9 Step Holiday Checklist for Your Restaurant

Follow these tips to ensure your restaurant runs smoothly, and guests and employees are happy, all while boosting profits this holiday season.

a month ago   •   6 min read

By Mariel Alvarado

The holiday season is just one blink of an eye away. For the restaurant industry, it can be challenging to manage. On one hand, it can mean more guests and more profits. On the other hand, it can also mean additional complications like cold weather shutting down your outdoor spaces, employees going on vacation, grumpy guests, and unpredictable foot traffic.

Thankfully, you still have time to strategize for the holiday season so your restaurant runs smoothly, and your guests and employees are happy, all while boosting profits. Here’s a 9-step checklist to help you get your restaurant ready for a festive holiday season.

1. Craft a holiday menu

A holiday menu is a must for this season, and you don’t need to go big if you don’t want to. Your offerings can range from seasonal starters and holiday drinks to multiple courses and specials. The idea is for your restaurant to reflect the festive spirit while taking into account the realities of supply chain pressures and inflation. Assess your existing menu to see what items are most popular and profitable, and engineer your seasonal menu accordingly. If you’ve offered holiday items in the past, dive into your reporting platform to identify your top-selling holiday menu items from previous years, and then look at ingredient costs to avoid high-inflation items. When in doubt, keep it simple and pair holiday classics with items from your menu that you wish to upsell.

2. Utilize your space to offer holiday experiences

While some people stay home for the holidays, others look for special experiences or want to go out for dinner in larger groups. Your restaurant can tap into this to generate additional revenue by offering a private dining room for personal gatherings, corporate holiday events, private parties, wine tasting, and special menus. With the help of your reservation platform, you can manage your unique experiences, reservations, and your waitlist all from just one place, avoiding confusion and reducing no-shows and cancellations.

Table fully served and decorated for a party at restaurant.
Some people stay home for the holidays, while others look for special experiences. Photo by Juliette F on Unsplash.

3. Leverage restaurant tech to boost efficiency and diversify revenue streams

The holiday season can be challenging to manage. That’s why it’s important to invest in tech solutions that can make the festive season that much easier. A cloud-based POS with integrated solutions can help you manage every part of your operation more efficiently. These integrated tools, in particular, can make life easier (and more efficient) for you, your staff, and your guests.

  • Handhelds can help you serve more guests during the peak of the holiday season, improving staff efficiency and speed of service for your guests
  • Online ordering with pacing and ordering ahead, allows you to drive online sales with automation and enable guests to plan for celebrations
  • QR codes allow dine-in guests to order quickly without your staff having to make multiple trips to and from tables
  • Invoicing tools make it easy to send and manage invoices directly through your online dashboard for private dining, big catering orders, and corporate events

4. Plan and communicate your holiday schedule

Holiday scheduling can be stressful. From time-off requests to increased foot traffic and a change in guest expectations, you need to ensure you’re staffed efficiently for the holidays. First, on the list, be clear on your expectations regarding your employees, and make the schedule available for everyone to see. Secondly, with the help of your labor management tool, identify under- and over-staffed dayparts so you can easily adjust your schedules accordingly and accept PTO for staff going away on the holidays.

5. Streamline reservations and waitlisting

When you have a reservation and waitlist platform, you make it easier for your guests to know that there's a table waiting for them, and you can better forecast how busy your days will be during an otherwise unpredictable holiday season. With this information, you’ll know how many employees to schedule and how many food supplies to order. You can also reduce no-shows with 2-way text confirmations and reminders, as well as a cancellation policy with deposits to encourage guests to follow through with their plans.

Christmas holiday meal kit
Offering holiday take-home meal kits gives your guests a break from cooking themselves. Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash.

6. Offer take-home meal kits

The holidays are a time to be with family and friends, and oftentimes that means eating at home. Offering holiday take-home meal kits gives your guests a break from cooking themselves and gives you a profitable revenue opportunity. You can choose from hot, ready-to-eat family meals or meal kits with cold ingredients that can be prepared and heated at home. These fully- or partially-prepared meals usually serve up to 4-6 people and can be purchased ahead of time with the help of your reservation platform, so you don’t end up preparing more than you will sell. You can also sell meal kits directly from your online ordering system.

7. Don’t forget about gift cards

There’s no doubt that this is the season of gifting. And gift cards are so much more than an afterthought these days. Your loyal customers are your best advocates, and when they give someone a gift card from your restaurant as a present, they’re helping you attract new customers without spending a dime on advertising. On top of that, gift card sales create instant revenue with little to no labor costs, helping you improve cash flow, particularly during the holiday season with people actively looking to help support local businesses.

Christmas gift card
Gift card sales create instant revenue. Photo by Rob Laughter / Unsplash

8. Offer alluring discounts

The holidays are the perfect time to send a special discount or promotion. During this season, 77% of consumers say they use coupons/deals at restaurants. It’s important to get your holiday offering on your guests’ minds early on. With the help of marketing tools like holiday social media templates and emails, you can quickly and easily create custom marketing campaigns to entice more people to visit.

9. Strengthen your customer relationships

Give back to your loyal customers this holiday season by rewarding them with memorable benefits and rewards with a custom loyalty rewards program. Add unique, holiday-themed rewards, such as a limited-time item from your holiday menu, as well as personalized experiences, such as an exclusive invitation to a New Year’s Eve party,  to make your program really stand out this time of year.

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