Each year, the holidays bring people together to eat, drink and be merry. With its many corporate parties and family reunions, the last month of the year normally offers restaurateurs a huge potential to increase sales and attract new customers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and extra safety precautions such as social distancing, however, the holiday season will look a little bit different for many restaurants this year.
But there’s no need to worry because, with proper planning and preparation, restaurants can still achieve greater profits this season by employing a holiday-specific strategy that invests in the right business tools and adds festive cheer where it counts most. In the end, your customers are looking for a great food experience, and whether they are dining-in at your establishment or enjoying your food from the safety and comfort of their own homes, you’ll want to ensure that your restaurant is rising to the challenge.
From front-of-house admin to festive menu items, from social media promotions to seasonal decor, here are some tips to help maximize your restaurant’s profits during the holiday season:
Spicing Up and Invigorating Your Menu with Festive Flavors
Many families and groups of friends eat out while they are together during the holidays, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity by adding festive flavors to the menu that will increase your margin. Think about what seasonal flavors and festive flare can be infused into your current menu, or consider more creative ways to modify some existing items. Make sure that these exciting holiday dishes are also available for delivery and takeout to give customers a variety of ways to enjoy their food.
Make sure to offer holiday drink specials, too, as these are a great way to boost average order prices. If it is prohibited to offer alcohol for pickup or delivery in your area, make sure to leave room for non-alcoholic beverages as well. Spice it up by adding festive flavors and ingredients into the mix.
Upgrading Your Online Menu
Make sure that your online menu is just as tempting as your print menu. To encourage customers to use your online menu, ensure that it has been designed for easy navigation (especially on mobile) and upselling.
When building your online menu, keep the following in mind:
- Food Shots: Use high-quality photos that make your dishes look just as mouth-watering as they do in real life.
- Descriptions: Written descriptions should be clear and concise, but also engaging. Also, be sure to list any defining features for each item, such as locally sourced ingredients, etc.
- Categories: Separate your menu into distinct categories like “Best Sellers” or “Holiday Specials” that make it easier for customers to navigate and choose.
- Modifiers and Add-Ons: Make sure that each item includes a list of extras your customers can add or upgrade, like festive side dishes.
Promoting through Your Social Media Accounts and Website
Stay active on your social media accounts to let customers know that you’re open for business this holiday season – even if it’s just for takeout and delivery. Make special posts explaining your holiday hours and introducing must-try items on your holiday menu. Eating out on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is an annual tradition for many families, and even if dining out is limited this year, those same customers may still be looking for takeout and delivery options. This means that with proper marketing of your venue and menu, you can experience a higher-than-average volume of orders and revenue during days you might normally be closed.
Make sure that you’re actively promoting your holiday menu on your social media accounts and website, too, so customers know what you’re offering in advance. Provide customers with need-to-know information about how and what they can order from you this holiday season. If you’re open for in-person dining, let them know your hours and whether they need to make reservations in advance. And if you’re limited to takeout and delivery, make sure customers know whether to order directly from your website, from a third-party delivery app, or by calling your restaurant.
Creating a Festive Environment, Preparing Your Staff, and Booking Holiday Events
Providing a festive holiday ambiance is key during this time of the year, and nothing puts people in a cheerful mood faster than piping some seasonal music through your restaurant’s speakers. If indoor dining is an option at your establishment – or even if customers are just stopping in briefly for takeout –make sure to get out the decorations, too. Even with proper safety precautions in place, you can still make your restaurant a warm, comforting, and inviting space.
That being said, it is also essential that your staff is organized in advance. Whether it’s rehiring restaurant staff, training new employees, or just scheduling your current personnel, ensure you have all-hands-on-deck ahead of the holiday rush. It’s important to prep staff and finalize schedules as early as possible to accommodate the busy nights ahead.
If you’re struggling to find temporary workers to fill out your schedule, try partnering with a staffing agency. This is an excellent option for finding seasonal workers in a flash since these agencies keep databases of trained and experienced workers who will be ready whenever you need them. Most staffing agencies give you the option to hire their workers on a seasonal or per-shift basis, so it will be imperative to make sure that the new, temporary staff members are well-trained on your point-of-sale system (POS), online ordering system, menu, and other details of your business.
Make this your most efficient holiday season ever. Start by reviewing last year’s sales so you can more accurately forecast how many staff members you will need. Though this year will likely differ quite a bit from last year, you should still pay special attention to any specific days your restaurant experienced a spike in sales. Even if fewer diners are coming in, major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s (both Eve and Day) may still see a surge in takeout and delivery orders.
Finally, be sure to incentivize regular and potential corporate groups looking to host their private events at your restaurant by offering them a discount for booking early. This will encourage them to lock down the date and give your venue ample time to plan, staff, and safely execute the event. Traditionally, hosting events and renting out your venue for private parties is an excellent way to increase revenue, cater to current customers, and grow your customer base. And while COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing mandates may mean things look a little different this year, carefully planned private events can still be a lucrative option for your venue.
The experts at Custom Culinary™ have crafted a wide range of delicious and festive meals to boost the cheer factor of your holiday menu. One of our favorites is a flavorful spin on a holiday classic – the Holiday Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Herb and Pine Nut Stuffing and Rosemary Sauce:
Holiday Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Herb and Pine Nut Stuffing and Rosemary Sauce
A fresh take on a festive classic, this Holiday Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Herb and Pine Nut Stuffing and Rosemary Sauce recipe from Custom Culinary™ is sure to please everyone at the table.
Chef Jomi Gaston
Custom Culinary, Inc.