The end of the year can be a hectic time for any business, but especially for restaurants. Between implementing holiday specials, scheduling your staff around their time off with family, and handling holiday reservations, it can get busy.
However, the holiday season can also be a good time to reflect on the last 12 months and on what you as a manager or owner are thankful for. It’s important to show your gratitude towards the many people that help your business succeed, from vendors to the customers to your employees.
Since each of these relationships are very different, how you thank each group can be very unique.
Be Personal with a Hand-Written Card
During the holiday season, try hand-writing a card to each of your vendors, including a detail or two about why you’re glad your restaurant and their business are working with each other. Taking just a few moments to make the card personal brings a level of thoughtfulness to the gesture.
Send Them New Clients through Referrals
This is a less direct approach to showing thanks, but can still be very effective. If you have a vendor who is absolutely great at what they do and what they provide your business, let your friends in the industry know. You can then give your sales representatives a heads up that you referred business to them, letting them know you were happy to do it because you’re so thankful to work with such a reliable business.
Thank First Time Customers
Many restaurants think of sending out thank you emails or letters to past customers to thank them for visiting the restaurant. These letters can include discounts to entice them to come back and be very effective. However, what if instead of focusing just on past customers, you take the time to thank brand new ones?
Try training your servers (possibly your more seasoned staff at first) to regularly ask customers up front if they’ve ever visited the restaurant before. If they say they haven’t, the server can give you a heads up and you can come over at the end of the meal and thank them for trying your restaurant — and maybe even offer them a free dessert (either to eat at the table or to go). This is a great way to make your business memorable and build a loyal guest base. You can also use this time as an opportunity as the manager or owner to personally ask the guests how their experience was and see if they have any comments.
Thank Your Regulars
You want to show your appreciation for your regulars too, right? After all, they’re the ones who believe enough in what you’re doing to come back time and time again. If you have that solid customer base, why not host a customer appreciation night? You can send out invitations via your newsletter list and even let those guests know in person the next time they come in for their go-to menu choice. You can make the event a wine tasting or small plate night with a small group of your most loyal customers. Better yet, mention in the RSVP section that they can bring a guest – that way, you’re thanking your current customers while introducing new ones to your restaurant’s menu!
For many employees, a verbal thank you and recognition of good work from their manager or the owner of the business can be incredibly gratifying. However, stopping at a short “good job” can make it seem less like a thoughtful acknowledgement and more like a throwaway comment. Are you really thanking the employee for something they did or is it just something to say as you walk pass them? It’s always better to be specific about what you’re thanking them for, whether it’s their focus on detail, helping newer staff, being great with the customers, or working extra shifts during the busy holiday weeks. It can be about something you just saw them do well that day, but it’s even better if it’s something you’ve notice them do consistently every shift. That “thank you” will let them know they’re doing things right.
Host a Holiday Party
Let’s say you’ve make it a habit of thanking your employees (and using specific examples) but would like to do something extra towards the end of the year to show your appreciation. If you want to thank your employees as a whole group, consider throwing a staff holiday party. After all, most restaurant workers don’t get to experience work parties like office employees – providing your employees a chance to eat and relax with each other in a party setting can be a great way to show you care.
Offer Holiday Bonuses
Another aspect to office jobs that restaurant employees rarely get to see are bonuses. At the holidays, a flat bonus for each employee can show that management is thinking of them, even during this hectic time. This doesn’t have to break the bank, as long as you know your budget for the project and divide up those funds between your employees evenly. While cash bonuses are appreciated, you can consider handing out coffee shop, gas, or grocery store gift cards (which is especially convenient if each individual bonus is under $30). Also consider making a list of all your employees to check off as you give each their bonus so you don’t miss anyone throughout the holiday shifts.
Want more ideas on how to develop a positive relationship with your staff — from hiring to retention? Check out our three-part series on staffing restaurants for success: