Christmas ideas with Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor

Posted by Kerry Chew on

In one of the sessions I did with Bill Marvin, in our seminars across America, I met David Troutman. He and his brother Peter own and operate Scargo Cafe in Dennis, Massachusetts, USA. They are very impressive operators. David shared with me an idea they introduced when they started twenty years ago. He told me it was one of their simplest and most effective marketing ideas. They simply supply free Christmas wrapping paper and invite their patrons to ‘Come back to Scargo’ with friends and wrap your Christmas presents. In the recent notice to their e-mail list, they point out the wrapping room at Scargo is a great place to get away from prying eyes, relax with a glass of cheer, and enjoy the true spirit of the holidays in a friendly and relaxing place. They encourage guests to bring in their gifts to wrap and to bring a friend!

They do many good things at Scargo Cafe. I invite you to check out their website at

An amazing (simple) Christmas promotion

This idea is a great way to use the hectic Christmas time to promote the often slow times in January/February. The idea has built-in pizzaz, showmanship and the WOW factor. It works best in December. (But can be used throughout the year). It takes very little time to organise.

Plan for every table who dine in your Bistro or Restaurant in part or all of December to receive a sealed envelope promising them something of value in January/February. On either the front of the envelope or on a separate single sheet tell that this envelope contains gifts including a free dinner, free entrees or desserts, cooking lessons, bottles of wine etc. It should also feature at least one MAJOR prize e.g.: Two free dinners a month for the next week/months. (I much prefer to give something away in a promotion in preference to discounting a product.) The more often someone dines with you in December, the more prizes they can win in January/February.

Guests can redeem one UNOPENED envelope per table each time they dine with you during the redemption period. (Perhaps in January or February). Their prize remains a secret until the envelope is opened BY THE RESTAURANT STAFF at the end of the meal in December. Human nature being what it is, curiosity about the prize waiting inside this beautiful envelope will keep them supporting you during the new year doldrums.

Notes 1: Secure the envelope flap with a drop of sealing wax - it's more secure while making the envelope look classier and more legitimate. You want the envelope to look more like an intriguing personal gift than a piece of mass-market hype.

Note 2: Red envelopes seem to work best, perhaps because they stand out in a pile and are less likely to be misplaced. (Remember, you gain nothing if guests don't redeem the envelope!) In many cultures, red also signifies good luck!

My good friend and hospitality industry colleague Bill Marvin, the American Restaurant Doctor, shared this idea when we did a series of seminars across America.

Bill was a major contributor to my latest eBook - Post Pandemic Thinking for Hospitality and Tourism

Share this post

← Older Post