Restaurants get innovative to drive January sales

By Patrick McGuigan

- Last updated on GMT

Wahaca's spoon amnesty is one of the more innovative promotions being run by restaurants this January in a bid to drive sales
Wahaca's spoon amnesty is one of the more innovative promotions being run by restaurants this January in a bid to drive sales

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Restaurants across the country are launching increasingly innovative promotions to beat the post-Christmas slump and attract customers during the traditionally quiet month of January.

Money-off vouchers and two-for-one offers remain a popular way to boost trade during the month, but restaurateurs have also come up with some more original ideas to get the New Year off to a good start.

“It’s not a necessity to run a promotion in January, but for the majority of restaurants it’s an important tool,” said restaurant consultant and co-founder of the London Restaurant Network Tracey Howes. “The more creative you can be the more you will benefit and the more people will talk about it.”

Among the larger restaurant groups, Yo! Sushi is offering more than 50 of its hot and cold dishes, plus beer and wine for £2.50 each, while Wahaca has introduced its annual spoon amnesty. According to the Mexican street food group, more than 4,000 of its brightly coloured spoons go missing from its restaurants each year, so it is offering diners who return them a free plate of tacos during January with other deals for those who have resisted temptation.

Ben's Canteen burger
Ben's Canteen is giving away 2,015 burgers as part of its January promotion.

Independents have also come up with some inventive deals. Ben’s Canteen in South London is giving away 2,015 burgers to mark the beginning of the year. Diners who come in for brunch or dinner during January are given a free burger voucher, while London burger restaurant BoBo Social is offering a free drink to customers who donate a vintage plate to their collection.

Working with other businesses to make a bigger impact is another trend for January. Liverpool-based Mexican street food restaurant Lucha Libre has launched a Keep It Local campaign offering diners 50 per cent off their food if they have a receipt that shows they have spent £5 or more in a local independent business.

The Try January campaign, launched by cocktail bar group Be At One and supported by BigHospitality's sister title the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​, has proved popular with pubs, bars and restaurants.

The initiative aims to counter Alcohol Concern’s Dry January abstinence campaign by encouraging people to try new drinks and dishes during January using the hashtag #TryJanuary. ​Pub chains Punch Taverns and Craft Beer Co are taking part in the push, but restaurants are also joining in, including MeatLiquor.

Restaurants have also joined forces in Newcastle to take part in the city’s Restaurant Week from 19-25 January, which is based on a similar initiative in New York and is organised by Business Improvement District company NE1.

Around 70 restaurants will be offering fixed price menus at £10 and £15 a head in an effort to tempt people into the city centre who would not normally dine out.

Businesses that participate in the event, which launched in 2011, have experienced a 44% increase in trade during the week compared to the same period before it launched, said NE1. Last January, over 25,000 people took advantage of offers, which equates to over £350,000 worth of business for participating restaurants.

Chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne, owner of Newcastle-based 21 Hospitality Group, said: "It's a great opportunity to go out and try several restaurants they might not visit otherwise for a fraction of the normal cost and at a quiet time of the year.”

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