It´s never too early to begin planning for the holidays. One of the most profitable and exciting times in the business begins in late November and frequently lasts through December and continues through the first weeks of January. With the economy steadily booming the upcoming holiday party season could be a tremendous boost for restaurants across the country. However, the competition for holiday party dollars is often fierce. Therefore you need to be culinarily creative with your marketing skills.
Here are ten tips on how to attract those clients and book those holiday parties for individuals and corporations.
1). Develop a special holiday lunch and dinner menu for a minimum of ten people. Promote it throughout the restaurant and make sure that your regular customers are made aware of it. Holiday lunches and special dinners can fill seats and if priced accordingly can add profits.
2). Create themed catering selections for off-site gatherings. Winter Wonderland, Country Western Hoedown, and Victorian Christmas Gatherings are all good themes to begin with. One favorite has always been the Dickens of a Christmas menu. The waiters would dress in clean, pressed, but ravaged clothes as though characters that Charles brought to life. The selection of Roasted Turkeys, Ham, Salads, and harvest vegetables made a perfect buffet table. The theme worked for groups of 20-200 guests. And the clients loved it. As did the waiters.
3). The Holiday Recipe Card– This is a sure winner. The ingredients are simple-Take a crisp holiday night, add a good portion of friends, fold in a healthy measure of palate-pleasing tastes of the season, sprinkle with a few servers and a bartender, add a creative catering company who pays attention to detail, service, and the discriminating customer"?¦mix well on a night of your choice"?¦.This is a great mailer that garners tremendous response.
4). Prepare five sample menus and invite your most cherished customers to a tasting event. Stylishly present the food – a buffet table works here-and have your best servers put on their best show passing appetizers to your guests while serving champagne. Use the event as a sales tool to book holiday parties. It may cost you the days receipts, (unless you have it on a day when you are normally closed), but the business you create will more than make up for your investment.
5). Send Christmas cards early– Send out a Christmas card simply stating the holiday season isn´t here yet, but it may be time to begin thinking of that holiday party.
6). Corporate parties– Do you have corporate executives enjoying lunch in your restaurant frequently? Let them know that you want to send their administrative assistants or secretaries some holiday party information. Drop a few names of people who have had parties in season´s past. Make sure you send the information out. Nothing is worse than forgetting to fulfill a commitment.
7). Establish holiday party portfolio that can be reviewed by a customer while enjoying lunch or dinner in your restaurant. Nothing sells better than preparation. On the first inquiry about a party give the client the portfolio of parties past and possibilities of those in the future. Describe your menu, how many people you can accommodate, basic pricing, and make sure you include the fact that you do menu tastings.
8). Menu Tastings – Invite the potential guests to the restaurant to sample a few catering possibilities. Make the appetizers, entrees and desserts and serve them as a complete meal. It´s hard to not sign the dotted line on a catering contract after enjoying a delightful evening. Are you giving away food? No. If you and the team have done your jobs well you can cover the cost of the sample meal in the catering contract.
9). Don´t discount pick-up parties– Many people prefer to simply order appetizers that they can pass themselves. Create a menu with five or ten different options of culinary delights that dazzle for the holidays. These trays can be prepared by your staff, picked up by the customer and frequently expand your profit center as customers realize they pay a premium for convenience.
10). The Christmas Gift Ornament– Chose a Christmas ornament that is affordably memorable and begin a tradition of sending it out with your holiday menu. You don´t need to send out hundreds of these- they work and you will not be able to handle the parties- but you should develop a customer list that look forward to their yearly arrival. One of the most successful campaigns I ever ran was a small kitchen whisk with a card on it that simple read "This season we´re whipping up a great holiday menu. Join in the celebration." The response was phenomenal. Yearly clients would await our Christmas ornament gift before booking their parties. And with the season, the ornaments would appear on the customer´s trees. A perfect memorable reminder.
You will also find that any well done promotional campaign works year after year and continues to entice returning clients. Be creative. Think outside the norm. Add some spice to the party through details. And don´t forget you offer professionally perfect holiday hospitality. That´s what sets you apart.