How to Get Your Restaurant Ready for the Holidays

Holiday Cookies

By Anna Dunn

The holidays can be a busy time for restaurants. Summer ends and the air gets crisp and cool. Fall is a return to cooking, or at least to going out for dinner. Customers come back from the beach and begin to frequent your bar again. So here are some very concrete ways to capitalize on this time of year.

Take inventory

Start by looking at what you do to see if there is anything you could turn into a commodity. The season of gift giving will soon be upon us and there is nothing more fun than giving someone a small gift that has perhaps traveled a long way to end up in their larder. Are you making vinegar? What about packaging it in bottles with a cork topper and selling it with your own branded label? Consider making vermouth or Limoncello. Note: Be mindful of Department of Health (DOH) regulations when aging and fermenting.

If you aren’t, then consider making something new for the holidays. A restaurant zine or well-designed recipe cards make for excellent holiday gifts, and they work double duty: as holiday commodities but also as advertising for your business.

Bank on baked goods (and other desserts)

Pies are popular but almost no one wants to sit at home and bake a pie in this day and age. (Well, I would, but almost no one.) Make a sign-up sheet and take orders for Thanksgiving. Bag up some cookies. Make jars of your signature spiced nuts. Basically look around and see if you are making any desserts that will travel well, and if you are, package it.

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Make gift giving easy

Find a way to encourage gift card or certificate sales. Even while your holiday business can be a boon, you need to prepare for the traditional lulls of January and February. And nothing drives business like word of mouth. If you create a great experience for your guests, then they’ll want to give the gift of that experience to their friends and loved ones, and that will make for a bustling new year. Make a sign by the counter about giving gift cards, or print it at the bottom of each check. Even the zines and recipe cards I just mentioned can double as gift certificates if you design them creatively.

Become a holiday party destination

Finally, be mindful of how going out for dinner changes around the holidays. People go out to eat more often, and in bigger numbers. Look around your space and try to identify how and where and in what capacity you could host holiday parties.

Companies love to host holiday gatherings for their staff and have someone else do all the work. It’s easy for them and they get to flaunt their generosity and impeccable taste. There’s no reason they shouldn’t spend their money with you. So make up some party packages, name them, and post them to social media. And on that note, always remember: social media!

Anna Dunn is a food and crime fiction writer and editor, with an affinity for Bruce Springsteen, rescue mutts, mezcal, and Murder She Wrote. They are the co-author of two cookbooks, Dinner at the Long Table and Saltie: A Cookbook as well as Editor in Chief of Diner Journal, an independent food, art, and literature magazine that they have edited since its inception in 2006.

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