Indian festivals are a joy, bringing family and friends together in celebration. With multiple religious festivals, there's all kind of merry-making through the year. But irrespective of the background and details of all our festivals, there's one aspect that truly unites everyone: food. Most people await their favourite festivals eagerly and the culinary specialities that come with each event are a big part of that anticipation—modak during Ganesh Chaturthi, sadya during Onam, biryani during Eid, plum cake during Christmas and so much more!
Unfortunately, a lot of people in urban India don't have the kind of time or mental bandwidth to cook the kind of traditional feast associated with the festivals they celebrate. Most of them order in sweets and get on with their celebrations. Indian restaurants at some point realized how they can come to their diners' rescue and began offering festival-centric food and events. Many people today who can't take the time out to cook tens of dishes (that consume hours in the kitchen) opt for a feast prepared by chefs in restaurants. It makes for a great day for the entire family to spend together as well.
As a restaurant, you could promote your festive special meal online or offline, but if you aren't well prepared for what's to come, you are sure to miss out on a big opportunity to make the most of festive occasions.
Let's break it down here.
You will need at least month and a half of planning before the actual day of the festival. Planning will include menu, number of days you want to run the promotion, marketing, decor and such. Before any of this, ensure you have the budget to pull it off.
When you're planning a food-related event around a festival, make sure whatever you're going to serve goes with the general theme of your restaurant. If you're an Italian fine dining restaurant, it's odd to have an Onam sadya lunch at your place. But if you're a casual dining restaurant serving a couple of different cuisines, you could easily put out a Diwali special lunch and even a Christmas special dinner. If you're the kind of eatery that serves predominantly North Indian and Mughlai food, sticking to Indian festivals for promotions makes a lot more sense.
While you sit with your chef to plan the menu, keep in mind the food costs and sourcing special ingredients. Let the chef know what your expectations are and how you can help them. Since you're not going to be the only restaurant serving these special dishes, plan way ahead and get in touch with your suppliers accordingly.
Once you have the menu down and your team is on board, you need to think about how you will market your festive offerings. For instance, if you're doing a Diwali special lunch, it only makes sense to begin promotions a week or two in advance. The idea is to build it up to the day so you create and maintain a certain buzz around it. You have to let your regular customers and potential ones know in advance because it helps them make up their mind sooner. How will they know? If you have a Facebook page, you can update the promotion every two days so it acts as a constant reminder. You must also promote it where you will catch the attention of food lovers in particular: Zomato for Business. One of the first things a foodie does today is to log on to Zomato to look for food around them. When they type "Diwali special" or anything to that effect in the search bar, your restaurant will show up because you've promoted the Diwali special lunch using Zomato for Business. This has now become a norm for restaurants to promote any kind of food festival or special events happening at their restaurant. Going the old school route of distributing pamphlets is basically money down the drain or trash can (where the pamphlet will eventually end up).
In your planning stage when have the food, decor and marketing sorted, think about a catch that will reel customers into your restaurant and not a neighbouring one. Most restaurants will serve special festive food, but how will yours stand out?
What you need to do first is see what other restaurants of your kind are doing—food, the number of days they're running the promotion, anything else they're adding to the festivities, and the like. One thing you have to keep in mind is that depending on the style of your restaurant your customers may or may not be bringing their families. If your customer base is mainly family oriented, it's wise to add something that would keep the children entertained—like a face painting artist or a henna specialist. You could also set up a play area for the kids. Live music is also a good idea if you have the wherewithal. During Christmas in particular, live music with local bands is a great idea to keep your diners entertained.
It's a wonderful time to give something new to your customers and get the creative juices flowing for your restaurant staff. This is when chefs get to showcase their uniqueness and win diners over with their special menus. Plan ahead, execute it to the T and your restaurant will be the flavour of the season.