If your restaurant has a lot of dining space, a tight-knit community, and a big presence in your area, the holidays can be a great time to throw events and bring your customers together.  But if you put time, effort, and money into throwing an impressive holiday party and no one shows up, it will certainly damper your season.  Which leaves restaurant owners with a choice: should you throw a party this year, or look for another way to capitalize on the holiday season and help your restaurant do the best it can during the holidays?  Here’s a look at when it’s right to throw holiday events at your business, and an exploration of another great option for holiday profits.

Should Your Restaurant Throw a Holiday Party?

It’s hard to answer this question definitively from a distance, since every restaurant is different and every season is different, but there are some important clues you can look to decide if hosting a holiday event is the right move for your business.

The most important thing that your restaurant needs to have an abundance of in order to throw a successful independently hosted holiday party is devoted customers.  During the holidays, everyone has a lot of places they could be.  For people to choose to spend time with your restaurant during the holidays, they will need to be very invested in you and your business.  Be honest with yourself about how many highly devoted fans you have.  If the answer is “quite a few,” you could probably make a holiday party work at your restaurant.

However, even a large and devoted following won’t guarantee that your holiday party would be successful.  Look at your records from last year and see how much you brought in during the holiday months to see if your regulars are the type of customers that eat out during the holidays.  Take an inventory of what you would need to pull off a holiday party in your restaurant, and think about how you could make your space work and what kinds of extra decorations and supplies you would need.  Unless you have put a lot of effort into planning, done some research to reassure yourself that your regulars would show, and feel confident that you could pull off a great party at your restaurant, it might not be the best idea to try to throw an event this season.

Catering: A Second Holiday Option for Restaurant Owners

If after taking an honest assessment of what it would take to throw a successful party at your restaurant, you decide that a holiday event isn’t feasible, that’s ok.  There is another great option that restaurant owners can pursue to capitalize on holiday business opportunities, and it’s a lot less risky of a choice for most restaurant owners: catering.

By promoting holiday catering heavily among your customer base, you give your regulars a chance to enjoy your restaurant’s food without assuming the risk of investing in an event.  Holiday catering can help some of your favorite customers reduce their stress load during the holidays, and by promoting your delivery and catering options more aggressively during the holidays, a lot more people will probably be interested than you would expect.  Here are a few ideas for promoting holiday catering.

1. Create a Holiday Installation in Your Restaurant

Decorating your restaurant for the holidays is a smart idea, and gives your restaurant a fun and festive feel.  And it’s easy to incorporate advertisements for your delivery and catering services into a holiday installation.  Print off a flyer and some specialized take-home business cards, and incorporate them into your decorations.

2. Advertise to Delivery and Take-out Customers

Your customers who already love eating your food at home and often utilize your delivery and take-out options are a great population to target for holiday catering specials.  These customers are already accustomed to ordering your food for a home-dining experience, and it is easy to instruct your staff to casually bring up your catering offerings whenever a delivery is made or a take-out order is picked up.

3. Get Social

Social media works best as a promotional tool when you have something unique to market that people will get excited about, and holiday catering has the potential to be a lot of fun as social media topic.  Share pictures of menu offerings for your holiday catering fare, share deals with your social media followers, and watch as your catering and delivery options pick up traction.

4. Blast the Email List!

Advertising for seasonally specific offerings is one of the best things you can do with your emailing list, and you should be sure to start blasting your collected email addresses with promotional material as soon as you can.  Craft your emails with a sense of urgency, letting your customers know that the holidays are coming quick, and you won’t be available for catering pre-orders for much longer.  As long as you market catering and take-out options consistently and aggressively, a lot more people will be interested than you might expect.