November 13, 2015

Preparing Your Restaurant Staff for the Holiday Rush


Halloween has come and gone and the holiday season is officially in full swing. It’s a time during which your customers want to have fun, get together with friends and family and, of course, eat a ton of food.

The fact that Americans pay a lot less attention to their waistlines during November and December means that restaurant owners need to be paying a lot more attention to the way they are running their eatiers.

The volume of customers coming into your establishment and ordering food for delivery is surely going to increase between now and New Year’s. Are you ready for it?

If you are looking to get through the holiday season as smoothly as possible while (hopefully) breaking sales records from years past, here are some tips that can help make this time of the year a lot less stressful and a lot more profitable.

Promote Alternative Ordering Options

Does your restaurant offer online and mobile food ordering options? If not, it’s definitely time to start considering adding this option to your arsenal.

Enabling customers to order online and via mobile devices not only provides your clientele with an added level of convenience, your staff will love you for it as well. Just think about all of the time your employees spend taking orders on the phone that they could be spending on preparing and serving food.

Now think about how many times your employees have made mistakes taking order on the phone due to either not hearing the order well enough or simply being preoccupied with other obligations. Allowing customers to order online both helps to guarantee that the orders are always accurate and that your staff does not have to waste time taking them.

If you do have online ordering options, make sure you are promoting them effectively. Put signs up in your restaurant, mention it regularly on social media and make sure that you are prominently displaying these options on your website as well. If you have an on-hold message that customers hear when they call you, make sure to mention online and mobile ordering options there as well.

If you want to encourage customers to order online more, try running “online only” promotions and discounts to pique their attention. There’s a good chance that customers who try online ordering for the first time will see that it’s much more convenient for them as well, and hopefully become online converts as a result.

Encourage Early Catering Requests

Any restaurant that handles catering and larger-scale food orders knows how importing getting order in early really is for everyone involved. The thing about large orders is that they are hard to turn down, even if the timeline seems unachievable. These high quantity orders always bring in lots of money, which is why they are almost impossible to turn down.

The best thing you can do is to provide incentives to your customers that will encourage them to get their orders in on time and as early as possible. You can promote early orders and offer discounts depending on how early the orders come in. If orders catering they want delivered in a week, they get five percent off their order. If they order two weeks in advance, they get ten percent and so on.

Once again, you need to get on the proverbial horn and spread the news. There’s no use in offering promotions if you aren’t getting the word out to your customers effectively. Mention the discounts for early ordering on your website, social media, heck, you can even include it in your menus and any promotional material you might have. Mention it in your on-hold message as well.

If you’re successful in influencing your customers to get their orders in early, your kitchen staff is going to love you for it.

Preach Assertiveness to Staff

Any good restaurant manager knows that there’s a big difference between being pushy and assertive when it comes to server etiquette. During the holiday rush, you’re going to face an increased volume of visitors. It’s in the best interest of you and your staff to try and get them in and out the door as quickly as possible without coming off as impolite.

Surely, easier said than done. But there are some things that you can encourage your servers to turn tables at a faster pace than usual. No one likes waiting a long time to be seated, especially during the holiday season.

Ask your servers to suggest dishes to customers and rattle off special menu offers and popular dishes right away to get things moving. If they are convincing enough with their delivery, some customers might even be inclined to simply take their suggestions without even opening the menu.

If you have a nice display case that’s easily visible in your restaurant, try putting the dessert platters, for instance, on display there. Being visual goes a long when when time is of the essence. If a customer sees something they like, there’s a good chance that they are going to be faster about ordering their food.

It’s a lot easier to show them the desserts than explaining the choices to them, either within the menu or verbally.

Keep an Eye on Inventory

When it comes to being unprepared for the holiday season as a restaurant owner or manager, running out of food or beverages is the cardinal sin. Don’t let it happen to you under any circumstances!

Hopefully you’re keeping good records and can forecast food and drink needs based on how your restaurant did last November or December. You should be throwing your regular weekly forecasts out the door, because the holiday season is a completely different beast.

There’s nothing wrong with over-forecasting your needs, in fact, that’s recommended. It’s always better to have an not need than need and not have. If you run out of a particular popular dish on the menu or a customer-favorite beverage, not only your you missing out on sales, you’re looking foolish in the process as well.

No serious restaurant tells customers, “sorry, we’re out of that.” Do everything that’s in your power to avoid having to utter these dreadful words.

Do You Need Reinforcements?

The only thing that’s almost as bad as not having enough food is not having enough staff. Understaffed restaurants are the worst during the holiday season.

If your customers have to wait an eternity to place an order because you only have one waiter on the floor, there’s a good chance that they’ll never come back. There’s even a chance that they’ll just get up and leave if the wait is too long.

If you need help for the holiday season, get it. Hiring seasonal staff to improve your holiday season customer service is an investment that always pays off.


The solution is pretty simple. If you want to be successful during the holiday season and limit the amount of issues and problems you encounter as you deal with an increased volume of patrons, you need to have a plan.

Furthermore, seeing that you know what you’re doing and that you are prepared for this increase in demand also helps to motivates your staff.

Employees react positively to strong leadership and are more willing to give that little bit of extra effort on the busiest days if they understand that you are doing everything you can to make their jobs easier as well.