Fall is my favorite time of year. With cooler weather, I can finally break out my boots and hoody. I can eat pumpkin spice flavored ice cream, drink pumpkin spice lattes, and bake gingerbread cookies without being judged or condemned.

We’re already mid-way through fall, but temperatures are just now feeling cooler in the mountains of West Virginia. The leaves have changed and looked gorgeous in their brilliant shades of orange, yellow, and red. We’ve started planning for the fall holidays! My coworkers know exactly what costumes they will wear for Halloween (one of the few days of the year we don’t have to be professional) and I am already looking forward to our Thanksgiving potluck. I can almost taste the food.

That being said, how can restaurants capitalize on the autumn season? What are ways that you, as a restaurant owner or employee, can get customers out of their houses and offices and into your restaurant? And why should they dine at your restaurant instead of someone else’s?

These are all good questions and we hope this post provides some insight into what you can do to make the most of the fall season and holidays.

1) Give the taste of fall

I’m sure that you noticed in the introduction that I mentioned pumpkin spice and ginger. These, my friends, are the tastes of fall. But you don’t have to limit yourself to these overly used flavors. There are other spices and foods reminiscent of fall. For instance, try serving fruits and vegetables that are in season. Some examples are acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, crab apples, garlic, huckleberries, jalapeno peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, key limes, mushrooms, sunflower kernels, sweet potatoes, and more. The possibilities for these ingredients, as well as the other fruits and vegetables that are in season, are endless.

You can add a variety of squash soups, desserts, and appetizers to your menu, or try serving sweet potato fries instead of regular steak fries. The crab apples are a perfect side for a kids’ meal or they can make a delicious pie.

2) Create a fall atmosphere

It’s never too late to decorate! You may think decorating your restaurant for the different seasons is unnecessary work, but how much the effort is appreciated cannot be overestimated.

I walked into a restaurant yesterday that had decorated for Halloween. They had red tape across the door and a few spooky cobwebs in corners and on the ceiling. My first thought when I saw it was “These people know what they’re doing!” I was impressed. The decorations were by no means extravagant, and they hadn’t cost very much, but the restaurant had put in the effort to create an atmosphere for me as a customer. They had created an atmosphere that was spooky and fun just by putting a few strips of red tape and cobwebs. Think about that for a moment.

You can give customers an impression of your restaurant before they ever taste the food simply by whether you decorate or not and, if you do, how you do it. You’ll need to decide if you want to decorate specifically for Halloween (which isn’t always an appropriate choice) or just for fall in a more general sense (which reaches a wider range of customers).

Now, decorating for fall doesn’t have to be expensive and extensive. You can invest in scented candles, pumpkins, fall flowers, leaves, or – if you really want to- hay bells and scarecrows. Any of these options create a fall atmosphere and, if done in good taste, can give your customers a deeper appreciation for your restaurant.

You don’t have to decorate the entire restaurant. You can choose a particular place to emphasize, such as your entrance, the cash register, or some sort of focal point.

Use your location and your restaurant’s design to aid you in this. For example, if your restaurant has a fireplace, use it as the focal point for your fall decorations. The mantle can be a temporary home for pumpkins, fall leaves, and flowers. Or, if your location has space outside, you could use that as your focal point, giving customers an impression of your restaurant before they ever step inside.

Whatever your location and current layout may be, look around and see what you can incorporate as a part of your decorations for fall. Don’t ignore what you already have going for your restaurant just for the sake of something new. Restaurant decorations work best when everything comes together to create the atmosphere you desire. This involves the layout, the location, the smell of the food, the music you play, and the decorations you add.

3) Take advantage of the holidays

Fall offers some very special events that customers look forward to. While Oktoberfest is already past, Halloween and Thanksgiving are still approaching. October is also National Pizza Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, National Pretzel Month, and National Pasta Month.

Consider running a special for the food holidays, hosting a Halloween costume competition, or promoting a Thanksgiving-themed menu for the entire month of November. These are just a few suggestions but be creative in how you utilize the holidays. And definitely take advantage of them! They help generate a sense of togetherness and camaraderie between you and your community.

4) Generate excitement via social media

Don’t think social media doesn’t play a role. I know everyone seems to say the same thing, emphasizing the significance of social media, telling every business to set up an account. And, yet, its importance cannot be overstated.

Social media is where your customers are. It’s their primary source of communication. Just like the internet is their primary source of obtaining information about your restaurant.

By having a social media presence, you are giving yourself an opportunity to communicate to customers. Use it to inform them about your restaurant's specials, to showcase your fall decorations, to advertise your Halloween costume contests and other hosted events, and to engage your audience through polls, surveys, and images.

Social media gives you an opportunity to publicly communicate who you are as a restaurant while creating customer excitement through your own and user-generated content. User-generated content is when customers tag your restaurant in posts, share pictures of your menu items, or provide reviews for their meals and the service they received.

Promote positive user-generated content through photography contests, hosting local events, etc. Once again, be creative in your approach to reaching customers, but maintain positivity and professionalism.

5) Promote your catering capabilities

If your restaurant caters, now is the time to be letting your customers know. Be sure you have the time, ability, and equipment necessary to meet the demands of catering meals, but once you know for sure that you do, begin to promote yourself as an excellent option for Halloween parties, Thanksgiving gatherings, sport’s events, and school functions.

If you’ve catered before, ask customers happy with your service to provide testimonials and reviews for your website, local paper, and social media pages. Begin reminding people that you offer this service by putting out signs and fliers or adding a catering section to your menu.

If your restaurant is just beginning to cater, offer special discounts to give people the incentive to try yours instead of your more experienced competitors.

Whatever advertising medium you choose, be sure to be consistent in your message. Whether you’re promoting your catering services as having better quality ingredients, offering the lowest prices, or providing the quickest service, it will help your business if you are consistent in your message across all communication outlets. Being consistent as to what makes your catering service's unique will enforce to customers the reason why they should choose your services instead of competitors.

These are five fall marketing ideas that practically any restaurant can implement.

Questions?

Call: 888.778.4815

Email: sales@deqonline.com