How to Get Your Restaurant Ready for Christmas

It feels like Christmas just creeps up on you at this time of year. One moment it’s summer, the next, your local high street is decked out with festive lights. If you’ve recently set up your own restaurant, this can be a hectic period. Getting to know your customers, staying on top of daily demand and planning for the Christmas rush isn’t easy, but you’ve still got plenty of time to prepare. Many office parties and family get-togethers are still not pencilled into people’s diaries yet. And with customers leaving their Christmas shopping until the last minute, spur of the moment lunches and dinners will only increase until the big day itself.

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How to get your restaurant Christmas-ready

Think about staff first and foremost

The likelihood is that you’ll see more customers visiting your restaurant between now and the new year. Whatever fancy preparations you make for your menu can’t be appreciated unless you have the manpower to prepare and serve meals. So if you haven’t already, now is the time to:

  • Ask for final Christmas holiday requests
  • Finalise last-minute hires to fill the gaps left by staff on holiday
  • Create a Christmas rota, including backup support in case staff are ill
  • Hold meetings to brief your staff on your Christmas rota, menus, ingredients and table management procedures

Set time aside for these tasks. The most important thing is that you and all your staff are on the same page. You can start by using:

  • Staff scheduling software that enables everyone to see when they’re scheduled to work and when there are changes to their rota (don’t forget to pin up printed versions of the rota in your staff area too).
  • Employee management software to measure staff performance, so that you can have ongoing discussions about success and improvement.
  • Inventory management software that allows you to add modifiers, descriptions and images, giving your staff better knowledge of the menu.

These are all easy to set up and use — you’ll be ready in no time.

Emotions are easily heightened in a busy restaurant environment, especially during the festive season. Maybe spend some time thinking about: how your leadership skills could be improved, how to motivate employees when things get tough and how you’ll take care of your wellbeing too.

Start tracking your busiest periods

Restaurant booking systems don’t just let customers check availability, reserve a table and leave a glowing review. Dedicated services such as OpenTable can give you real insights into how your business is coping throughout the festive season, by allowing you to identify when your peaks and lulls fall during the day.

This can help you cut down on unnecessary staffing costs, cater for demand and ensure you have enough stock on your busiest days. If, for example, the restaurant is packed until closing time on Friday and Saturday evenings (perhaps forcing you to stay open later anyway), you could consider extending your opening times on these days and reducing them during the week. It can also help you identify any high-performing members of staff, so you can ensure they’re at work when you need them most.

Square for Restaurant’s OpenTable integration syncs all this valuable table management data to your Square Dashboard, allowing you to see these insights all in one place.

Thinking long-term, these insights will help you plan better for next Christmas well in advance.

Make your restaurant a gift in its own right

Whilst most of your festive business will come directly from diners booking their own meals, there’s a case to promote your restaurant as an experience that can be given too. The gift of a great meal is well-suited for those seeking more meaningful ways to treat their loved ones. eGift Cards take only moments to set up, and can be upsold to any customers you host from now until late December — they also cost nothing to you because they’re digital.

To make this a viable campaign — whereby customers actually want to share your restaurant experience as a present — your front of house management and the quality of your dishes need to be flawless. That means briefing staff and even rewarding them for each restaurant gift card sold. As well as upselling the experience in-person, social media is the perfect channel for running tailored ads. Use inspiring photos, and include customer reviews to whet your online audience’s appetite.

Photograph everything

Christmas is a time of year for the senses, all about twinkling lights, crackling fires and cushioned, cosy corners. It’s a chance to release your inner photographer, or indeed give that responsibility to another creative member of staff. Customers eat with their eyes, so paint a picture of how you’re uplifting your menu, decor and general setup with Christmas cheer. Here are some tips:

  • Be thoughtful with lighting and filters.
    Christmas is typically associated with warmth (red, gold and pine green), but it can be just as much about the cool icy-ness of winter (blue, silver and white). When taking photos, think about how your audience will physically feel when they view them — are you trying to convey cosy or crisp? Consistency helps to build a Christmas “brand” for your restaurant, so decide on a handful of filters that enhance images with a sense of place and taste.

  • Focus on details.
    You’ve put thought into your Christmas menu and decorations, so let them shine — these are the details that set you apart from other restaurants. Closeups of special ingredients, unique plating arrangements, beautiful fabrics and so on can vividly illustrate how it feels to experience your restaurant.

  • Show in-situ scenes.
    More focused shots can be complemented by those that allow the audience to step back and see how the restaurant works as a whole. Give them a chance to view the back of house, busy preparing festive meals, or indeed the groups of diners eating those meals. Photos taken of your space before opening time can inspire customers too — it’s like saying “There’s a seat right here for you”.

We’re thinking about fast turnarounds, so online is the most effective place to use your photos. Update any photography on your website, and use social media to serve people a steady and enticing stream of visual inspiration.

Upgrade your payment systems

No restaurant owner wants to be let down by their payment systems. Whether it’s a laggy point-of-sale interface, slow deposits into your bank account or untracked sales, a payment provider that doesn’t keep up with the pace of your business isn’t fit for use. When upgrading your system, look for the following:

  • No long-term commitments, no hidden fees and no cancellation charges
  • Set, low fees for transactions
    • Restaurant point-of-sale software that comes kitted-out with tools to help you manage your menu, take payments and integrate with a table management and reservation system such as OpenTable
  • A range of hardware products that gives you the flexibility to accept every way your customers want to pay
  • Next business day deposits as standard

We may only be several weeks away from the big day, but that’s still enough time for you to get your restaurant Christmas-ready. Don’t shy away from spending a few moments here and there preparing — this minimal work will pay off tenfold in the end.

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