A Restaurant Owner’s Guide to “Politically Correct” Holiday Promotions

Happy holidays banner against wooden planks background
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Every holiday season, a few things are certain.  The carols will start too early, the sales will be overwhelming, and pundits will discuss whether our society is too “politically correct” and waging a “war on Christmas,” or still too insensitive to the beliefs and customs of those outside of the mainstream.  Political correctness can be a touchy and sensitive cultural subject for some people surrounding the holidays, and it is something you should certainly be considering.

As a restaurant owner, there are a lot of opportunities to capitalize on increased spending and the celebratory atmosphere of the holiday season. But you will want to be able to do so without offending any of your potential customers or anyone in your community likely to raise concerns.  Here are tips on how and why to keep politically correct considerations in mind during the holiday season as a restaurant owner.

Political Correctness in Holiday Promotion: The What and Why

The phrase “politically correct” is itself something of a modern cultural phenomenon, and it’s understandable if you aren’t totally familiar with its application to the holiday season.  During the holidays, it has become seen as politically incorrect and culturally insensitive to focus attention entirely on the Christian holiday of Christmas without noting and respecting other seasonal celebrations.  This societal emphasis on political correctness manifests itself in small ways, like when people say “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  But, it can and should affect your policy and holiday promotional drive in bigger ways as well.

The reason why you should be thinking about political correctness and making sure to steer your restaurant in a non-offensive direction is that it can cost your business to do otherwise.  Yes, you want happy customers, and you don’t want to offend anyone or cause an unnecessary disruption. But, if you end up insulting a member of a cultural, religious, or ethnic group by ignoring politically correct language and practices, it could come back to hurt you and your reputation.

You want to be sure that your business isn’t offending anyone and that your customers don’t feel ignored or marginalized as a matter of common sense and politeness: it’s convenient that doing so is also a smart business practice that could protect your restaurant from controversy.  Here are some tips to help you make sure that your holiday promotions, from deals to language, are politically correct and unlikely to offend any potential customers.

Holiday Promotions, the Politically Correct Way

If you want to make sure that your holiday promotional deals and language do not offend anyone and doesn’t create ill feelings around your restaurant, here are a few tips that you can follow.

1. Do the Little Things

Using the phrase “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” may feel like a small gesture, but it shows your customers, especially those that identify outside of the majority Christian paradigm, that you are making an effort and care about being inclusive.  As you decide how to frame your holiday promotions in a politically correct manner, start with little details like this.  Other examples are using non-denominational decorations in your restaurant and avoiding denominational language and imagery in your mail-outs.  Little details like this are easy to complete, and prove that you are making an effort.

2. Don’t Fake Understanding

It’s ok if you don’t understand all the nuances of a cultural celebration that is unfamiliar to you.  What isn’t ok, and will be more likely to offend your customers, is pretending like you know what you are talking about or understand a holiday or celebration that you do not.  Instead of faking understanding, think about whether there is someone in your life who you can have a genuine conversation with.  Whether it’s a customer, a friend, or a family member, find the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the celebration you are unfamiliar with through real interactions, and you will do a better job of being sensitive.

3. Aim for True Inclusivity

Your goal for holiday promotional materials shouldn’t be to check as many boxes as you can and make sure that all of your advertisements are cluttered by token representations of different seasonal celebrations.  Instead, aim for true inclusivity when designing your holiday promotions.  Think about how to tastefully make sure that no one who sees your promotions will feel marginalized or excluded.  As long as you are coming from the right place, it’s ok if you make a few mistakes along the way as you learn.  Just aim for true inclusivity; the rest will come.

Closing Thoughts on Political Correctness

You should do everything you can to make sure that your holiday promotions are politically correct, but don’t do so for the sake of political correctness.  Do so because caring about political correctness is a good way to make sure that you don’t offend your potential customers, and it’s in the best interest of you and your restaurant to care about the right way to advertise around the holiday season.

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Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.

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