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6 New Year Marketing Ideas for Your Restaurant

6 New Year Marketing Ideas for Your Restaurant

It’s getting to be that time of year. With the frenzy of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa over, the calendar creeps towards the big finish: New Year’s Eve (“NYE”). It’s a fresh start on a global scale. The new start feels particularly significant as the year comes to a close on a Sunday evening, the final day of the week. 

Bars and restaurants are often at the heart of New Year’s Eve celebrations. Restaurants and bars exist to provide customers with unforgettable experiences, whether it be a romantic rendezvous, a family get-together, or a lively celebration with friends. And depending on your restaurant’s location and style, festivities may well extend to January 1—right on time for National Hangover Day. (Brunch, anyone?)

But how do customers want to highlight the end of the year, exactly? What are they looking for when they head out for a night on the town? What are they drinking? What do they want to eat? 

If you’re asking yourself these questions in an effort to get a head start on the tail end of the year, you’re not alone. Lightspeed wondered the same thing.

And it turns out that diners who go out on NYE are looking to make it special with indulgent food and drinks. They’re looking to make a special occasion extra special—and they’re willing to spend more to get there.

Check out our findings and New Year marketing recommendations below.

Using data to your advantage

With Advanced Insights built directly into the Lightspeed Restaurant platform, we can sift through massive amounts of data to transform a gut feeling into actionable insights. 

We analyzed transactions from thousands of hospitality businesses across North America powered by Lightspeed Restaurant. We included bars, casual dining, upscale, fine dining venues and fast-casual businesses in our study. We compared different sales trends to see what was popular on NYE last year, as compared to average Saturdays in December 2022 (but we excluded December 24, 2022, which fell on a Saturday).  

Sparkling wine, steak and lobster are big hits

Let’s face it: customers expect to celebrate the end of the year with bubbles. Sparkling wine, cava, prosecco and champagne are hugely popular on December 31. Last year sales increased by 111%, while liquor remained popular with vodka (+14%), tequila (+11%) and whiskey (+4%) seeing the biggest spike.

Interestingly, customers really seem to go for the special stuff on New Year’s Eve and forego their usual drinks. When compared to an average Saturday in December, wine sales on NYE last year decreased by 5% and beer sales flattened by 23%.

Lightspeed data also showed that bougie food items sold more than usual, while greens and sweets were on the decline:

  • Restaurants that already had caviar on the menu saw a 66% uptick in sales
  • Lobster saw a 31% increase in sales
  • Steak sales jumped up by 13%
  • Salad dropped by 23%
  • Dessert sales fell by 10%

Finally, clients seem to embrace the idea of ending the year on a high note. They often spend a little bit extra, with median check sizes in our analysis reaching an average of $50. That’s a 4% increase over the average for a Saturday in December. 

New Year Marketing Ideas for Restaurants

What can you do with this information? Read on for a list of New Year marketing ideas to inspire you to make December 31 an even bigger night for your business.

1. Celebrate with a limited edition New Year’s Eve menu

Clients are increasingly looking for an unforgettable experience. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore note that an experience occurs when “a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable.” How can you make sure your business is offering the right kind of unforgettable experience

One way is to offer a special, limited edition New Year’s Eve menu. It can feature more luxurious dishes than usual—including popular New Year’s Eve items, like lobster or steak. And according to our data, tasting menus see a 4% increase in sales on NYE.

Consider Michelin-starred Chef Grant Achatz who runs the Alinea Group, a collection of restaurants devoted to pushing culinary limits. One of their establishments, The Office, offers a special New Year’s Eve tasting menu that promises “good company and indulgence.” What better way to ring in the new year? 

Rather than offer the usual reservation system, the Office sells tickets to their unique tasting experience. Guests can expect “a welcome drink, luxurious shared plates, and four cocktails that will showcase [The Office’s] Dusty bottle, barrel-aged, and classic cocktail programs.” 

With limited tickets and specially-crafted drinks and menu items, this evening promises a very sophisticated experience. 

2. Jazz things up with special seasonal ingredients 

We associate special ingredients with the holiday season. Some are more approachable: turkey, mashed potatoes and apple pie won’t intimidate your average at-home cook. Their luxe counterparts, however, tell a different story–one you can capitalize on.

Consider incorporating elevated seasonal ingredients to attract patrons who are curious to try something that they may not feel comfortable making at home. Ingredients like chestnuts, sunchokes and champagne are evocative without being overly intimidating.

3. Host a countdown party

Counting down the last few seconds of the year with a crowd of friends, family or strangers can be a magical moment. If your business has the space and the staff for it, think about hosting a countdown party. On top of decorations, you can spice things up with live music or a DJ who can lead the audience. 

Recess Bar in Chicago is welcoming the new year with a nod to the past. The theme for their NYE countdown party? MTV Music’s Total Request Live New Year’s specials. 

Recess is also opting for a ticket system, which keeps things exclusive while also allowing them to plan ahead in terms of staffing and supplies. Each ticket to their TRL NYE 2024 bash includes a “premium open bar package from 9PM-1AM, four hours of bar bites and passed apps and TRL style DJs throughout the evening.” 

4. Offer promotions at peak times 

If your POS gives you the inside scoop on customer traffic—the way Lightspeed’s Advanced Insights does—you can use that information to design a successful promotion that maximizes sales while minimizing effort. 

On NYE, think about timing your promotions to match up with slower periods to alleviate your staff’s workload. Well timed promos can also encourage customers to spend a little bit of extra time and money before heading out to another party. Think of early bird specials, happy hour deals or late-night appetizers to cater to every crowd. 

5. Engage your audience with social media

No matter what you do on NYE, use social media to get the word out about your event, tasting menu or countdown party. Email marketing to your target audience can be a great way to attract loyal customers. You can also showcase your special event with teaser social media posts that showcase a glimpse of your exclusive event. 

Another one of the Alinea Group’s establishments, Aviary, advertises its happy hour, tasting menu and midnight party experiences on Instagram. Guests can reserve a ticket to one of three distinct experiences, all of which promise “inventive cocktails and delicious bites.” 

The Alinea Group got a head start on the celebrations by rolling out their advertising campaign on November 1. It’s always a good idea to give yourself enough time to maximize your marketing impact. 

6. Leverage New Year’s resolutions

While January and February are historically slower months for bars and restaurants, Lightspeed data shows that guests are looking for healthier options throughout the early weeks of the year. In fact, salad sales remain constant from December to January, while total sales take a dip. That means that people who do go out to eat in January are ordering more greens. 

Align your promotions with your guests’ newfound habits. You can introduce vegetarian or vegan dishes, as well as special fitness-inspired meals (like high protein, low carb choices). 

Are you ready for it?

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