Key Opportunities To Attract Holiday Diners


It’s that time of year again, and many foodservice operators are hoping the holiday season brings its usual dose of seasonal cheer to the industry.

December is often seen as a time to get together with friends, celebrate the season and visit favourite restaurants. And, there are two key areas of opportunity for restaurateurs during this time. First, there’s the “mad holiday rush” when consumers look for a quick fuel-up while shopping and running errands. Second, the festive season is a special occasion that motivates consumers to treat themselves and eat out with friends, co-workers or family. 

The Special Occasion

When consumers visit a restaurant for a special occasion they typically spend more money, particularly at full-service restaurants. According to The NPD Group’s “Full-Service Dining Report,” consumers spend approximately $10 or more on average when dining out at full-service restaurants for special occasions. According to the report, customer satisfaction is higher for full-service diners who felt their service was personalized to their visit. Simply put, full-service dining customers seeking a ‘special-occasion’ visit expect one, and they’re willing to pay for it.

Use this knowledge to upsell, identifying customers who are visiting for a special occasion. To do this, servers should immediately focus on promoting higher priced menu options, appetizers and desserts as well as specialty cocktails, wine and beer. The good news is December is the month consumers are most likely to indulge and health and fitness goals are postponed for the new year.

The Hurried Occasion

On the flip side, there’s the hurried occasion where consumers need a quick meal while in the throes of Christmas shopping. NPD’s CREST data from October to December shows that off-premise restaurant traffic increases 11 per cent during these months compared to the rest of the year. 

In these instances, quick and easy meal solutions can ease the burden for consumers. So, in addition to messaging around convenience, consider opportunities for special menu items that reflect the season. If appropriate, seasonal versions of hot beverages and warm, decadent desserts will give your menu a more festive feel and result in higher average eater checks.

As retail stores look to the holiday season to boost sales, restaurants should look to do the same. Have a strategy that targets either the special or hurried occasions, or both if applicable. To bring holiday cheer to the bottom line, remember to upsell and innovate with products that reflect the season.

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