For many, the holidays are a time of revelry and indulgence. Maybe it’s a holiday bar crawl with old friends, a romantic dinner for two, or a night in with a mini cheesecake and Love Actually. Ample social gatherings, gift exchanges, and travel plans crowd the holiday calendar and leave many consumers asking themselves: why cook? 

Independent restaurants are creating plenty of reasons to leave ovens vacant and coffee makers cobwebbed this holiday season. Incorporating popular seasonal flavors into their drink and food menus for a limited time creates hype around restaurant dining during a competitive, crucial season. 

This year, SpotOn Restaurant clients are leading with a sweet tooth by creating specialty coffee drinks, cocktails, and enough dessert items to give even Buddy the Elf a toothache. Tis the season, after all. Here are 5 strategies to win over guests during the holidays. 

1. Step aside Pumpkin, Peppermint’s here

While pumpkin dominates seasonal menus from August through November, December marks the end of gourd season. Enter peppermint. Reserved for toothpaste and gum during the other 11 months of the year, peppermint finds its niche by partnering with chocolate, liquor, and coffee. 

SpotOn Restaurant POS clients have added 546 peppermint menu items so far, ranging from peppermint hot chocolate to La Vida Mocha Peppermint beer at The Fields Bar & Grill in Portland, Oregon. Minty fresh flavors will delight your taste buds, but be warned, they won’t fool your dentist. 

pepperment cookies and a gray ceramic mug
Peppermint's here—but you still have to brush your teeth. Photo by Briana Tozour / Unsplash

2. Cheers to the holidays

Before the spiritless stretch of dry January, there is the opportunity to douse oneself in a variety of seasonal beverages in the name of celebration. Holiday drinks are so popular among independent restaurants that of the 1,010 Christmas menu items SpotOn Restaurant clients added between November 19 and 28, half of them are beverages. The specialty beverage of choice on menus this season? 81% are beers, 13% are cocktails, and 2.1% are wine options. 

Guests are kicking back with coworkers to share office gossip and a Christmas IPA at Urban Roast in Washington, D.C., and celebrating cuffing season with a new fling and a Christmas Cookie Cocktail at Viewhouse in Denver, Colorado. Drink menus are the perfect opportunity for independent restaurants to expand their seasonal offerings (for teetotalers and barflies alike). 

person holding wine glass filled with beautiful holiday beverage
Christmas and cocktails go hand in hand. Photo by Jessica S. Irvin / Unsplash

3. Just add coffee

In the words of the inimitable Buddy the Elf: “Syrup in coffee? Why didn’t I think of that?” Luckily for Buddy, plenty of SpotOn restaurants are one step ahead. Coffee drinks are a cornerstone of many seasonal menus. Big chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ roll out holiday drink specials each year, delighting guests and boosting sales numbers (specialty drinks cost around $6.50 on average). Whether dropping temperatures necessitate a warm beverage or the stalwart iced coffee lovers are looking for a seasonal flavor, adding specialty coffee drinks to your menu is a low-lift, high-reward way to cater to weary shoppers and busy people adhering to a “treat yourself” mentality. 

Need some inspiration? SpotOn clients are creating gingerbread, peppermint, and eggnog concoctions. This includes the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai at Aroma Coffee and Tea Company in Los Angeles, California, peppermint coffee, and many, many, eggnog lattes. How else will Santa’s elves have the energy to build all those Barbie dream houses? 

4. Festival of lights, and latkes 

At some point during the month of December, we must pass on the powdered sugar and sprinkles and eat some real dinner food. One cannot subsist on Candy Cane Martinis and Peppermint Patty French Toast alone. Luckily, Hanukkah sets the perfect stage for latkes, or hashbrowns that went to Sunday school and made friends with applesauce. Latkes are a perfect restaurant food. You’re not just offering guests fried potatoes, you’re saving them from setting off their smoke alarm and smelling like schmaltz until 2024. 

This Hannukkah, guests are celebrating with Smoked Salmon Latkes at At The Corner in Litchfield, Connecticut, and indulging in Latkes with Caviar at Dacha in San Francisco, California. You don’t have to make latkes at home, and we won’t tell your Bubbe. 

A fully set dinner table with a plate of latkes front and center
Let there be latkes this holiday season.

5. The best gifts are sweet

Your outdoorsy cousin whose Blundstone boots track mud everywhere. Your oversharing coworker with the cheeky mug obsession. Your deadhead uncle who lives in tie-dye. Gifting season is upon us. That’s a win for your restaurant. 

Beyond offering gift cards, add some giftable food items to your menu. Hot sauces, baked goods, and box sets of pantry items are all great potential gift items that help your most loyal guests support your restaurant and spread the good word. Items like Sweet Chaos Iced Gingerbread Popcorn at Mainline Bar & Grill in Barnesville, Minnesota and Seattle Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch at Coffee Emporium in El Paso, Texas, would be high-value goods in any family’s White Elephant gift exchange. Easily giftable menu items are a great way for guests to shop local and surprise their loved ones this holiday season. 

The holidays, for all their sugar-dusted, rum-soaked charm, are a demanding time to own a restaurant (so are the other 11 months of the year, for what it’s worth). Whether you’re rolling out a full seasonal spread, exclusive guest experiences, and an extensive marketing campaign, or stocking some gingerbread beers and using some holiday hashtags, take care of yourself this busy season. Unless you have a workshop of elves to help you out, there’s no reason you have to do it all.

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