With December quickly approaching, planning for the holidays in your restaurant definitely needs to be happening sooner rather than later. While some of that planning (like holiday staffing) can be tedious and complicated, other elements can seem more fun – for example, decorating! Who doesn’t love getting festive and decorating your space for the holidays! That’s a no-brainer, right?
Well, maybe not.
Like the other visual elements of your restaurant, seasonal decorating shouldn’t be taken lightly. How you decorate your business can send a message to your guests, and if you have particularly large windows, can send a message to potential guests walking outside.
Aesthetics aside, decorations can be a physical hindrance and even a safety risk. As much as you’d like to spread holiday cheer, being thoughtful and careful in your holiday decor is a must. There are certain questions you should be asking to determine if and how you should decorate for the holidays.
The very first thing you should be asking is if holiday decorations fit within your brand. If they do, what’s the tone? Are you a fun, casual lunch spot? Are you a fine dining establishment? Are you a chill coffee shop? Think about what fits your business. What does your decor already look like? Can you think of any holiday decorations that fit the tone of what your dining room has now?
It’s also not a bad idea to err on the side of caution when it comes to nondenominational decor. You can focus on being generally festive instead of putting up specific religious symbols. There are a few exceptions to this rule – if you’re a kosher deli, most people wouldn’t bat an eye if you put up Hanukkah decorations – but if you’re questioning it, better to lean away from religious imagery.
Another question: will the decorations get in the way of a normal shift? That adorable 4-foot snowman might have seemed perfect in the store, but will it block your entryways or the space between tables if you put it in your restaurant? Not only would that be an annoyance for your guests and a hindrance for your servers, but it could also be a potential risk if the occupants need to leave the building during a fire or other emergency. And if people keep knocking into it or touching it with their hands, it could get dirty or busted up really easily and not look very nice.
If any of the decorations need to be hung, can you do so without them hanging directly over tables? No matter how pretty the decoration is, no guest wants to have a piece of the decoration (or dust from the decoration) drop onto their heads or into their food during their meal. That’s not only unpleasant – it’s unsanitary, and could get you in trouble with the health inspector.
Where you place decorations can determine if they’ll get in the way, but so can the quality of decorations themselves. Are the decorations you have in mind easy to maintain and clean?
For instance, if you’ve incorporated any living plants into your regular decor, you know that they take attention and care to keep healthy and pretty. This is made all the harder if you bring in a living cut Christmas tree. You have to water it constantly, vacuum often to keep from a pile of pine needles on the floor, and it takes up considerable space in your dining area. Even living wreaths are difficult to maintain.
And plants aren’t the only ones you need to keep tidy. Like the rest of your decor, you’ll have to keep your holiday decorations dust-free and possibly also wipe them down with your chairs and tables (depending on the material). Tinsel and evergreen garland (real or fake) can shed dust as fast as pieces, leaving every bowl of soup or glass of water a potential repository for droppings. In addition, avoid showing dirt, grime, or stains by avoiding any decorations that are primarily white.
Be wary of any decorations that will be difficult to remove as well. Those snowflake window clings may seem like a fantastic, non-denominational idea to liven up your dining room, but once you try to remove them… well, you might be living with snowflake residue for a long time if you’re not a diligent cleaner.
If you’re looking for an alternative to putting up decorations, why not forgo them altogether and include seasonal choices on your menu instead! It’s a way to get into the holiday spirit while keeping the focus on the most important part of your restaurant – your food.
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