Believe it or not, the holidays are soon upon us. For restaurants, that can mean big business and big profits. But it can also mean a lot of complications when it comes to planning and managing. Are you making things as easy as you can for your guests and employees? What can you do now to prepare for the next couple months of restaurant holiday planning?
The holidays are always a tricky time for restaurant shift scheduling. You’ll want take time during one of your staff meetings soon to talk to your employees about what they’re expecting during the holiday season. Find out what each of them are looking for — some will want to work those busy shifts, some will want time off. Make sure they all get that schedule once it’s done and well in advance.
Make sure you have a clear understanding how your hours are going to change during the holidays. Your entire staff (including management) needs to be on the same page when it comes to what days the restaurant will be completely closed and any days where hours are extended.
And on top of that, make sure you properly advertise your seasonal hours on social media, your website, and on the outside of your restaurant. Just don’t forget to change the hours back to normal on all those places once the holidays are over.
If you need to bring in extra holiday staff, it’s common courtesy to let your main staff have first choice at which shifts they want and then do your best to accommodate. It won’t be good for morale if your hardworking staff finds out the temps are getting all the shifts they wanted because you were careless in organizing the schedule.
While things can come up quickly during the holidays, make sure you are clear on your expectations for changing or swapping shifts. Have a process so you don’t confuse everyone — and double check that your managers know too. Be clear about the repercussions for call offs.
Dining Room and Catering Menus
Are you creating a holiday menu? Whether seasonal starters or holiday drinks, consider making a special menu extension and adding it as a removable insert in your main menu or as a separate menu sheet altogether.
But if you only want to try a weekly special or a couple seasonal dishes, that’s totally valid. But think about flavors that aren’t Christmas-specific and can take you through the winter. Peppermint, spiced drinks, and comforting warm soups and stews should all be kept in mind because they can continue well beyond December 25th.
What does your catering or in-house event menu look like? Planning your catering menu for the holiday season goes way beyond adding holiday and seasonal specific items. Holiday catering scheduling is so much more complicated than catering throughout the rest of the year, and you should also be making sure it’s as easy as possible for every member of your team to understand their roles.
Are ingredients for your menu easy to keep in stock or order for quick delivery? Is your kitchen staff properly trained to prepare the seasonal dishes? Do your servers know how to set and serve for these special events? Can the menu items be adjusted and retain quality for large and small orders? Can it be managed efficiently by your team? Will they be served off-site with the same quality as they would in your dining room?
Don’t be afraid to put together a distinct holiday catering/event menu that is completely separate from your regular menu. If it makes more sense to start from scratch with seasonal items and then add in some of the most popular year-round items, then go for it.
You should be asking a similar question for your take-out menu as you do your catering menu in terms of making seasonal fare. Plus, are you prepared to package your holiday specials to be picked up or delivered? Again, if a dish can’t arrive in your customer’s home and be served with the same quality as in your dining room, reconsider offering it for take-out.
It’s not unusual for restaurants to spruce up their dining rooms, entryways, and the outside of the restaurant with holiday decorations. First and foremost, make sure your decorations fit the tone of your dining room and your overall brand. And beyond just how they look, remember that decorations (and any other added interior design elements) should never get in the way of the dining experience or your employees’ work.
Is the tinsel you’re planning to hang going to fall into your customer’s’ food? Is that snowman decoration going to impede your servers’ paths to the kitchen? As you pick out potential decorations, just be thoughtful and practical.
Consider offering a complimentary seasonal treat to end the meal. Does your kitchen make a holiday cookie or pastry? Even a mini-candy cane can be a nice surprise to leave along with a customer’s check. It’s all about the little things that make the holiday season special.
When push comes to shove, keeping it simple is usually a very good idea. You don’t have to make it too complicated. You don’t even have to some of these for the whole season. They could be for a week or even a couple days. Or even not at all. And if you aren’t sure you can pull it off this year, you can always add it into your plans next year.
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