When it comes to fourth-quarter holidays, the lion’s share of consumer attention goes to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thus, it only makes sense that the three major celebrations receive the most focus when it comes to merchandising.

New Year’s Eve is only really on our minds after Christmas has come and gone. Once the rush has somewhat quieted, consumers begin earnestly mapping out plans for the last night of the calendar year. Unlike Christmas parties and get-togethers, which are typically sprinkled throughout the entire month of December, New Year’s Eve parties are locked into Dec. 31. Purchases from deli and prepared foods departments aren’t likely to come around until the last couple days of the month.

Throw in the fact that most retailers have less than a week to focus on their New Year’s Eve merchandising, and it can be a difficult holiday to work with.

Now the good news: according to Harris Interactive, 93 percent of Americans older than 18 plan to spend New Year’s Eve either at home (72 percent) or at someone else’s home (21 percent).  Consumers are likely to stay in to celebrate, giving retail foodservice a prime opportunity to present itself as the perfect entertaining partner for end-of-year parties. Also, according to the National Retail Federation, the average holiday expenditure on food in the US has increased every year since 2011, including a hefty jump from $104.34 in 2014 to $107.80 last year, putting the 2016 holiday season in line to see higher sales.

Another factor in New Year’s Eve foodservice spending — for this year at least — is football. The College Football Playoff, in its second year, will host its national semifinals — the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl — on the final day of 2016. While the games likely won’t run into prime NYE celebration times later at night, they do offer merchandising opportunities for standard gameday food and tailgaiting options. Take advantage now, however, because the national semifinal games  don’t return to New Year’s Eve until 2021. 

How to capitalize

Stress convenience.

Consumers hosting NYE parties, and their guests, routinely look for small, hand-held foods and hors d’oeuvres. With the party peaking at midnight, gatherings may not kickoff until after dinner, negating the need for a full meal.

Class it up. NYE parties are more likely than other holiday events to carry a bit more style. Offer foods that reflect that. Instead of popcorn shrimp, think bacon-wrapped pineapple shrimp. Replace common small sandwiches with lamb meatball sliders. Ditch the plain olives and offer a Spanish platter of fried olives, Manchego cheese and Serrano ham.

Build your menu around booze.

Consumers are likely to imbibe more on New Year’s Eve than most other holiday events. Make pairing suggestions to go with your food offerings. General rules work, like Pinot Noirs with earthy flavors such as mushrooms and truffles or Chardonnays with fatty fishes and rich sauces. Also stress pairings for the NYE staple champagne. Hand-helds like creamy sausage-stuffed mushrooms, crab beignets and crusted goat cheese medallions all go well with a glass of bubbly.

As always, consolidate.

It’s not necessarily a brand-new strategy, but having everything a consumer  might need to host a successful New Year’s Eve party in one place can boost sales, especially with a holiday occassion that many find themselves relatively unprepared for. Build a fresh and fancy offering with specialty cheese and an appetizer from the deli, perhaps a hearty selection from the prepared department, along with a dessert from your bakery. Cap it off with the complementary bottle of wine or craft beer for pairing.