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December 1, 2023

Restaurant Tips for a Successful Holiday Season


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With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the next challenge for restaurants is surviving the lead up to Christmas and New Year’s. December is a busy time of year for most people between planning holiday gatherings, wrapping up end of year work commitments, and celebrating with friends and family. In past years, 3 of 4 US-based consumers said eating at restaurants is part of their holiday plans, and that will most likely hold true for 2023. While this is great news for restaurants who benefit from the extra business, it can also be very stressful. Here are a few tips to thrive during the holiday season.

Staff, Staff, Staff

Perhaps the most important thing in having a successful holiday season is making sure you’re staffed correctly. Having the right number of employees on a shift means you’ll be able to hit your speed of service expectations and deliver an excellent customer experience. It also reduces the stress your employees will feel during a rush. Remember that during the holidays patterns of consumer behavior might change. For example, you might get busier on more weeknights or maybe your Saturday lunch period lasts longer than usual. Reviewing sales history from previous years can help you plan correctly. If this is your first year being open in December then error on the side of over-staffing. It is much easier to cut a server than to call someone in once you get busy.

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Show Appreciation

Speaking of your staff, the holidays are the perfect time to show them how much you appreciate their hard work. If you’re able to offer a financial bonus, doing so before Christmas is a great way to make employees feel valued. However, cash isn’t the only way to celebrate your staff. Other ideas include:

  • Invite your employees and their families to a potluck meal one day before the restaurant opens or closes
  • Organize an optional “secret Santa” where employees gift each other small items
  • Participate in community activities like toy drives
  • Throw a “party” where the staff decorates the restaurant for the season

Start Planning for 2024

While December is probably not the right time of year to invest in new technology, equipment, or systems it is a good time to start thinking about the new year. Start by evaluating where you stand today and what your goals are for the upcoming year. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What was your revenue this year? Was it trending upward or downward?
  • If it’s trending down, what can you do to reverse that trend next year? This may be investing in new marketing tools, a new website, or a different online order app.
  • If it’s trending up, ask yourself what you need to do to prepare for increased sales next year. Do you need to hire? And if so, do you need a more robust scheduling or payroll solution to manage a bigger team?
  • What were your controllable costs this year, including labor, food, and supplies? What do you need these to be to be profitable?
  • If your controllable costs are higher than you want, drill down into each one individually to see if you can save money without sacrificing quality. One thing to consider is if new technology can actually save you money even if it comes with a monthly fee.
  • How do your prices compare to other local restaurants? Do you need to make adjustments to stay competitive? Or do you have room to increase prices to improve your food cost percentage?
  • What menu changes do you want to make in the new year? What trends will your customers appreciate? Would it be valuable to add new items or seasonal specials to give repeat customers variety?
  • How are you performing operationally? Is your kitchen a well-oiled machine or is every shift a bit of a struggle? Operational inefficiencies are costly and can also negatively impact the guest experience, so adding systems and tech to improve efficiency can have a good ROI (return on investment).


The most important tip: remember to take a deep breath every once in a while. Running a restaurant is hard work, especially during the holiday season. But serving others and providing hospitality is also highly rewarding. Try to remember that, and you’re likely to have a successful December!

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