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Holiday Preparation

The winter holiday season is quickly approaching. I love the festivities of decorating, gathering with friends, and sharing family traditions. It’s also the busiest time of the year for most restaurants which adds another level of stress to an environment that already is acknowledged as one of the most stressful professions around. Working in a restaurant requires a lifestyle of servitude and hospitality. These high-pressure times necessitate the restaurant leadership to role model the positive behaviors they expect to see from their staff.

How, well the season goes for you and your team financially and mentally depends on whether you take a reactive approach or a proactive one. The following are systems that can help you to have an enjoyable and profitable experience:

Holiday Book: There is nothing that causes more anxiety for a new manager of a restaurant than to prepare for a holiday when they have not worked there before. They don’t know how many people to schedule or how much food to order. Having historical data can help with this. One tool they can use is what I call a Holiday Book. Every holiday I would have my managers create a record of the day and place it in a designated binder. Items they would include are copies of the employee schedules, notes on the guest traffic flow with recommendations if we needed to adjust the schedules for the coming year, what went well and what did not, food pars, if they ran out of any food items, and how well the specials sold. All of this information is invaluable for future planning.

Holiday Schedules: Prepare the schedule at least a month in advance and have the management meet with each employee to arrive at a schedule that works for the employee and the needs of the restaurant. Many times, this may mean that their family may have to make adjustment to their traditions, such as opening the presents on Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day or they agree to work in the afternoon to be home during the morning. If you make your employees feel like family during the year and help them to build strong relationships and attitudes toward their guests, they will be more willing to participate positively. In fact, many employees actually volunteer to work these holidays because customers can be extremely generous.

Premium Wage for Holidays. Being open on holidays is lucrative. It used to be only Denny’s or maybe a stray Chinese Restaurant would remain open on the biggest money-making holiday of the year-- Christmas, but now many businesses, particularly chains are keeping their doors open. To incentivize the employees to work, some restaurants will offer a premium wage of 1.5 times regular pay on these days. To help offset this cost, there are two strategies you can try. One is running a limited holiday menu with slightly raised prices that have easier to prepare and higher profit items on it or encourage your staff to suggestive sell additional items like a few more desserts or appetizers which will help to compensate for the increased wages.

Help Them Manage the Stress: Prior to each shift, I found that having short manager-led rallies to inform the staff about what to expect for the day, discuss concerns the staff may have, and what to do if you need to go to a Plan B. Role playing what to do in stressful situations that usually arise, like how to deal with short tempered customers or lagging food from the kitchen, gave the staff tools they needed to be confident and have an enjoyable day. Pay particular attention to the newer or seasonal staffing as they will feel the pressure the most and will require your guidance during the peak times more than your seasoned crew members

Show Gratitude: Holidays require sacrifice from managers and employees alike. Without them, there would be no restaurant. Don’t forget to show your appreciation and make their experience as enjoyable as possible. You don’t have to be extravagant. Allow some freedom with uniforms by encouraging holiday colored or themed clothing. Employees and guests alike enjoy a funny ugly holiday sweater. Planning employee appreciation parties with their families present are always a hit. Have special food brought in or allow employees to show off their culinary skills at these events. Include fun activities such as gift swaps and games. We had a tradition of giving managers a holiday bonus. Employees loved a box of See’s Candy, groceries certificates, or family meal passes to the restaurant. The last one give lots of value to them and is very cost effective to the restaurant. Anything they can share with their families were very well received.

I hope these suggestions will inspire you to proactively lead your team through the holiday season and set up you up for a prosperous New Year! If you would like to share strategies that have worked for your teams, please feel free comment below. For world class restaurant consulting and training, please contact us!

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