Preparing for Silly Season – Your Restaurant’s Festive Checklist

We’ve made a list – and you need to check it twice!

Operating a restaurant during the festive period can be one of the most difficult – and rewarding – jobs on the planet. We know it’s coming, but Christmas still seems to sneak up on us and before we know it we’re reaching for the tinsel and dragging the tree out of the stockroom once again.

Spend a little time this week working through our Christmas Checklist to make sure you don’t end up on your customer’s naughty lists…


Your Festive Feast

By now you will probably have developed a special festive menu that caters to the holiday spirit.

  • Make sure that your festive menu offer is inclusive with a vegan / vegetarian option
  • Ensure that all allergens are listed and your allergen matrix is updated to reflect your temporary menu items
  • Wherever possible, ask large groups to pre-order to ensure to help you better manage your stock levels
  • Dates for supplier deliveries may change over the holiday period, so make sure you and your kitchen team know when orders need to be placed and when deliveries are expected
  • Don’t forget the stuffing! Having an SOP for each of your festive specials will help your chef and kitchen team to cross-check orders for those all-important seasonal accompaniments like stuffing and cranberry sauce.


Make Your List

Christmas brings an increase in reservations – but larger groups can bring a different set of challenges.

  • Ensure that your regular customers don’t miss out on reservations by communicating your seasonal menu and bookings with them on an email a few days before you make your announcements on social media
  • Encourage customers to make reservations well in advance, promoting any special menus or offers on your social media, and let customers know when you’re fully booked
  • A reservation system such as OpenTable or ResDiary will make sure your season runs smoothly, but if you’re still working with pen and paper make sure that you have the customer’s phone number and email address as a minimum
  • Clearly communicate any special reservation requirements such as minimum spends, set menus, advance ordering or cancellation policies
  • Consider taking deposits, or increasing your deposit value – no-shows for large groups can be extremely costly at this time of year, so ensure that you have some protection in the event of a cancellation.


Santa’s Little Helpers

Christmas may bring new customers through your doors for the first time – add higher than usual turnover and you can see how it might be challenging for your teams to be consistently on top of their game in order to make that all important first impression.

  • Throw your usual rota in the bin. Evaluate staffing needs based on expected customer volumes – your booking system will help you to evaluate which days require some extra support from management and teams
  • If hiring temporary staff, take the time to ensure that they are familiar with menus, specials, service standards and your house rules
  • Ensure that every member of staff knows the procedure for handling potentially stressful situations, and ensure that an experienced manager is on shift to support
  • Listen to your team and try to accommodate their requests to spend time with family or attend their own events
  • Incentivise you team by ensuring that tips are fairly shared in line with new regulations, and consider a seasonal bonus for those working over the festive period
  • Arrange your own staff party in January, so that your team know they get their own celebration once the madness has ended!


Your Online ‘Presents’

Your customers aren’t just on social media – remember that they are more likely to visit your website or Google you at this time of year when making their own festive plans so it’s important to ensure that your restaurant’s online presence is up-to-date

  • Update your opening hours on google, social media and your website – and make a note in your diary to change them back in January
  • Check buttons and booking links on your social media and website to ensure that nothing is broken
  • Update your website with your festive menu and special events, but also any seasonal reservation policy or deposit requirements
  • Make it clear on your website and social media how customers should contact you – a phone number, email address or DM may all yield different response times so ensure that you publicise your preferred method of communication
  • Check that website domains and hosting are up to date – the last thing you need is your website going off line the day you launch your festive bookings.


Elf and Safety

When Santa comes down the chimney, standards can go out the window. But remember the Grinch’s at the EHO don’t take holidays…

  • Revisit training with your teams to ensure that standards are fresh in everyone’s minds
  • Check your stock of non consumables – do you have enough blue roll, gloves, bin liners and cleaning products to get you through the festivities?
  • Check first aid kits, fire extinguishers and emergency lights are all in working order too.
  • It’s easy to assume that higher volumes mean more stock turnover, but at this time of year mistakes are easily made so spot check your kitchen and stockrooms more often than usual
  • Appoint your own Elf to ensure that daily records and temperature logs are completed


Reward Your Reservations

Customers are for life, not just for Christmas. So how to you make sure you keep them coming back in the new year?

  • Make sure you have email and phone contact details for every booking and store them securely – register your business as a data controller at
  • Give customers the option to opt in to your marketing list when they make a reservation so that you can contact them directly with special offers or discounts
  • Use your reservation system to reward loyalty – if you can see a customer has visited you 10 times this year, drop them a message to let them know their next bottle of wine is on the house
  • Consider incentivising December bookings with a voucher to be used in January to boost sales during your quietest period

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