According to industry reports, 60% of independent and small chain restaurants have a positive outlook this holiday season, and nearly two-thirds of consumers are planning to eat out during the holidays.

Creating a unique, memorable experience is going to be a key differentiating factor for restaurants this year. Here are a few ideas for trending holiday experiences that can help drive sales.

Winter Wonderland

Go all out with holiday decor to establish a festive atmosphere at your restaurant. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to choose restaurants that are decked out for the holidays, so join in with your own take on the season while staying true to your brand.

One way to make this a more immersive experience is to create a scene or setting so that visiting your restaurant feels like a winter getaway. Ideas for this include a Scandinavian Christmas, holidays in the tropics, and the North Pole itself. Incorporate elements of your theme in your dining and beverage menus and include notes in the server script to establish the setting as soon as your guests arrive.

Brunch with Santa

Getting a few minutes and a photo with the man himself is a big priority for kids during the holidays, and that can be a driver for adults. Instead of standing around a shopping center waiting in line, a Santa Brunch brings in guests to eat at your restaurant while their kids get an ear with Mr. Claus. You can manage the wait times while guests are enjoying their meals using the same technology you use to let folks know when their tables are ready. This doesn’t have to be an extravagant set up – Santa, or other seasonal mascots, could even approach tables for selfies.

Whole Hog Holidays

Your guests will be signing Mele Kalikimaka at your luau-themed celebration. This could be a ticketed one-day affair or a month- or week-long promotion that includes Kalua Pork as the centerpiece and a combination of traditional and original Hawaiian sides and desserts. Decorate your restaurant with garlands, lights, pineapples, and a decorated palm tree to set the mood.

Cookies For All

Winter is prime cookie-baking time, so get in on the action by hosting a cookie baking class, a cookie swap, or by introducing LTO cookie options on your menu. You can create a “cookie jar” dessert featuring a sampling of cookies from your pastry team served with either milk for the kiddos or milk punch for adults who choose to imbibe. A take-home cookie box could also appeal to families with younger children. Focus on packaging these up in a pleasing way to create a potential gift option as well.

Toy Joy

Aligning with a local charity is a good way to connect with the spirit of giving that the holidays inspire while driving folks to your restaurant. Find a local nonprofit that’s collecting toys for kids and build a promotion around that by encouraging your guests to bring in a toy for a special discount or free item (like a dessert that you can easily batch in advance and execute at a high volume). You can even get your staff involved by asking what charities/groups they support, offering them opportunities to feel more connected to the community.

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