The holidays are upon us, and savvy restaurateurs are preparing to get their share of the season’s rampant holiday spending. Families and friends will be gathering for warmth around a good meal, and what better place to celebrate than a favorite restaurant? Here are some suggestions for preparing your own restaurant to become your customer’s next holiday destination.
Spice up Your Winter Drink List
People like to treat themselves to something new during the holidays. Try catering to this crowd by creating a special, seasonal drink list. Offer six to eight drinks which include your restaurant’s inventions as well as some old standbys. Think warm. Think colorful. When your customers see a steaming drink topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings go by, they will want one, too. Homemade Hot Buttered Rum batter is always a favorite.
Create a table tent to feature these drinks. Make it festive and eye-catching.
Many breweries offer seasonal and holiday beers that are often darker and heartier that the year-round beers. Adding seasonal beers to your list makes this time of year special. Treat your customers to “Bifrost Winter Ale” made by The Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle, or “Wassail” by Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River, Oregon.
Wine is the perfect complement to a hearty winter meal. Promoting local wines enhances your customer’s identity to the region and the season. The Washington State Wine Club’s featured wines for November 2003 include Kestrel Vintners 2000 Estate Chardonnay from Prosser, WA and JM Cellars 2001 Merlot out of Woodinville, WA.
Evaluate Your Fresh Sheet
Your fresh sheet is another place to emphasize seasonal and holiday themes. This actually goes hand in hand with increasing your guest check average and therefore your sales.
- Review the presentation—is it easy to read? Is it attractive? Are the menu items compelling?
- Make your descriptions sound delicious and inviting. Inform your customers of seasonal items such as “Washington Hood Canal Oysters” and “locally grown porcini mushrooms.”
- Are you changing out the items often enough?
- Are you testing your dishes for flavor and presentation? Is the staff doing this on a daily basis, so they are not only well informed but in favor of the items? Special sales can be as high as 35% of item sales with the right selections.
- Track the sales every day on the staff bulletin board. People want to see the results of their work.
- Remember that your Fresh sheet can help define the restaurant for better or worse. Put the energy into this. Don’t be afraid to experiment. We learn by our errors.
Marketing and Promotions
Online marketing is a great way to quickly reach tens of thousands of locals, and there’s no better time to reach out to your customers than the holidays. A few simple advertisements and promotions can go a long way towards appealing to the holiday-minded individual’s need for gifts, good times, and money-saving deals. Promote gift certificates or gift cards, holiday parties and specials through guest check stuffers, table tents and emails to your mailing list. If you play your cards right, your restaurant could win a special place in your customers’ hearts as either a warm memory or a new holiday tradition!
Earlier in November management and staff need to really get on the same page on the level of service given to guests and putting the restaurant’s best foot forward. It is time to review server sequence, hospitality attitude, staff appearance, specials, gift certificate opportunities, and the like. Create your own list of the critical few that are important to you and further those initiatives.
Happy holidays from Restaurant Group!
If you need assistance with preparing your restaurant for the holidays, please contact us.