9 Winter Restaurant Promotion Ideas to Inspire You

During the winter season, many people lack energy and motivation to get outside and go to restaurants and prefer to spend a considerable amount of time at home by the fireplace while their food delivery is on the way.

The good news is this doesn’t mean people aren’t still dining out in the colder months and looking for alternatives to eating at home every night but sometimes they just need a little nice, warm push.

So if you’re looking for some creative ways to promote your restaurant in the wintertime, look no further because this article has got you covered.

Winter Promotion Ideas for Restaurants

According to The National Restaurant Association, seasonal events such as holidays can cause a decrease in guest counts for over 60% of restaurants. However, the degree of seasonality may differ depending on the restaurant type and location.

This could be attributed to various factors such as harsh weather conditions, low temperatures, and visitors staying with family or friends. However, instead of viewing seasonal slumps negatively, restaurants can take advantage of this situation by ramping up promotions, reviewing their loyalty programs, and re-energizing their delivery and takeout services.

Winter months can be a double-edged sword for many restaurants. But it provides a chance to rejuvenate, reflect and assess your business after the hectic holiday season. As the weather gets colder, you may fear that there will be a decline in foot traffic as customers may be less inclined to dine out after indulging in holiday feasts.

However, there are ways to capitalize on this slower period and prevent it from harming your business. Here are a few promotion ideas to transform the winter months into hot-selling months.

1. Host an After-Ski Party

Consider the following: How many customers can't afford a pricey winter holiday at a luxurious mountain hotel? The mountains are the perfect place for an après ski party.

These parties are typically hosted in bars and restaurants on mountain tops with plenty of snow and ski trails frequented by tourists. When tourists finish skiing, sledding, or skating, they head to après ski entertainment. At these events, people drink heavily and dance to popular music.

While your customers may need to ski elsewhere, you can host the party very close to them at your restaurant or bar. You will need an abundance of liquor, good music, and exciting winter decorations, and your customers will feel as if they are at a well-known ski resort.

Decorate your restaurant or bar with a winter-inspired theme. Use a spray to create ice crystals, hang artificial snowflakes and icicles, and create a winter atmosphere.

You should include delicious punch and mulled wine in the party offerings. To make the experience unforgettable, offer your customers delicious food. No one can resist warm stews and creamy soups during cold weather, so make sure they are part of your après ski menu.

If your restaurant has a garden or terrace where you can light a fire and grill, use it to promote winter specials. Passersby won't be able to resist the aroma of grilled sausages, and the scent of mulled wine will entice them to sample it. This will likely persuade them to stay at your restaurant for the winter party!

Popular or new drinks are often successfully promoted at these parties. Make a deal with your drink supplier and get special discounts for winter parties.

Consider offering popular drinks at a reasonable price to ensure the best profit during your après ski party. Hostesses can make drink promotions even more exciting and attract more customers to your bar.

2. Host an Open Mic Night in Your Restaurant

Consider hosting an open mic night instead of hiring a band for your patrons to showcase their musical talents. To mix things up, try a comedy open mic night.

To ramp up your winter bar promotions, turn the open mic into a competitive event with local musicians as judges. For added excitement, take inspiration from the popular TV show, The Masked Singer, and require performers to don a costume or disguise on stage.

You will need a lot of drinks, decorations, and snacks. The decoration will not be too flashy. If you don’t already have one, you may need to create a platform or pedestal for the performers.

3. Summer Adventure in the Middle of Winter

Hosting a summer-themed party in your restaurant or bar during the winter months can be a huge success, as people love everything about the summer. I can't wait for summer and would love to attend a summer party in my local area.

To create a summer atmosphere, you can add artificial palm trees, a kids' pool filled with sand and shells, a beach umbrella, a beach ball, and other decorations that match the style of your restaurant or bar.

You can find suitable decorations for a themed party at stores or online on eBay or similar websites. Alternatively, you can get creative and make your own decorations.

Depending on the type of catering facility you own, you can choose from a range of summer party themes, such as Italian or romantic Caribbean nights.

Music is a crucial aspect of a summer party. It should be upbeat and encourage people to dance. Hiring a DJ who knows the latest summer music hits and can get the party going is best.

Offer colorful and delicious cocktails such as Pina Colada, Caipirinha, and Sex on the Beach, which are associated with summer, and offer them at affordable prices. Your staff should wear colorful T-shirts, and you could even invite a skilled cocktail mixologist to prepare refreshing summer drinks for your guests.

It's important to provide snacks as people tend to drink a lot of alcohol at parties. Ensure that your guests drink responsibly and take care not to harm anyone.

Encourage your guests to wear light summer clothes and suggest your staff do the same. Ensure the temperature inside your venue is warm enough to prevent anyone from getting cold while wearing light clothing.

4. Customer Appreciation Nights

Studies indicate that loyal customers who frequent restaurants spend 67% more than new customers. Although promotions are typically intended to attract new customers, creating a promotion targeting your fan base during the winter months may be worthwhile.

This is when customers tend to order delivery and takeout more frequently to remain cozy at home. Demonstrate your appreciation for your customers by organizing a customer appreciation event. Arrange exclusive discounts and winter-themed bar promotions specifically for your most devoted customers.

At the beginning of winter, as award ceremonies occur, distribute envelopes and their bills to your patrons. Each envelope contains a secret offer that the customer needs to bring back to your bar and have opened by their server or bartender.

The offer could be a free upgrade to a top-shelf drink, a complimentary appetizer, or even involve significant winter bar promotions like a $25 bar tab to ensure everyone returns with their envelope!

5. Promote Your Catering Business With A Limited Time Offer

During the holiday season, catering businesses typically experience an uptick in demand as companies seek to reward clients and staff. To promote the catering services of your restaurant, consider offering a limited-time offer (LTO) that provides customers with a deal or discount available exclusively during the holiday season.

Doing so enables customers to save money on a service they require or want while creating a sense of urgency with the LTO label. The promotional deals can be based on a calendar month or a specific duration around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, or other events that appeal to your target audience.

Here are some LTO ideas for your restaurant's promotional campaign:

  • Offer cold-weather favorites that work well for office or residential parties, such as a gourmet hot chocolate bar, baked potato bar, or a trio of creamy winter-themed soups.

  • Develop a "sweet list" that rewards repeat catering customers (the VIPs who participate in your loyalty program or have placed multiple orders throughout the year) with a special coupon valid until December 31.

  • Create holiday-themed menus like a complete multi-course Thanksgiving spread or a Christmas ham with all the traditional sides, including options for customization to accommodate large crowds. For an added incentive, give customers who order a holiday feast now a coupon for the new year.

6. Embrace the Cold

While it's tempting to divert customers' attention from the chilly weather, sometimes the most effective approach is to integrate the outside temperature into your promotional strategy.

Olmsted, a renowned market-driven restaurant in Brooklyn, leverages its garden as a key feature, but the prospect of outdoor seating during winter can be daunting.

To tackle this challenge, the restaurant's team transforms the garden into a cozy winter wonderland by providing warm blankets and offering a make-your-own s'mores experience. As a result, dining outside in the winter becomes a much more attractive option.

7. Extend Your Happy Hour

One way to attract customers during the winter season is by extending your happy hour. While happy hours are ideal for sunny afternoons during the summer, this is different in the winter when people typically head straight home after work.

To entice the 9-to-5 crowd, offer drink specials that continue beyond your usual happy hour timeframe for a few hours. Add snack specials to complement the drinks, likely creating a lively post-work atmosphere.

8. Have a Winter Special Menu with Soups and Comfort Food

Hot soups are a winter menu essential - easy to prepare, easy to serve, and a guaranteed way to warm up on a chilly day. Ask anyone what their go-to comfort food is during cold weather, and soup will likely be the answer.

There's nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup to provide warmth and comfort. If your menu doesn't currently feature soups, it's time to add them.

As the days get shorter, nights get longer, and temperatures drop, people crave comforting winter foods that remind them of home-cooked meals. Think about classic dishes that are universally loved, perhaps reminiscent of a grandparent's recipe.

Winter comfort food is all about hearty and flavorful dishes that are baked to perfection. Embrace carbs on your winter menu and showcase comforting dishes like curries, stews, and casseroles.

Utilize versatile and cozy ingredients, such as potatoes, which can be prepared in many ways and incorporated into various dishes.

9. Make The Restaurant Cozy

Create a cozy atmosphere in your restaurant by adding elements to make guests feel warm and comfortable. Consider incorporating a crackling fire, subdued lighting, candles, and wood bark decorations to add a special touch to your restaurant's ambiance during cold days.

Choose the right colors for your winter decor. White and ice blue can create a "glacial ambiance" that mimics the look of snow and ice. These colors can also add a wintry touch to your winter menu design.

Offer special discounts on food and drinks to attract more guests. A 10% to 20% discount can entice customers to visit your restaurant during the winter months.

Revamp your cocktail menu to include warm drinks like mulled wine, warm punch, cider, and spiked hot chocolate. You can also offer non-alcoholic hot beverages for customers participating in Dry January.

Take inspiration from Alden & Harlow in Boston, which serves creative and playful wintery drinks like the Hearthstone with homemade butterscotch and Montenegro whipped cream.

Try implementing one of these winter promotional ideas in your restaurant and see if thaws the slowdown you might be encountering in the colder months.