It’s easy to slump on December 26 – so much has happened, sales were great, and can we just put our feet up for a few weeks? It sounds like the ‘80s when many places closed in January – you wish! The new mindset has to be around 12 months of continual planning, not the on-and-off pattern that creates inconsistency.

Start with a 12-month calendar – this way, events aren’t forgotten until the last minute, and you coordinate with seasonal activities such as school holidays and tourism. Use a shareable online planner such as Google Calendar, and add all the dates you know (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day). You’ll soon see there are a lot of gaps. Sites like have plenty of ideas for an event or menu promotion.

Plan something distinctive for every single month, and work on a three-month lead-time for each occasion. Three months prior, decide on the target audience, promotional concept, and budget. Two months prior, finalise the logistics, menus, staffing, design, and announce on socials. One month before, roll out social media campaigns, newsletters, advertising, and press releases. And don’t forget to create a unique hashtag to encourage sharing.

That’s the big picture plan, now let’s come back to the Christmas rush to gather more opportunities for next year.

Collect customer data

Simple competitions are a great way to do this, especially ‘win on the day’ prizes or raffles where people can see it’s for real. Is it worth giving a staff bonus on the number they collect? There are good QR- code raffle systems so people can enter from their phones

Go hard on gift card promotion

They’re great for presents, which can lead to repeat business when recipients use them in the new year. A digital platform for these is essential; this way, you gather more customer information such as family makeup and who the big spenders are. Many people love gift cards because they’re often stuck for gift ideas.

Run promotions for the new year

The well-known red envelope always resonates where Christmas customers are given a sealed envelope with a bonus voucher inside that they can redeem after a certain date next year. If it’s opened before redemption, it’s invalid. Visitors are sure to spend much more for every $10 voucher you give out.

Schedule social media posts

Keep your social profiles active throughout the holidays. Switch from Christmas and new year to summer relaxation and remember to run a combination of photos from customers and staff to pictures of food. Let’s make the new year a time for more ‘real’ social media, using the chefs, baristas, and bar people who love their product and have a camera in their pocket – your talent pool is waiting.

Gather feedback for planning

After the holiday season, use socials or email to ask people who dined with you during November and December about what worked well and what they’d like more of. Getting survey responses online without a small incentive is hard but spending $200 on this could give you highly useful results.

Rollout customer systems

Updated QR code ordering, a new waitlist app to handle queues, online bookings with better confirmation and reminders, and even a new kitchen display system to help the cooks manage bottlenecks. January customers are a little more forgiving and relaxed with new systems, and there’s usually a genuine interest in the ‘back of house’ operations – share some details and screenshots on your socials.