The holiday season can add up to big business and profits for restaurants, but it can also mean additional complications when it comes to planning ahead and managing the holiday schedule.
Here are a few tips and ideas for how restaurant and bar owners can ensure the holiday season runs smoothly for guests and employees, while also boosting profits.
Communicate Schedule Changes and Staffing Expectations
Given the fact there is often an uptick in the number of time-off requests and staff no-shows, coupled with increased reservations and higher expectations from customers, it’s no wonder that holiday shift scheduling can be stressful.
To help mitigate potential scheduling snafus, take time during one of your staff meetings to talk to your employees about your needs and their expectations during the holiday season. Some will likely want to work extra shifts to earn more cash while others may want additional time off. During the meeting, be sure to also clearly communicate any changes to your hours during the holidays so that your entire staff — including management — is on the same page and knows which days the restaurant will be closed and when hours will be extended. Once you’ve confirmed your employees’ availability, make sure the schedule is created and provided to everyone as soon as possible.
If you need to bring on extra holiday staff, it’s common courtesy to let your permanent employees have the first pick of shifts and then do your best to accommodate them. It won’t be good for morale if your hardworking staff finds out that the temps are getting all of the prime shifts simply because you were careless when creating the schedule. If necessary, upgrade your restaurant scheduling program to save time and help eliminate human error.
While the need for time off can crop up suddenly during the holidays, make sure you are clear on your expectations regarding employees changing or swapping shifts. Put a process in place to avoid confusion, and be clear what the repercussions will be for call-offs.
Roll Out Holiday and Seasonal Catering Menus
If you want to incorporate seasonal starters, holiday drinks, or multiple courses, consider creating a special seasonal menu that you can print as an insert for your main menu, or as a separate sheet.
If you would rather stick with a weekly special or simply add a few seasonal dishes, try to consider flavors that aren’t tied to one specific holiday and can be served throughout the winter season, such as comforting soups and stews, spiced drinks, and peppermint-flavored desserts.
On the other hand, planning your catering or in-house event menu for the holiday season goes way beyond adding season-specific items. Scheduling holiday catering can be more complicated this time of year, and you should make sure your staff understands any potential changes to their roles.
Some questions you should ask yourself as you head into the end of the year include
- Are the ingredients for your menu easy to keep in stock or order for quick delivery?
- Is your kitchen staff properly trained to prepare the new seasonal dishes?
- Can the menu items be adjusted and retain quality for large and small orders?
- Can your team manage special events efficiently?
- Do your servers know how to set and serve for large events?
- Will you host events off-site, and can you do so with the same service quality you provide in your dining room?
You should also consider reviewing your take-out menu and how you’ll package holiday specials for pick-up and delivery. If a dish can’t arrive at your customer’s home in the same condition as they would in your dining room, reconsider offering it as an off-premise option.
Decorate Your Dining Room
Draping your dining room, entryway, and the restaurant exterior with holiday decorations can help put customers in a festive mood. But before you start decking the halls, make sure any additions you want to make fit the tone of your dining room and your overall brand. Beyond how they look, remember that decorations — and any other interior design elements — should never get in the way of the dining experience or your employees’ work. For example, consider if the tinsel you want to hang could fall into your customers’ food, or if a festive snowman statue might obstruct the servers’ path to the kitchen. Be mindful and practical as you select decorations.
You might also want to consider offering a complimentary seasonal treat to end the meal. Does your kitchen make a holiday cookie or pastry? Even a miniature candy cane can be a nice surprise to leave along with the check. Remember, it’s all about the little things when it comes to making the holiday season special for your guests.
Want more tips on making the most money with your menu? Download our free eBook “How to Use Restaurant Menu Design to Increase Your Sales” today!