Surviving the Holidays: Take an Operational Perspective

DSC_0250-copyThe holidays are a notoriously busy time for our industry. Reservations double, staff want time off, suppliers have holiday hours that make ordering challenging, and everyone really just wants to get some time to enjoy the holidays. It’s a challenge.

As restaurants everywhere prepare to welcome guests gathering to celebrate the holidays, we approached our industry colleague and client Mary Carter, Managing Partner at Farmers Restaurant Group, to share some operational tips and strategies that can help you successfully survive the season in your restaurant.

Staffing. If your holiday season is generally much busier than normal operations, Mary recommends anticipating your needs and hiring temporary support (such as front of house, kitchen, and server help) so service remains consistent. For staff, Mary suggests creating a holiday schedule well in advance to help operations run smoothly. For example, post a list of upcoming holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, New Years Eve/Day) six weeks out and ask staff members (managers included) to take at least two holiday shifts. The extra few weeks give staff the opportunity to plan both their work and personal holiday time. *NOTE: Mary also suggests planning an appreciation event (informal meal or cocktail gathering maybe) for staff before or after their holiday shifts to enjoy some communal holiday cheer.

Promotions. Implementing holiday marketing and promotional programs is a great way to differentiate your restaurant from the competition, says Mary. Whether direct mailers, social media blitzes, published advertising or window cling signs (or all of the above), promotional planning efforts should begin as soon as possible, and be implemented at least a month ahead of a holiday to allow guests time to plan/make reservations.

Product. Having enough ingredients and product on hand (i.e. dishes, cutlery, and the like) is critical as you enter into the holiday season, says Mary. Running out of items or coming up short is not an option. Therefore, Mary suggests to save time and money (and possibly your sanity), secure all necessary holiday service elements, products, and ingredients as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more you will pay and the chances increase that you may not even get your product. Also, Mary recommends hosting staff training sessions to review holiday menus, new/different ingredients or any other holiday specific information. As a guest’s experience depends on staff knowledge and interaction for holiday service – and beyond.

Plan Ahead. As next year will be upon us before we know it, Mary recommends planning ahead by taking great notes this holiday season on items such as: what worked (and what didn’t) in regards to staffing, product ordering/supplies/sales, business flow, large party reservations/preferred dine times, how well your holiday marketing/promotional campaigns worked, etc. Reviewing your notes a few months out from next year’s holiday planning will likely afford you the opportunity to adjust any issues for a smoother, and even more successful holiday season next year … and all the years to come.