There’s good news and bad news about restaurant event sales during the holidays. The good news: It’s the most profitable time of year. The bad news: You have to work for it.
Restaurants face a few obstacles to winning their piece of holiday revenue: More competitors, more types of food options (restaurants vs. meal kits vs. sit-down vs. fast-casual), and more noise in the inbox and social networks from all kinds of retailers who want those end-of-year profits just as much as you do.
How do you ensure that your events business has a successful holiday season? Marketing is the key to making it happen. And you have to commit to it throughout the season. Fortunately, you’re not facing the holidays alone. We’ve created a guide that you can use to keep your marketing going throughout the season and grow your event bookings.
Before we get started with how to use marketing, we need to choose the tools we’ll be using to get the job done. Here’s our suggested list of what you need:
- Tripleseat lead form link — create a form for each type of marketing by using the Lead Source option and selecting where you’ll use it, such as email, Facebook, or Instagram
- Tripleseat reports — Most Booked Contacts, Event Details Report, and Lead Details Report
- A section about events and holiday bookings on your website
- An email service provider such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp
- Social networks — Facebook and Instagram will reach the most people
- Social media analytics tools — Facebook and Instagram both have tools known as Insights
- Images to call attention to your marketing — use Unsplash to find royalty-free photos and design tool Canva to create holiday images
Before the holidays
Right now is the time to make your customers and prospects aware of your holiday event offerings, even if they’re not ready to book. Start by communicating directly to the people who are more likely to do business with you: last year’s holiday customers and your VIP clients (customers who spend the most money booking events with your business). Use your Most Booked Contacts Report and the date column from your Event Details Report to pull these segments and send them an email about your holiday availability. Make them feel special! Offer them a discount and tell them that they’re getting this information first before the general public.
After you’ve given your VIP and repeat customers a heads up on holiday bookings, reach out to all of your customers. Send them an email that includes information about dates, booking packages, and other options. Create social media posts that link to holiday booking information on your website. Use your Tripleseat lead form link in all of the marketing you do so that customers and prospects can easily click and start booking their events right away.
Pro tip: Consider holding a holiday kickoff party and invite your VIPs, last year’s holiday customers, and event planners to give them a taste of what to expect this year. Offer samples of new and seasonal menu items. Decorate your space and show it off! Take photos and video of the kickoff party and share via email marketing and social media.
During the holidays
Once the holiday season kicks off, don’t push your marketing to the side. You still have days and times to fill with event clients. Send another email reminder to your VIP, holiday customers, and the rest of your customers who haven’t booked yet. Share reminders on social media as well.
Use this time to connect with your customers by letting them in behind the scenes during your holiday events and holiday planning in a visual way. Post photos of your kitchen staff preparing seasonal dishes. Give your audience a video tour of your event spaces and show them how you’ve decorated them for the holidays. Share pictures or broadcast a Facebook Live video as you’re setting up an event or even during a few minutes of an event. Seeing how your venue celebrates the holidays will help your customers picture their event experience there and make them more likely to book with you.
After the holidays
When the end-of-year rush is over and you have some time back in your day, take advantage of the break. First, use your email and social media marketing to wish your customers a happy new year and thank them for helping you have a successful holiday season.
Next, sit down and review how your marketing impacted your holiday event bookings. Run an Event Details Report in Tripleseat and compare your bookings to last year’s holiday season. Run a Lead Details Report to determine what marketing source brought in the most leads during this time period.
Then, drill down into the reports from your marketing tools to pinpoint what worked and what didn’t. Your email service provider will have reporting tools that track data related to the success of your email campaigns. Pay special attention to open rates and click rates. Emails and links that got the most opens and clicks are the ones your audience was most interested in and caused them to take the next step with your events business.
Take a look at the analytics tools built into your social networks — they’re called Insights in Facebook and Instagram — to see what posts helped to drive engagement and sales. There’s a lot of data in these analytics tools, but focus on comments, likes, shares, and link clicks. This will tell you which posts generated the most conversation and business results.
Keep it up
Once you know what marketing tools drove more event bookings for the holidays, you can use that knowledge to create a marketing plan for the new year. Use the lessons from the marketing tools and holiday emails, posts, links, and images, to create more marketing content, but tweak it to represent other seasons of the year, other holidays, or general event campaigns. Check your reporting tools every month so you know what is driving more business. Things may change, and that’s OK. If you modify your marketing as you progress through the year based on what engages customers, you’ll be on the right track to grow your event revenue.
Need more marketing tips?
Check out our previous blog posts on digital marketing to learn how marketing can boost your events business.