By Brian Murphy, Foodable Industry Expert
December may be a challenging time for restaurants, but striving for success is not something that is out of reach. Variables in December present a multitude of unknowns to consider, so managing all that you can to maximize the season and prevent costly, uninformed decisions is the only way to approach this final calendar month. Want tips on how to end the year strong? Consider these three things.
Knowing your customer is more important than ever, as budgets are stretched thin, social calendars fill up a month prior, and stressors pop up that people never knew existed. Attempting to lure people into your establishment hoping for December success requires a bit of finesse.
Determine your ideal customer and factor in your location, and you can start connecting some dots. Will there be traffic in your neighborhood from people attending other events or shopping? Are your usual guests single or do you thrive on serving families? These things matter when you consider the holiday season.
A younger, single demographic that may have more disposable income and free time is likely going to come in on or around the holidays as they try to escape visiting family, have friends in town, or simply maintain the normalcy they have enjoyed throughout the year. Consider closing for a couple of days if your demographic celebrates Christmas and is made largely of families, as they will likely be spending money on gifts and be too busy to even think about going out around the holidays.
Think about large parties, because December success can be tremendous if you can capitalize on work parties or large gatherings that can make your December numbers put the other months to shame. Should you be one of these places, be sure you have a system set up for success in the reservation department, as they do require extra attention, staffing, and management.
December success comes from taking your educated forecast for the month and setting up the staff for success. Staff up for large parties, and alternatively, be sure to offer ample notice if you are going to close for holidays. Be sure you communicate with your staff early and often to make their lives as easy as possible during this crazy time of year. Guests will feel it. All the aforementioned seasonal challenges are something the staff is feeling, too.
They are simply checking it at the door when they come in. Take an extra effort to ensure everything — product orders, supplies, and scheduling — are lined up. Ensure all team members are trained on the reservation and large-party system to deliver one consistent message to guests and keep the team on the same page. Any minor inconvenience during the busy holiday season can be magnified many times with existing, underlying employee stress. And guests who are feeling stressed to lock in holiday events will view any inconvenience under a magnifying glass, as well.
Look at last year’s numbers to get a decent read on what kind of December success you will enjoy. Look at the sales figures for key holiday dates and the eves of those holidays. Perhaps you forgot that you enjoyed an early dinner rush on New Year’s Eve, but people apparently left to ring in the New Year elsewhere. This allows you to strategize and plan something special to see if numbers can be improved. You may also consider cutting staff and closing early to cut losses. No matter your decision, the important thing is that it is planned well in advance. Alert staff and use all avenues to distribute your holiday hours to guests.
Armed with data, observations, and a hunch, you can set yourself up for December success, and close out the year with low labor costs and minimal waste. Your guests and team members will thank you, and that can do wonders for the business.