A 6-Step Checklist to Make Sure Your Restaurant Is Prepped for the Holiday Rush

If you’re a restaurant owner, the holiday season is something you may approach with a combination of anticipation and dread. As sales begin to increase, if you’re not prepared so can your stress level. Getting your ducks in a row well in advance can alleviate some of the anxiety the holiday season brings. If you’re not sure what to do first, this handy 6-step checklist provides a solid starting point.

1. Fill out the ranks

With vacation schedules and winter weather, having seasonal staff on hand to deal with the overflow can make the difference between sinking or swimming during the holidays. Take a look at your front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house rosters to see where the gaps are, if any.

For example, if your restaurant provides both catering and table services, be sure to have enough employees to cover both. The same goes if you have a private room for parties and you expect an uptick in bookings. Just remember that hiring new employees for the holidays is something you should tackle early on so you have plenty of time to get them trained.

2. Check your inventory

The last thing you need to happen is to find yourself running short of key ingredients or essential supplies when a surge in customer traffic is imminent. Conduct a thorough review of everything you have on-hand – from food items and alcohol to table settings, linens and janitorial supplies. Once this list is compiled, stock up on those things that you know you’re more likely to go through at a faster pace so that you’re not scrambling to get your hands on them at the last minute.

3. Plan your holiday menu

The holidays are a good time to try special seasonal menus, but you (or your chef) need to craft recipes beforehand. The availability of seasonal items like cranberries, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, varieties of squash can change quickly depending on demand. If your holiday menu features ingredients not available locally, you’ll need your supplier to track them down or to source a new vendor. The final step is deciding how those seasonal items will be priced and creating a special menu insert showcasing them.

4. Get your reservation calendar ready

If your restaurant includes a private room, you can’t afford to let it sit empty over the holidays. Reach out to local businesses and regular customers early on to let them know you’re accepting reservations for the holidays. If you normally charge a fee or require a deposit to reserve the room, be ready with a go-to price list for hosting private parties or special events.

5. Start holiday marketing in November

Your patrons start thinking about the holidays early, so start your holiday marketing in November. Your website, social media, traditional advertising, and email newsletters should all include references to your holiday menu and promotions. And if you haven’t spruced up your gift card display in a while, now is the time.

While the holidays are a great time to attract new customers, it’s important to remember your regular clientele as well. Look at last year’s bookings and reach out early to customers who have helped with your success over the year. Offer your regulars a discount if you sell gift cards or invite them in to try the new seasonal menu.

6. Deck the halls

Eye-catching holiday decorations can add to the overall ambiance of your restaurant. Decide what kind of decorating theme reflects its personality best and designate a day to put up the appropriate trimmings, both inside and out. Whether it’s some simple white lights or boughs of holly on every window, the key is to make your eatery as festive and inviting as possible to everyone who walks through the door.

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