10 Ways to Prepare Your Restaurant for the Festive Season (Christmas)

10 Ways to Prepare Your Restaurant for the Festive Season (Christmas)

The festive season is a hectic time of year for everyone, including hospitality owners and managers. It can be incredibly difficult to juggle the needs of your staff, diners and your bottom line during this time.

While the festive season can seem difficult to survive while you are experiencing it, it is also one of the most important times for maximising your profits. There are plenty of different factors to consider when it comes to managing the festive season and all that comes with it.

We have assembled a comprehensive guide to help you make it through the festive season in one piece.

What is the festive season?

The festive season is a period at the end of the year marked by events such as Christmas and New Year's Day. During this time, many people take time off work and travel to spend time with their families. For hospitality venues, it is often the busiest time of the year.

Different jurisdictions function differently throughout the festive season. In Australia, Christmas Day (25 December), Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year's Day (1 January) are public holidays. In the United Kingdom, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are public holidays. You can also expect plenty of diners eager to celebrate the dates of Christmas Eve (24 December) and New Year's Eve (31 December).

ResDiary has analysed the impact of the festive season on hospitality venues Beyond the Booking – Festive Season Success Unwrapped. It yielded plenty of fascinating statistics based on surveys of UK venues. One of the headline statistics is that while 80% of restaurants agree that the festive season is a busier time than normal, 79% of restaurant operators wish they were busier during it.

This is the paradox at the heart of the festive season for restaurants. While the endless rush of guests can seem impossible to manage, it is also an unmissable opportunity to make more revenue for your venue. This makes preparing for the season a remarkable challenge.

10 ways to prepare your restaurant for the festive season

We have assembled our top 10 tips to help hospitality venues navigate this difficult time of year. Follow our tips and you will be in a great position to not simply survive the holiday season, but thrive in it.

1. Plan ahead

The last thing you want to happen during the festive season is to be caught unawares. You should begin preparing for this time of year several months in advance.

From your rosters to your inventory, prepare your venue across the board to ensure everything is ready to capitalise on this critical time period for your business. Sit down with your restaurant's brain's trust and get ahead of any possible issues.

You can also take the time to decide if you want to offer any additional services during this period. This might include catering services for private events.

ResDiary's insights found that venues that begin their festive planning before August experienced better outcomes across the board:

  • Only 18% of early planners said they were never fully booked in the holiday period, compared to 34% of all restaurants surveyed.
  • 82% of early planners make significantly more revenue during the festive period.
  • 10% of early planners did not say they struggled with no-shows, compared to 26% of all restaurants surveyed.

2. Optimise your profit margins ahead of time

There is nothing better for a restaurant than increased sales and turnover, and that is exactly what the festive season provides. However, you will not be able to make the most of it if your profit margins are not optimised.

If you have not taken the steps to boost your profit margins, all those increased sales will have a reduced effect on your business. A few simple actions can go a long way to ensuring you get even more out of the festive season.

Some of the best ways to improve your restaurant's profit margin are:

  • Optimise your menu to include dishes with a high-profit margin such as loaded fries, burgers and salad.
  • Minimise food waste.
  • Limit utility costs.

For more information, check out our complete guide to improving profit margins in your restaurant.

3. Manage the rush

According to ResDiary's data, 24% of early-planning restaurants are fully booked before September. This means you should prepare to take bookings well in advance if you do not already.

Table management can become trickier than usual at this time of year, with over 46% of venues agreeing it becomes more difficult. This is not only due to more overall foot traffic but also the need to serve larger parties.

In addition, 44% of venues said they miss out on potential bookings because staff are too busy to answer the phone. This represents potential lost revenue and adds to the overall stress of a busy restaurant during this period.

When it comes to solving issues like these, ResDiary can be a major help. We offer exceptional table management software making handling reservations a breeze. We also include functionality to improve your online bookings processes and can even answer calls for you with ResPhone.

4. Prepare your staff

It is important to remember that managers and owners are not the only people in a restaurant who can get stressed out by the festive rush. As the calendar flips towards December, hospitality workers also steady themselves for the trials and tribulations on the way.

First and foremost, you must decide who will be working on public holidays such as Christmas Day and New Year's Day (if your venue will be open during these times). Try to distribute these holidays and other time off fairly to keep morale high.

You may also need to hire and train additional staff members to keep your venue functioning over the season. As this is a competitive hiring season, find out how to create the perfect job ad for hiring hospitality staff for the best results.

Go over any procedures which will be different during the festive season, and consider providing general, refresher training in the lead-up.

5. Set a festive atmosphere

Who says preparing for the festive season can't be fun? Unleash your inner interior designer and deck the halls with all manner of Christmas cheer. Implement a palette of traditional Christmas colours in your dining room including red, green, gold and silver.

Incorporate festive styles of lighting, seasonal wreaths and relevant figurines. Why not go all out and put a Christmas tree in your venue?

Then there's the music. A great Christmas playlist is essential for setting a festive mood in your venue. You can either assemble your own selection of Christmas hits or take advantage of the huge amount of community-curated playlists on streaming services like Spotify.

Getting Michael Bublé or Mariah Carey going in your restaurant is the perfect way to capture a holiday theme and the excitement of this time of year.

6. Adjust your menu

As a restaurant, one of the best ways to ring in any kind of special occasion is with your menu itself. A holiday menu is an exceptional way to celebrate everyone's favourite time of year.

Here are a few ideas for themed items you can add to your Christmas menu:

  • Classic holiday dinners such as roast turkey or honey-glazed ham
  • Yule Log, a traditional European Christmas cake
  • Christmas cocktails incorporating candy canes and holly for decoration
  • Mulled wine
  • Eggnog

On top of taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the season, there are other alterations you can make to your menu. You may want to ensure all your dishes can be cooked very quickly to prevent bottlenecks in the kitchen and keep turnover high.

Also, using a menu that features fewer items than your usual range can help customers choose more quickly and tighten up your kitchen operations. These changes can go a long way in this hectic time of year.

7. Avoid no-shows

No-shows are a major irritant for hospitality venues no matter the time of year. During the busy holiday season, no-shows can be incredibly costly, as you reserve large tables for groups that never appear.

A whopping 75% of surveyed restaurants require deposits in the festive season to avoid no-shows. If you have not taken this step in your venue, it might be time to seriously consider it.

You can also mitigate the impact of no-shows by improving your capacity to handle walk-ins. Once again, ResDiary can be a major help to your venue. W8List™ is an app that helps form an orderly queue of waiting diners, boosts seating efficiency and even allows you to prioritise VIPs.

8. Offer gift cards

You do an amazing job of providing a brilliant hospitality experience to your diners. Why not give your loyal customers a chance to present a gift card to your restaurant to their loved ones? Or, their family and friends might realise it's the perfect gift for them.

No clue where to start when it comes to offering gift cards in your venue? ResDiary can help out when it comes to creating, promoting, selling, redeeming and reporting on vouchers. It is the perfect way to incorporate this revenue-driving holiday promotion into your venue.

9. Implement deals

With so many restaurants interested in boosting their levels of foot traffic during the festive season, it is important to stand out from the pack. Festive promotions are the perfect way to do just that.

Tie your deals in with your new Christmas menu. For example, you can offer $5 Christmas cocktails with dinner. Allowing kids to eat free on certain days or times will offer a major incentive for large families looking to eat out.

As it is the season of giving, including your brand-new gift cards as a throw-in with every $50 spent is an excellent way to enhance the festive cheer.

While the festive season is a great time for charity, you need to ensure that you are not giving money away. Closely track how much money you are spending and making back as you implement these deals.

10. Level up your marketing

As you may notice every year when December rolls around, the festive season is a marketing utopia. Customers are ready to spend, and there is an incredible amount of iconography to draw upon to promote your business.

From social media to more traditional forms of advertising, show off the festive spirit of your venue and offer holiday-themed competitions or giveaways. Engagement is key; make sure your customers feel like they are truly part of the experience.

Make sure to leverage your new festive promotions in your marketing so your diners understand how much value is on offer at your venue. You might even engage with a local charitable organisation offering food or other supplies to those in need. This helps to give back and illustrate the importance of your establishment to the local community.

Need a hand when it comes to your marketing? Allow ResDiary to help you attract customers, including integration with Dish Cult and email marketing solutions. It's everything you need to get the word out about your venue this festive season.

Prepare for the festive season with ResDiary

As with any busy period in your venue, organisation is key to ensuring success during the festive season. ResDiary offers a suite of functions and integrations to ensure your venue has everything it needs to thrive during this period.

Book a demo today and find out how ResDiary can help your restaurant capitalise on everything the festive season has to offer.