Ah, Dry January. The one-month booze free challenge is excellent news for your diners’ well being – but perhaps the same can’t be said for the health of your turnover. The fact is, fewer people drinking can mean fewer people dining, too. So, how can you boost footfall to your café, restaurant and bar – and improve the ambience, too?

After all, when your customers don’t have wine or beer to fall back on, will the atmosphere be quite as lively? Our top tips will give you some food for thought to ensure you don’t risk a New Year’s lull in 2020.

Tackle the Detox Trend Head-on

So, your clientele might not be drinking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t entice them through the door. To complement their booze-free health kick, consider offering detox-friendly dishes throughout January – when weeks of festive gluttony means diners are craving something lighter.

George Norrie of Hipping Hall says January is the perfect time of year to go foraging for the ingredients or garnishes that’ll make up your menu. “It’s as important to think about our soft offerings as well as the wines, beers and spirits we offer.” he says, before admitting that foraging is one of his favourite pastimes.

“There’s so much to offer on the landscape to pick. At Hipping Hall, we make an awesome apple and spruce juice, which we love to offer our guests in place of a boozy offering, should they not be drinking for whatever reason.”

You can think about winter warmers, too, says George. If customers are detoxing or on a health kick, consider how you might offer them something that tastes a little more premium but that ticks all the wellbeing boxes. Non-alcoholic versions of mulled wine – featuring apple, ginger and cinnamon – will warm the cockles and satisfy your clientele’s appetite for something a little healthier. 

In years gone by, pub owners and chefs have got their creative juices flowing with all manner of dishes for the health-conscious customer. 

Big Hospitality features Gordon Ramsay and his DIY juice bar in London, while two venues in the capital enjoyed success after serving limited edition dishes, each of which were under 500 calories.

Introduce a Themed Night

January lull? What January lull?! By introducing a themed night, you can keep the customers coming, even when it’s cold outside and they’re trying to avoid the pub for fear of ordering an alcoholic drink during Dry Jan. One Yorkshire-based restaurant keeps things fresh by offering several themed nights and offers, which change from month to month.

Meanwhile, its cooking experiences never fail to entice people to leave the comfort of their homes. A great way to showcase your menu and its regional fare, experiences like this allow customers to appreciate the effort that goes into each meal you dish up, as well as igniting in them a passion for cooking.

Get Creative with a Fun Offer or Scheme

You probably launch offers year-round, so it’s time to get innovative with the ones you plan to roll out in January specifically. After all, your clientele probably won’t budge off their warm and cosy couches for any old promo.

Think outside of the box, then, like the Mexican street food company, Wahaca, did a few years ago. According to the brand, more than 4,000 of its brightly coloured spoons go walkabout from its restaurants each year. So, thinking on their feet, the team behind Wahaca hosted a spoon amnesty, offering diners who return the crockery a free plate of tacos during January.

London Burger restaurant BoBo Social came up with a similarly inventive way to get people to pass through its doors, offering a free drink to customers who donated a vintage plate to their collection. Of course, during Dry January, a drink-based offer like this may need to be revised, but the fact is, there are plenty of ways to boost footfall and improve the ambience during an otherwise quieter period.

Introduce a Mocktails Menu

For those who want to feel like they’re drinking ‘the real thing’ a mocktails menu may just scratch that the itch. Consider incorporating one into your main drinks offering – or introduce a range of premium, bottled soft drinks to your bar or restaurant. 

Once the clientele is in, think about how you’ll keep them there. Quizzes and live bands have been done and done, so how about something a little different? It could be time to brainstorm themed nights or events with your team and ensure your customers are visiting you for much more than your food and drink. 

Don’t forget: Burns’ Night falls on January 25 and it may provide the perfect excuse to invite customers old and new to enjoy an evening away from home.


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© Dennis Edwards for Foodservice 2022