night. The other important thing about regulars is that they tend to bring family or friends with them.
In other words, you should take care of these customers. If you are on a first-name basis with customers who always seem to be around, you should reward them for their loyalty.
Here are a few starter ideas for restaurant offerings and vouchers specific to regulars.
- Free appetizer with a drink purchase
- Free drink on the next visit if they come back before the end of the month
- Free menu item (under a specific price point) if they show you a photo of your restaurant sticker they placed somewhere
Of course, you know your business better than we do. Find a promotion that will reward loyalty while protecting your margins. A small gesture for your regulars will go a long way.
3. Create a Month-Long Restaurant Promotion
Go on the offensive against the challenges of January and create a month-long promotion. This is a way to expand offerings to your entire customer base.
What is the best month-long restaurant promotion? Well, that’s up to you to know what works most effectively for your restaurant. But we’ve got some ideas to get your creative juices pumping:
- A unique menu item only available in January
- A two-for-$20 deal with a shared appetizer and dessert
- Buy-one-get-one entrees
- Kids eat free (if you cater to families)
- Half-price dessert
- Start a rewards program that you can only sign up for during January
Another way to think about a month-long restaurant promotion is to identify oddities about January and market around them.
For example, did you know the last week of January is Meat Week? Or that the second week of January is National Pizza Week? We smell opportunities there.
Depending on the vibe of your restaurant or bar, you could also market around sports. The NFL Playoffs happen every January and are an excellent opportunity to offer specials. You could also provide deals around NBA basketball and NHL hockey games. Let’s not forget that the College Football National Championship happens in January.
The point is to understand your market and lean into promotions that best fit your audience and atmosphere. And if you’ve done successful promotions in the past, January is an excellent opportunity to reactivate them.
Give yourself some time to look at the calendar and get creative. You know your customers best.
4. Make the Most of Your Space
People go out selectively during the winter. How can you ensure your restaurant or bar is at the top of their mind when they’re considering where to go when they step out into the cold?
In these cold months with fewer activities and events, people want something to do. So give them something to do!
Hosting events is an easy and effective way to drive business in slow months like January. Granted, this might be a challenge depending on the space of your restaurant or bar but consider it nonetheless.
A few thought-starters:
- Host local musician showcases or open mic nights. People love live music, and local musicians tend to bring a small crowd of friends and family for support.
- Provide wine or beer tastings, both to generate interest in your restaurant and to get an understanding of what your customers like or don’t like.
- Celebrate a weird holiday, such as National Bubble Bath Day on January 8, Dress Up Your Pet Day on January 14, or something else that’s fun and funky.
5. Offer Exclusive Takeout Deals
This one’s a no-brainer.
As much as people try to avoid the cold of January, they still gotta eat. Offering exclusive takeout deals makes your restaurant a top choice when regulars Kim and Bill feel like staying in to rewatch every season of The Sopranos.
Takeout not only helps drive revenue because you’re profiting without taking up space in your restaurant, but it’s also a marketing opportunity. Imagine a big, bright, customized takeout box showing up at someone’s home. How would you design your restaurant to-go box?
Moreover, restaurant stickers are a perfect tool for upping your restaurant’s takeout game. Here are 10 ways you can think about utilizing restaurant stickers.
Oh, and let’s not forget that New Year’s Day is also known as National Hangover Day. We can all agree that nothing cures a hangover like a perfect takeout order.
Try to nail your exclusive takeout deals to start the month. You may generate a significant amount of business that can help carry you through the later quieter times.
6. Experiment and Have Some Fun!
How many times in the past year have you been too busy to try that thing you’ve been meaning to try?
Maybe it’s a social media strategy, a new dish, a different restaurant layout, or something completely different.
Don’t sweat it. We get it. You’re a restaurant owner. You deal with a thousand different things every day. That thing you’ve been meaning to try floats around on your ideas list because, well, isn’t it obvious?
But now’s the time. Because, hey, you actually got the time.
Utilize the slowness of January to zoom out on your restaurant or bar and the overall strategy. Are you working towards your goals? Can you try something else to test the results? Maybe it’s time to make a batch of stickers or design that new menu you’ve been dreaming of?
The worst thing that can happen when you experiment is that it doesn’t work. The best thing is that you might discover something that will transform the future of your business.
Whatever it is, give it a shot.
Remember That January Is an Opportunity
There’s no secret formula to success, especially in the restaurant industry. As a business owner, you know this better than anyone else – but don’t be discouraged!
Successful people meet challenging moments head-on. It’s easy to be afraid. But taking control of those anxieties is what leaders do. You know what they say. Fortune favors the bold.
Don’t view January’s post-holiday malaise with fear. View it with power. Take this traditionally slow month as an opportunity to improve your business and your quality of life.
- Tags: Restaurants
- Nashira Edmiston