On the Line / Operations / How to Prepare for the Holidays

How to Prepare for the Holidays

With offerings like special holiday or prix-fixe menus, keeping your restaurant open for the holidays usually means great revenue.

Christmas restaurant

Between holiday parties, festive lights, and all the good, merry feelings, this time of the year is often a special one for many of us. For restaurants, this usually translates to a very busy season (with the sizable revenue increases to prove it). With the height of COVID last spring and summer, much of the holiday rush for restaurants subsided in 2020. However, as federal and state governments loosened restrictions in 2021, restaurants can likely look forward to increased revenues this year—even with enhanced COVID protocols in place. 

Pre-pandemic, restaurants open during the Christmas holiday could expect to see higher check averages, as the holidays normally draw in large groups who are ready to celebrate. 

With offerings like special holiday or prix-fixe menus, it can be very profitable for restaurants to remain open. In 2019, Christmas Eve had a 19% increase in average check total, as compared to a 17% increase in 2018. Christmas Day had a 40% increase in the average check total in 2019. 

And a small but significant portion of revenue can come from gift cards as well — gift card sales increased by 8% in December 2019 compared to previous months, due to guests purchasing gift cards as presents for loved ones. 

If you’re already sold on opening for this holiday season, we’ve compiled a list of 10 steps you’ll want to keep in mind as you prepare for the holiday rush — and don't worry: #10 is planning some well-deserved vacation time for you and your staff come January.

10 steps to prepare your restaurant for Christmas

1. Seek out your staff’s holiday time off requests well in advance - that means now!

The holidays are a busy time for everyone — your staff included, who also have families and responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to remind (and nudge) your staff about submitting any time off requests in advance, at least a month ahead. 

Let your staff know how important it is for them to submit time off requests as soon as possible, as it would be extremely difficult to accommodate any last-minute requests. 

2. Hire seasonal staff if needed

You can also hire seasonal staff to help with the holiday influx, but you’ll want to make sure that you have enough time to train your new staff — you’ll want to avoid any hiccups and provide the best guest experience possible. 

3. Don’t forget about staff incentives and gifts

You wouldn’t hesitate to thank guests for dining at your restaurant — so don’t be afraid to express gratitude to your staff! Holiday bonuses, gift cards, or even a great bottle of wine can show thoughtfulness during the holiday season (and increase morale to boot). 

While gifts are wonderful, employee benefits like health insurance and paid time off, along with great pay, go even further — it’s worth taking a look at your employee package in the new year to see where improvements should be made. 

4. Create an on-premise holiday party menu

Consider creating a prix-fixe or a special holiday menu for guests! It’ll relieve the pressure to create so many different a la carte menu items for the back of the house — and check averages are usually higher, too. 

5. Create an online ordering holiday menu

If possible, adjust your online ordering menu to highlight your holiday offerings. It’s a great option for those who want to recreate the restaurant experience at home, or are looking for a more low-key option for holiday dinners. 

6. Create a holiday catering menu 

Another revenue stream to consider is creating a holiday catering menu, especially for corporate or family gatherings. You’ll want to focus on the most popular and profitable items, calculate the labor cost, and ensure your profit margins for large-volume orders are sizeable enough to make it worth the effort.  

For all these moments of holiday menu building, consult our free Menu Engineering Course to help you ensure your holiday menus drive as much profit as possible.

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7. Get your inventory orders in 

Thinking about offering a chestnut dessert or looking to incorporate some seasonal winter citrus into an appetizer? Make sure to get those inventory orders in early! Keep in mind that many restaurants do choose to stay open during the holidays, and you don’t want to run out of the essentials (and if you’re using seasonal items, this is even more important). You’ll also want to account for the extra diner volume, too — lunch is a popular option on Christmas Eve, along with dinner on Christmas Day. 

8. Winterize your patio

While outdoor dining conjures up images of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer day, it’s also a viable option during the winter, too. Consider outdoor heating lamps, installing a pergola, or even a few intimate (and socially distant) igloos

9. Make sure your POS connects your whole restaurant and can handle the rush

In addition to preparing your staff for the holiday rush, you’ll want to ensure your POS systems can handle the pressure, too. Our POS systems are designed to accelerate turn times and increase revenue with faster order and payment speeds, and the KDS (Kitchen Display System) ensures that the front and back of the house can communicate seamlessly. Consider investing in a handheld system or even pay at the table technology to alleviate bottlenecks at POS terminals and get orders to the kitchen faster and more accurately.

10. Plan to close after the holidays to rest and recuperate

While the restaurant industry is notoriously fast paced, rest isn’t a luxury — it’s absolutely essential for your staff (and you, too!). If it doesn’t hurt your restaurant’s bottom line too much, consider closing for a week or two in the new year. While that may not be an option for some restaurants, consider creating a rotating schedule where staff can take turns taking a week off after the holidays. 

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