One of the busiest times of the year (if not the busiest) for any restaurant are holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve have the potential to greatly increase sales for the average restaurant. Holiday parties, catering and gift cards are all ways to increase sales during the months of November and December. By starting your advertising campaign early, being proactive with booking dates, and making sure you are prepared for the busy holiday rush, you can make the most out of the holidays at your restaurant.
Start Advertising Early
No matter what services your restaurant offers during the holiday season, whether it is off-site catering or packaged turkey dinners, you need to get the word out early –like 6-8 weeks before each holiday. You should start reminding customers that you are open for Thanksgiving, in September, and continue to remind them periodically over the next 6-8 weeks. The same is true if you are hosting a New Year’s Eve bash – start promoting it in November. If you do on-site catering, for office Christmas parties, contact last year’s list in early October and offer to book their event now, because space is limited.
I was able to fill my function room every weekend though November and December with repeat customers, simply by calling and offering to book the date for them. Posting reminders on your social media pages is another way to build word-of-mouth advertising for your holiday promotions as well.
Offer Catering Services
If you don’t offer catering services, the holidays are a good time to start. There are all sorts of celebrations taking place from Mid-November to January 1st. Office parties, family parties, weddings – people love to celebrate during the holiday season! If you can’t accommodate extra parties at your restaurant, why not bring the food to the party? Offsite catering is a great way to boost sales and get the word out about your restaurant, at the same time. Check out my Guide to Holiday Catering, for more ideas and tips.
Make sure you have plenty of gift cards on hand for the holiday season. Since a large number of cards are bought on Christmas Eve, so it may be worth paying a staff person to be at the restaurant, just to sell gift cards. We did this at our restaurant (giving the staff person who volunteered a bonus for working Christmas Eve) and always make several hundred dollars, without serving any food or drink.
Staffing for the Holidays
Extra business means you will need extra staff. Rather than trying to run a skeleton crew in your restaurant kitchen and dining room, hire extra staff just for the holidays. Lots of people are looking to make some extra money for Christmas. If you hire just for catered events, training is pretty simple and strait forward. You don’t have to worry about training them on your menu or a lot of the other regular training that your dining room staff go through.
Restaurant Tips for Thanksgiving
Many people are opting out of cooking a big Thanksgiving meal, choosing to dine out instead. If you opt to keep your restaurant open on Thanksgiving, it could prove to be a big business day, rivaling Valentines, Easter or Mother’s Day. Another option for restaurants is to offer pre-cooked thanksgiving meals. Supermarkets do this every holiday season, so why not utilize your catering skills and do the same?
The turnaround between Thanksgiving and Christmas is quick – overnight in many cases. Be ready to transform your restaurant from a harvest theme to a holiday theme quickly. Set aside a slow period of the week to decorate your restaurant dining room, hang lights inside and outside and put up a tree or two.
Source: Lorri Mealey for The Balance Small Business