Holiday traditions have their place, but more and more people are making up their very own. The holidays can be enjoyed anywhere, but some of the best places to celebrate also happen to be the best places to drink. This is the season to attract new customers, entice your loyal base, and foster relationships within your community. Make your bar a must-visit destination with some of these winter-time festivities.
1. Bar Olympics: Winter Edition
Competition is an excellent way to bring in customers and enjoy the holidays together. Have games out that guests will enjoy and compete in teams for a win! Think North Pole corn hole, darts layers over a blown-up picture of Santa’s bum, or a beer pong filled with cups of seasonal cider. Hand out scorecards for guests to keep track of at different stations.
It doesn’t matter if it’s team against team or friends competing within a group; the point is to stir up fun throughout the night! In the end, hand out medals (these could be free drinks, candy, swag, actual medals, and the list goes on) to reward your competitors. Whatever games or prizes you choose, make sure you plan in advance to figure out the amount of foot traffic you’ll receive and keep your staff aware of behavior from your patrons.
2. Naughty or Nice
'Tis the season to unfurl those ugly sweaters! Host a costume-themed holiday party. Invite patrons to dress to their heart's content, from Christmas suits to adorable antlers or even pretty red evening wear. Give them a chance to raid their Halloween stash of devil wings and angelic haloes for a naughty and nice costume theme. Or stick with the classic ugly sweater contest.
Host a Secret Santa gift exchange led by Saint Nick, a lovely elf, or even Krampus. Take donations for raffle tickets to compete for swag, shots, or other goodies. Set up a Bad Santa corner where guests can take pictures with a tough-looking, sun-glasses-wearing Santa or Lady Klaus. Lay out props like ears or hats, loads of garland, and signs boasting naughty or nice in a lavish photo display to watch your Instagram feed explode. This party wouldn’t be complete without holiday-inspired cocktails found on a gorgeously themed menu.
3. Turn Yourself into Tinseltown
Ever heard of a holiday pop-up bar? Customers flock from everywhere to see gaudy, over-the-top decorations while sipping eggnog cocktails and spicy mulled wine. This isn’t putting up a wreath and a tree and calling it a night. This is floor-to-ceiling, bits-and-bobs with holly, tinsel, baubles, and stacks of presents. People want pretty lights and bold colors. They want to feel like they stepped right into Santa’s personal boozy workshop.
Are you running a cocktail lounge? Stick to a strict color scheme and focus on the glam. Are you a favorite local joint known for your lovable but tough customers? Pop a red nose on your reindeer heads and gift-wrap your tables in plaid. Theme any of your televisions and music too! Make the whole place photo worthy or include some special (or hilarious) photo-ops. Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the decor but always remember the people you’re trying to impress.
4. Twelve Nights of Events
You might not have the energy for twelve straight nights of events, but holding a couple of specialty nights can draw in those on the hunt for a wintry night on the town. Think of your clientele first: Do you have a lot of people searching for that special someone to kiss under the mistletoe? A holiday singles night could be a hit! Set up speed-dating with silly, holiday-themed questions with an easy way for people to swap every couple of minutes.
Other events could include holiday trivia, Christmas karaoke, a bartending show, or a charity event will intrigue the masses who are ready to cheers to the holidays!
If physical events are a bit too time-consuming, opt for a special menu of drinks or—even better— 25 days of drinks. Have one special for each day. A promotion on top of this could be that if a customer wants a drink from a different day, they have to complete a task such as post on Instagram or even something as silly as singing a song. This builds demand as much as it builds fun!
5. Carol 'N Crawl
What better way to enjoy the sense of love and community the holidays bring than to participate in a pub crawl? Team up with other bars or restaurants in the area and turn this into an event! A caroling crawl is as easy as having guests singing tunes as they travel from bar to bar. Set up rotating times with other places, so there’s always some on the move, and every place is filled with drinks and cheer.
If the noise gets to be a bit too much, invite your guests to try a holiday-themed scavenger hunt instead. Have them team up with friends as they ‘crawl’ their way through the area, performing tasks, finding objects or locations, and drinking festive drinks while documenting their journey on social media (make sure to create a tag for them that promotes your bar too). Both crawls would partner well as fundraisers for charities as well.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
These events and specials are sure to fill your guests with cheer and fill your social media with praise, but preparations are key. Make sure customers know about all the goodies you have in store through fun flyers, informative posts, and banners. Stock up, keep your staff in the know, and plan ahead for any potential hiccups. You’ll have your customers begging for you to make these celebrations a newly-beloved tradition for years to come.
Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. Her work has appeared in App Institute, FanSided, FSR, Modern Restaurant Management, PMQ, RestoBiz, Small Business Currents, and The Daily Fandom.
Plan to Attend or Participate in Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023
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