Uncorkd Restaurant Holiday Plan

A Holiday Survival Guide for Restaurants

The holiday season is coming. No Scrooge can stop this. But restaurants can prepare themselves for the diamond-forming pressure that comes along with the holiday season. This time of year is unique for restaurant owners: it can mean big business in the form of parties, private events, and family dinners; but as your customers funnel funds into gifts and travel plans, it can mean slower business. Staffing can be an issue. But proper planning will prepare you for all outcomes. So relax, you’ll be fine. Just use these tips and build your restaurant holiday plan now.

Promote Reservations

Staffing through the holidays can be a major issue for many restaurant operators. Business can fluctuate, customer behavior changes, and employees are requesting time off to travel and recoup after a long year. Knowing what to expect in terms of customer traffic is even more important during the holidays than the rest of the year. It’s harder to gauge customer traffic, and your normal traffic trends can be upended. It’s important that you make sure your customers know they need to make reservations early, especially for weekend nights.

  • Newsletter Announcements: Use your newsletter to give notice to your favorite customers by giving them an opportunity to make reservations now. This is a great place to give advanced notice, because your newsletter list is often a list of your most valuable customers. It helps to position this announcement as an exclusive early opportunity to reserve a table at your restaurant. This will encourage them to take action, and gives them a sense of being a priority customer.
  • Promote during Service: Tried and true in-house marketing practices can be really helpful here. Putting a holiday themed flyer in your check presenters is a good place to promote early reservations. Make sure the flyer is noticeable and eye catching. Using traditional holiday images and color schemes will let your guests know that this information is pertinent. You can also use this same flyer in your table tents if you use those for promotion.
  • Digital Menu Promotion: Do you use a digital menu in your restaurant? If so, you can use this as a promotion for reservations. Putting a promotional notice on your menu is simple with digital menus, and it you can use it to list any specials or holiday events you want your guests to know about. Users of Uncorkd digital menus can even embed a reservation platform like OpenTable right on the menu, so guests can reserve their next night with you while still at the table.

Rid Yourself of Old Inventory

The best part about the holidays for adults is that it’s a time to indulge. Whether eating cookies and pastries, or knocking back eggnog, dietary standards are put on hold until your New Year’s resolution takes affect. This gives restaurants an opportunity to sell off some dead stock by packaging them in creative ways.

  • Make Punches and Cocktail Specials: Punches go together with the holidays like gifts and family or famous musicians and bad cover songs. Creating holiday punch specials are the perfect way to get rid of liquor inventory you’re not using. The great thing is, punches can be made with basically any liquor as the base spirit for the batch. This gives you a wide range of options to use for holiday punches. The same idea can be used for speciality cocktails. Punches are best because they can be pre-batched and won’t slow service. These pre-batched punches are also great things to give out as a show of appreciation for guests or as an apology for any mix-up during service. Just utilize traditional holiday flavors – try infusing chai tea with whiskey, and come up with a catchy name and give yourself the gift of less alcohol inventory.
  • Pair Drinks with Desserts: Many restaurants deal with an overabundance of liqueurs that never get ordered. These liqueurs can pair perfectly with desserts. Getting creative with your dessert menu could mean that you pair a small dessert cocktail with your desserts. As mentioned above, the holidays are a time to indulge, and this includes diving into desserts you wouldn’t normally order.

Cater to Businesses

Holiday season is a great time of year to connect with local businesses to use your restaurants to host events or even cater.

  • Party Time: Reach out to local businesses and organizations to offer them a deal to throw their holiday party at your venue. This is a great way to boost business during this month, and gives you an opportunity to connect with customers who haven’t dined with you before.
  • Cater Events: Does your restaurant cater events? If not, add this feature to your services this year. If a business doesn’t want to host a party offsite at your venue, they may be interested in having an event catered.  Make the most of catering events and send free drink cards or discounts to those you’re catering for in order to bring them into your restaurant.

Staff At Attention

Staffing can be a major issue for restaurants during the holiday season. There are few good ways to avoid issues with holiday staffing.

  • Time Off Requests: Many employees have to request time off from work for travel and time with family. To avoid issues, send out notices to staff that you will be honor requests on first come basis. Send this notice out through your scheduling software, post it at server stations, and announce it at pre-shift meetings. This will give you a standard to reference if you’re dealing with employees who make last minute time off requests.
  • Use Your Numbers: Look at your business from last years holiday season to staff smartly this year. It’s a good rubric to go off of. Looking at your month over month numbers for covers and sales can be a very useful guide, but as we mentioned, the holiday season can be unpredictable. This is where promoting early reservations can be so beneficial to your business. You don’t want to run an understaffed shift and leave guests with a bad impression.


Kyle Thacker