How Your Restaurant Can Capitalize on the Holiday Season

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With all the hustle and bustle of finding gifts and making sure everything is just right, the holiday season is busy for everyone. With your competitors trimming the tree and decking the halls, you’ll want to make sure your restaurant stands out. It’s the time in a year when people are looking to spend some serious money and there are a few things you can do to take advantage of every opportunity to attract them with fresh ideas and bring business to your restaurant. Of course you will do your best to provide memorable experiences for each one of them and strive to get new guests to walk through your doors. But how to do that?

These are a few tips to help you entice customers to venture out of the comfort of their homes this holiday season and bring their holiday spirit into your restaurant.

Thanksgiving

were-openStay Open
Every year more and more people are deciding to dine out for Thanksgiving. The National Restaurant Association predicts that more than 15 million people will eat out for Thanksgiving this year. Consumers don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking all that food and the massive aftermath of dishes and leftovers. This is where your restaurant can save the day by providing them with a stress free, delicious meal. If you decide staying open on Thanksgiving Day is for you, offer a traditional turkey dinner for the families looking for a home cooked meal without all the trouble.

Takeout Options

If staying closed on Thanksgiving is a priority, but you still want to take advantage of the holiday sales, try offering precooked sides that patrons can pick up a day or two before Thanksgiving. Customers will appreciate not having to cook more than necessary, and you will appreciate their business. They might even decide to make your side a new holiday tradition, and who doesn’t love repeat business? Offering takeout options is a way you can have your pumpkin pie, and eat it too.

chef-counter-bowlsHost a Food Drive

Another option would be to run a food drive. Have a designated area in your waiting area where patrons can donate canned goods for the local food shelter. To bring in even more customers consider offering a discount on food with a nonperishable food donation. Customers will take note of your good deeds and might consider becoming a regular at a business that cares for the community.


Host a Tips from the Chef Night

Another option owners might want to consider is hosting an event before Thanksgiving. Take reservations and on a specific night, serve your guests a Thanksgiving meal. Then once things have calmed down a little and the meals are served, have your Chef visit tables and be available for questions on how to cook that perfect turkey. Most people are intimidated at the thought of cooking a whole turkey themselves so they will appreciate the advice and personal attention. This offers customers not only tips from a professional, but a night out on the town.  Plus such great customer service will have them returning even after the holiday season is over.

 

Christmas

5285326369_3620ae8f34_oDécor

Decorating for the holiday season can really add to the atmosphere in your establishment. White twinkle lights are a simple touch that can bring some magic and wonder to an everyday setup. In addition to traditional decorations take advantage of some of the benefits of alternative designs. The Christmas tree made from champagne glasses decorated with lights, or different colored liquids in them will be an original and attractive decoration in your restaurant. It is also a conversation starter among guests.

Have your decorations ready to go from harvest into a holiday theme. Purchase your decorations ahead of time and then pick a slower day, perhaps during the week, to bring holiday cheer to your restaurant.

Having a cheerful holiday atmosphere could be a deciding factor in whether a business chooses your location to host their holiday party. If would be a shame to miss out on such an opportunity due to decorations.

Also be sure to promote your holiday wonderland on social media. People love to visit locations that have gotten into the holiday spirit and are sure to share their experience. More sharing equals more customers!

7875663010_c31969d2a5_kCatering

If you are looking to add catering to your lineup, now is the time. Many offices are holding holiday parties between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and are looking for places to accommodate their needs. To meet their needs try to have veggie and vegan meal options available. This is an area that can often be overlooked but can be the difference between getting their business and being passed over.

It is also easier to train new staff for catering. Often people are looking for extra work during the holidays, seasonal workers can help manage the new part of your business through the busy holidays. It also can be helpful to your kitchen staff if you have a special holiday menu. If they have a general idea of what they will be cooking they can better prepare to accommodate the larger groups.

 

Offer Coupons

Do you have regulars who frequent your establishment? Let them know how much you appreciate their business by sending them a holiday card with a coupon inside. For example, a free dessert would be nice way to entice them in the doors and convince them to purchase an entree.

But be cautious, it is important to make sure the card stays a card and does not become an advertisement, as you don’t want to lose the meaning behind the gesture. By placing a coupon in the card it lets your guests know that you appreciate them and encourages return business. While a paper card is heart-warming, many restaurants with email programs can utilize a digital coupon and save on postage.

Another benefit of sending cards is that customers might talk about your card with friends, and word of mouth is the best advertising you can get (especially in the social network age.)

Coupons are also a great way to prepare for the lull that happens after the holiday season. When your staff takes the customer their receipt consider slipping in a few coupons that are good in January through February to encourage continued patronage during those slower months. Not only will they appreciate the gesture but also feel encouraged to return.

Give a Gift

Having gift cards available are a must for the holiday season. Many people are not sure what to purchase for that long lost cousin, or the co-worker they got in the office’s secret Santa. You can be there to offer them this viable option. It also works out great for a restaurant owner. About 72% of people spend more than the value of their gift card when they dine at a restaurant. Try to offer holiday themed cards to catch the eye of your customers.

Offering gift cards is also a great way to get first time visitors in the door and make them lifelong patrons.

Organize a Charity Dinner

5398146515_024b48dfaa_bSpread the holiday spirit by organizing a charity dinner in your restaurant. The holiday season is a time of giving and donations. During this season people are thinking more about others than usual. That’s why it is a great time to organize a charity event. Choose a cause that is close to your heart or your communities and inform people about the event through traditional media and social media. The media will be happy to promote such an event, especially during this time of year. Create a flyer, and use it as part of your restaurant holiday promotion.

Participate in a charity event by offering a certain percentage of the proceeds that night to go to charity. Invite members from the organization you have selected to add a personal touch. They’ll also help to promote your business and the event. You will be helping those in need and building a caring reputation for your restaurant, creating a win-win situation.

The holiday season offers many opportunities for promoting your business and thanking your customers for the wonderful year you’ve had. Don’t miss out because of a lack of planning. It is best to start advertising for these promotions 4-6 weeks in advance. By implementing unique promotions you can help your restaurant stand out from all the other deals going on during the season.

I wish you happy holidays and a bustling restaurant!

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Is your bar or restaurant hosting holiday parties?

This is a busy time for families and friends to meet up at a local bar or restaurant to reconnect over the holiday season and at the turn of the new year. If you are a newer bar or restaurant or have experienced a lot of growth this year, it might be a little overwhelming to manage all these reservations or impromptu gatherings in your establishment. So, we are here to help! I’ve put together a list of tips to help your bar or restaurant survive (and succeed) this holiday season.

1. Review your menu. Do you have holiday favorites, like spiced apple cider, peppermint milkshakes, or sugar cookies available?  It doesn’t take much for even the smallest restaurant or cafe to add some special treats to their holiday menus this season.  If you are hosting many sit-down dinners, do you have turkey, ham, and pork & sauerkraut meals with all the trimmings listed?  You may suggest family-style dining to your larger parties and try something new that could be very pleasing to your guests!   It’s also a great time of year to test market some new ideas or try out some new seasonal customs.  For example, you could try a ‘decorate your own’ gingerbread cookie for the kiddies, ‘top your own’ hot cocoa (think flavored whipped cream, holiday-shaped marshmallows, or shots of holiday flavors),  ‘create your own’ cocktail, or just add in some new products or promotions you’ve been wanting to try.  Maybe you want to introduce a new dessert buffet or try new mixed drink concoctions. The possibilities are endless, and if it’s popular and well received, you could find a way to work it into your everyday menu.  You may want to add just a small holiday menu, dress up some of your regular menu items in a new way to fit the holiday season, or create a holiday option in each category on your menu (beverage, appetizer, meal, dessert).  Any way your chef, brew master, or caterer addresses the holidays this season, your customers will be thrilled!  Make sure any changes or additions you make fit your bar or restaurant theme and coordinate well with your entire menu’s cuisine (for example, French restaurants could introduce a cranberry crepe or drinking establishments could sample an adult eggnog beverage).  Don’t forget: Be sure to add any new ingredients or required kitchen equipment to your regular purchase orders.

2. Check your staff schedules. With large parties needing extra attention and more people in general coming and going from your establishment, you will need to bump up your salary budget this time of year.  Make sure you are fully staffed and ready to give your patrons the joyous holiday get-together they are anticipating.  We know that end-of-year spending might be tight, but cutting staff at your busiest time of year could prove very detrimental to service and quality of your customers’ experiences.  In addition, take advantage of the prelude to the busy season to re-train or remind your staff on best service practices, speedy kitchen and delivery times, quick and clean bus habits, and overall quality standards.  There’s never a good time to make a blunder at your bar or restaurant, but during the holiday season, you want to make sure everyone and everything is running smoothly. This is especially important if you are introducing new menu items or expect your bar staff to learn how to make new drinks or properly serve in new glassware.

3. Define the space. If you are not used to hosting large parties, you may need to look at your tables and chairs and reconfigure your space in order to keep larger parties all seated together.  Can your tables push together?  Do you need to add extra tables?  Would it be better to place parties in certain rooms or areas and keep the smaller parties in a different section?  Should you swap out your bulky restaurant chairs with more sleek backless barstools to help more people fit around the room?  Large parties will need to feel like they are the only ones in the joint and be able to carry on conversations from end of the table to the other.  Being prepared for a large group of people at your bar or restaurant is your best defense this holiday season. (If you need help with future bar or restaurant furniture needs to help define your space, we can help!  Let East Coast Chair & Barstool show you tables, chairs, and barstools that will eliminate your worry.)

4. Re-design the take-out process. Whether it’s baked goods, holiday party catering, or extra 6-packs of beer, your customers may be demanding more take-out service this holiday season.  Is your bar or restaurant prepared?  Is there a special wait line for take-out orders only?  Do you offer carry-out parking/delivery?  Are the orders being marked accurately, and do you offer in-house order tracking on an order board or customer tracking digitally?  Are your prep cooks ready to handle the bulk of orders and getting enough lead time?  Working out the details for a smooth take-out process now could save you, your staff, and your customers a lot of grief.

5. Address extended wait times. It’s busy.  Your customers are told it might be an hour or longer before they can be seated.  Depending on your establishment and the party, they might have young children with them.  What do they do?  Is there a special room for guests to wait?  Can you hand out holiday-themed coloring books in advance to any kids?  Do you have a bar and appetizer area, so they can get started nibbling?  What about music/TV/other entertainment?  Will a long line that’s visible deter others from stopping?  Will waiting guests get in the way of your wait staff?  Do you have enough seating for waiting guests, too?  Considering how you might address this in advance will be a great help to you when you have a crowd waiting.

6. Set the mood. Decorations. Music. Party gear.  It doesn’t take a huge budget to make a large impact.  Worried you’re crossing a politically incorrect line?  Stay simple and just add a little oomph to dress it up for the season.  If you are doing a New Year’s Eve special event, make sure you have champagne goblets (glass or disposable) on hand for a toast and some kind of party hat, noise maker, or favor for your party-goers.  You want to make your bar or restaurant feel festive, so people have a good time and remember you when they’re looking for a place to eat or drink the whole rest of the year.

7. Announce any special holiday hours. Closing for the holidays?  Or offering extending hours?  Make sure people know!  Post signs on every door, add your new hours to your Web site, let regular customers know via wait staff, and add your holiday schedule to your regular promotions. The one reason why people aren’t at your bar or restaurant this holiday season shouldn’t be because they didn’t know if you were open. And if the only thing someone wants this holiday season is your famous pie, let them know if you are going to be closed so they can pick up a slice ahead of time.

No matter what challenges your bar or restaurant may face from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember to stay jolly and show your patrons a merry good time!  Shake off the small stresses and feel honored that your neighbors want to celebrate in your establishment. No matter how big or small you celebrate this season, remember that it’s a special time of year for everyone.

Happy holidays to you and yours!