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While restaurant seasonality can vary by restaurant type and location, The National Restaurant Association says that more than 60% of restaurants notice their guest counts dip during seasonal events like the holidays.

Cold temperatures, inclement weather, and houseguests can make it difficult or simply unattractive to participate in on-premise dining. But seasonal slumps are just an opportunity for restaurants to double-down on promotions, revisit their loyalty programs, and refuel their delivery and takeout strategies.

Here are ten winter restaurant promotion ideas you can use to boost your restaurant sales this season.

10 winter restaurant promotion ideas to kick-start your profitability during the colder months

1. Tap into winter flavors

The colder weather brings new seasonal ingredients. Shift your menu to fit the season and your diners’ cravings. Winter menus often feature hot meals, rich flavors, and citrus garnishing.

Top winter ingredients include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Root vegetables
  • Chestnuts
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkin
  • Cranberry
  • Dates
  • Creamy cheeses
  • Warm spices

Incorporating winter flavors into your menu can inspire nostalgia and warmth amongst your diners. Stand out by trying a new twist on comfort classics like a plant-based protein main or cajun vegetables. Embracing winter ingredients can help make your restaurant the centerpiece of all winter celebrations.

2. Promote your catering business

Catering business generally kicks up around the holidays as corporations look to treat clients and employees. Advertise the catering arm of your restaurant by offering a limited-time offer (LTO), a deal or discount that’s only valid for the holiday season. Craft a seasonal catering menu that would appeal to your diners. It helps customers save on a service they already want or need, and labeling the deal as an LTO adds a sense of urgency.

Deals can be based on a calendar month or a specific amount of time surrounding a holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, or another event specific to your target clientele.

Promotional LTO ideas for your restaurant:

  • Offering cold-weather classics that work for the office or residential parties, such as gourmet hot chocolate bar, baked potato bar, or a trio of creamy winter-themed soups
  • Create a “nice list” that rewards repeat catering customers (those VIPs that participate in your loyalty program or are otherwise on record as ordering multiple times throughout the year) with a special coupon that’s good through December 31
  • Design holiday-ready menus like an entire multi-course Thanksgiving spread or a Christmas ham with all the classic sides with options for customizing for huge crowds — for an extra incentive, give holiday catering customers a coupon for the new year when they order a holiday feast now.

3. Promote a national food holiday

National food holidays are a marketing triple threat. They make it easy to come up with creative promos, they help you capitalize on trending hashtags and other conversations on social media, and they help you connect with new customers while re-engaging with your existing fan base. In other words, these sometimes-silly winter holiday promotions give customers an excuse to place an order.

Some of those cold-month food holidays include:

  • National Cookie Day (December 4)
  • National Brownie Day (December 8)
  • National Pastry Day (December 9)
  • National Lager Day (December 10)
  • National Cocoa Day (December 12)
  • National Biscuits and Gravy Day (December 14)
  • National Eggnog Day (December 24)
  • National Pumpkin Pie Day (December 25)
  • National Spaghetti Day (January 4)
  • National Milk Day (January 11)
  • National Bagel Day (January 15)
  • National Popcorn Day (January 19)
  • National Hot Sauce Day (January 22)
  • National Peanut Butter Day (January 24)

How you use the holidays for marketing your menu is up to you. It could be as simple as offering a free slice of pie for even entrée purchased on National Pumpkin Pie Day, or maybe you create an entire tasting menu with cocoa or peanut butter as the star ingredient.

For more tips, check out our blog on marketing your restaurant using National Food Holidays.

4. Promote your delivery & takeout business on social media

A recent survey found that almost half of U.S. diners tried a restaurant for the first time because of the restaurant’s post on social media.

Use social media to promote your takeout and delivery business in particular, and you may find yourself welcoming new customers just in time to help rev up the slow season. Encourage diners to follow you online, and post consistent food photography to get them drooling. Try to mix and match outright promotional posts and more casual “day in the life” messaging to keep your feed approachable and entertaining.

To make your social media marketing efforts even easier, use these 9 TikTok ideas for your restaurant!

5. Offer customers the option to order online directly from you

Some 77% of diners say they’re likely to visit a restaurant’s website before ordering up, making a strong online presence more important than ever. People want to know what their options are long before they arrive at a restaurant or decide where they’ll get takeout.

It can be challenging to build the infrastructure required to capture delivery and takeout orders on your website or through your social media profiles but skip that step, and you’re missing out on tons of potential revenue. Our guide to the best restaurant online ordering systems will help you find the platform that best fits your needs.

Looking for an easy way to fulfill orders online? Try Direct, a commission-free online ordering site that allows diners to order right from your restaurant. Customize your Direct site to match your brand, and skip hosting fees to save extra dough.

6. Promote a special delivery cocktail

While not all restaurants are allowed to offer alcohol and their food deliveries, those who can have an extra avenue for connecting with customers and boosting their per-order average. 

According to Grubhub data, adding alcohol to your Grubhub menu can result in an additional $14-$15 per order, with 8% of orders containing an alcohol menu item.

Seasonal cocktails are fun, too, like mason jars of mulled wine or Irish coffee to warm up chilly customers or a peppermint martini for a more festive twist. Get more ideas here on how you can even send a split of sparkling wine along with a candy cane garnish or a side of peach puree for an at-home brunch Bellini.

7. Create a seasonal menu

Seasonal menus get people in the spirit. That seems to be especially true around the holidays when diners start craving flavors like cranberry and pumpkin that they rarely encounter the rest of the year. 

Creating a seasonal menu builds excitement, allows you to stretch your food budget using in-season ingredients, and gives you lots of promo material for your social media feeds. Seasonal menus are also a perfect opportunity to suggest alcoholic pairings, like a particular wine or seasonal cocktail (see above), leading to high-value incremental sales. 

8. Be an example of how to give back.

A whopping 83% of millennials prefer to support companies that align with their values, and some will even pay more if they know their money will fund a shared cause.

Consider pairing a promo with a charitable donation, perhaps offering a free meal to a local organization for every five entrees sold online. You can also designate your restaurant as a drop-off place for charities running food, clothing, or toy drives around the holidays.

9. Reward your fan base with loyalty promotions

Promotions are often designed to attract new customers, but studies show loyal restaurant patrons spend 67% more than new diners.

During winter months, when diners are more likely to order delivery and takeout so they can stay snuggled up at home, consider running a promotion that specifically targets your fan base. Wondering how to launch a strategic loyalty program? Read here.

Restaurants that sign up with Grubhub get access to our promotions and loyalty tools that make it easy to direct promos to frequent customers and encourage them to order even more often.

10. Offer gift cards

Gift cards are the gifts that keep on giving. They help restaurants bring in revenue, but they also make consumers happy. Research from the National Restaurant Association shows that nearly three-fourths of surveyed want a restaurant gift card as a holiday surprise. 

Even better for restaurants, 35% of people who do get a gift card will splurge on a more expensive order, making gift cards truly the gift that keeps giving.

Maximize your winter restaurant promotion ideas with Grubhub Promotions & Loyalty Tools

When you join Grubhub, you get access to self-service technology and tools that enable you to take your winter restaurant promotion ideas to the next level.

Our promotion and loyalty tools are free to use, too — you only pay for the rewards your customers redeem.

To get started, choose a goal based on your business needs, such as:

  • Attracting new customers
  • Retaining and re-engaging with past customers
  • Offering happy hour promos
  • Attracting diners during Grubhub’s busiest hours
  • Using rewards to encourage larger orders

Once you choose your goal, select a specific promotion:

  • A fixed dollar amount off
  • A percentage off
  • Free delivery
  • Free menu item
  • Free menu selection

The restaurant industry is super competitive, and it’ll take more than a letter to Santa or wishing on the North Star to make sure you can bring in the revenue you need to thrive during the winter months. Capitalizing on trends, crafting promos that matter, and using the proper channels to market those promos can make all the difference.

Ready to grow your business with Grubhub? Get started today.