Restaurant Holiday Prep: Creating the Ultimate Guest Experience
The holiday season is approaching once again which means the rush is on its way. The holiday brings in large volumes of people coming to dine-in, as well as pick up carryout and catering orders. While most operators would like to be able to capitalize on the busy season, they’d like to find a way to cut down on the chaos too.
From Black Friday shoppers looking for a quick bite, to families that choose your restaurant to celebrate Christmas Eve, the holidays will bring in different types of customers. It’s your restaurant’s job to create the right experience depending on the occasion. We’ll go over how to prep for the holidays and keep your guests smiling, despite the rush.
Look at Year-over-Year Data
How much staff will you need for the holidays vs the rest of the year? Proper staffing is arguably one of the most important factors to consider during the holiday season, because of the increases in guest traffic.
How can you predict how much staff you’ll need? You should review historical data from a guest management system that shows data from previous holiday seasons. How busy were you last year? Were there times and days where your service slowed down considerably? Use this information to decide whether to hire additional staff (even seasonal) and which busy days to schedule them.
Make it Easy to get Found
How can holiday diners find your restaurant? During or after a long day of shopping or searching for a place to spend Christmas Eve, many diners will turn to searchable restaurant networks (i.e. Facebook, OpenTable, Amazon Alexa, Google, etc.) to find their next meal. They’ll often make their decision based on proximity, too! With just a few clicks, the diner can reserve a table at your restaurant and arrive right when it’s ready. This is a huge game changer to help beat the holiday restaurant crowds, and also provides your restaurant with access to customers.
Create a Lasting First Impression
Picture this: When guests walk into your lobby, they’re instantly delighted by the holiday cheer emanating from your establishment. They see a bright, colorful Christmas tree and string lights hanging from the ceiling. Christmas music softly plays in the background to set a celebratory mood. Their host warmly greets them to let them know they’ve got a table ready for them.
This experience is aided by a restaurant guest management system, which will provide your customers with accurate reservation time slots or can analyze the restaurant’s current bandwidth to provide an accurate wait time and help the restaurant avoid overbooking. A guest management system also has an Electronic Reservation Book, so you can rest assured knowing it’s managing your mobile, desktop, and call-in guests.
Build a Holiday Dining Experience
Once the guests are seated, it’s time to really create the holiday experience they expect. If it’s Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, having dinner at your restaurant is the focal point of their evening. If it’s Black Friday, guests might be a little bit more focused on getting in and out of your restaurant, making efficiency a priority.
Let’s say you have a group of ten guests coming in to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They’ve ordered a couple of bottles of wine and a few appetizers. They’re in no rush and really just want to enjoy each other’s company. They go ahead and put in their entree orders but it’ll be important to pace when they items arrive. You don’t want the guests to feel rushed and receive both their appetizers and entrees at the same time. This is when the kitchen display system feature, meal coursing, will come in handy.
Use coursing to add time delayed routing to items and to pace food properly. Let’s say a group of Black Friday shoppers arrive to your restaurant that only have limited time before the next doorbuster event. This is when you could use routing to speed up the meal coursing and shorten the delay in between courses.
In addition, having the inventory you need on hand will help add to the overall experience. With the bin management component of a kitchen display system, popular items are “hot held” (kept warm but still fresh) during busy times so you always have the right quantity on hand. You can even set this feature to kick in during peak times (like dinner rush) or to be manually triggered.
During the holiday season, you want to ensure that you serve the same quality and consistency as you would any other time of year. With the holiday, you’ll likely be adding some seasonal dishes to the menu. You’ll want to make sure they look and taste the same, no matter who created them.
A recipe viewer can help with this. These programs store your restaurant’s recipes, prep instructions, and procedures within a centralized portal so that staff can prepare your dishes accurately and efficiently. When you add or edit a recipe from the centralized portal, it’ll be updated to recipe viewers across all sites.
Let’s say you are adding a Candy Cane Pie to your menu for the holiday season. Whether it’s a new hire or a seasoned chef, the recipe viewer will give the employee the instructions to nail the consistency every time. If you have multiple sites, the recipe viewer will ensure that no matter the location, your dishes will have the same look and taste. Recipes can be added to several restaurants from a centralized hub, as well, cutting down on busy work.
Manage Takeout Orders
Imagine a family is planning on ordering their Christmas Eve dinner from your restaurant. They open their favorite food delivery service’s app on their phone. Since your restaurant partners with a digital ordering service (i.e., Grubhub, UberEats, etc.), it will appear on the app. You have the best barbeque restaurant in town and offer catering, so they choose your restaurant. They place an order for five pounds of pulled pork, two pounds of green beans and potato salad, and 15 buns.
From there, the system sends the order to your restaurant’s centralized database that’s storing the diner’s contact information. The system will send real-time updates to both the third-party delivery partner and the customer. Since the customer won’t pick up the order for another two days, the kitchen automation system will store the order until it’s time to start cooking.
In order to track your order stages, the system will pass the order to your kitchen software to provide a quote time based on what’s already cooking. To make sure off-premise orders aren’t negatively impacting dine-in service, a kitchen display system feature called capacity management comes into play. Capacity management will read the bandwidth of your restaurant to help determine an accurate quote time. If your kitchen’s busy, a KDS would be able to inflate the quoted time provided to diners and third-party delivery partners, reflective of in-house orders.
This process is called “order throttling” and goes into effect when your kitchen reaches max capacity. It’ll take into account the time difference to create an in-house and off-premise order (extra steps for packaging a catering order) to make quote times as precise as possible, eliminating arbitrary quoting. When traffic dies down, it’ll “deflate” your quote times to reflect it.
The diner will know every milestone throughout each cooking stage, from when the order is processed to when it’s complete. When it comes time for either the customer or delivery driver to pick up the order, the front of house staff stays completely informed about their order status. This is because the guest management system and kitchen display system have been talking to one another all along, thanks to an API. The KDS has been feeding real-time updates on off-premise orders straight to the front of house system. This keeps the host at the stand greeting guests, rather than running back and forth to the kitchen checking on orders.
The guest leaves your restaurant (or receives their catering order), impressed with how easy it was to order their Christmas Eve dinner from your restaurant. Their food arrives fresh and they knew exactly when to expect it because order tracking sent them information along the way.
The customer journey doesn’t stop there, though. If your guest management system has an integration with a loyalty program, you can collect guest information such as birthdays, anniversaries, favorite dishes, check totals, allergies, etc., helping you build holiday marketing campaigns for years to come.
Monitor Restaurant Performance
You can’t always be at your restaurant (especially during the holidays), so you need a way to monitor performance when you’re not there. A restaurant analytics app lets you take your restaurant metrics on the go so you can evaluate your restaurant’s performance from anywhere. Open your restaurant analytics app and you’ll receive real-time information that will allow you to gain a 360-degree view of the customer experience by analyzing both FOH and BOH data.
Restaurant Social Media Promotions & Updates
Not all restaurants are open during the holidays, so make your hours known to the public. Other than adding updated signage in your restaurant and including hours on your website, make sure you list holiday hours on social media too. This will be one of the top places diners will go to receive information about your restaurant.
If you haven’t already planned on it, include posts of pictures of holiday menu items and decor throughout your restaurant. Does your restaurant host corporate holiday events or cater? List that on your social media too! Having a company Christmas party? Share pictures on social media so followers get an idea of what your restaurant’s company culture is like. Dedicate the holiday season to making your restaurant’s social media fun and festive.
Start Prepping Your Restaurant
Ready to get started? It may seem like a lot at first but once you apply each of these items to your restaurant, you’ll be set for every holiday season to come. It’ll take some work in the beginning, but if you plan ahead, you’ll see it will have all been worth it comes the holiday rush!
For over 20 years, QSR Automations has helped create smarter restaurants with our best-in-class solutions. See how our technology works together to create a well-connected restaurant.
About the Author
Emily Elder was a Content & Social Media Specialist at QSR Automations. Emily was born and raised in Louisville, but considers herself a die-hard University of Kentucky fan. For college, Emily attended Indiana University Southeast and obtained a degree in Communications with a track in Advertising. In her free time, Emily enjoys just about every water related activity, but she is partial to kayaking and whitewater rafting.