Preparing for the holiday rush: tips to making the season as seamless as possible

During the holiday rush, retailers aren’t the only businesses succumbing to seasonal stress. The “fun” starts with Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until after New Year’s Day. Restaurants also are under pressure, with private parties, custom orders, and special menus. So how can you please your customers without getting crazed and caught up in the chaos? Following are tips to make the holiday season a little less maddening and quite a bit merrier:

Hire seasonal staff. This time of year, one way to cope with the increased traffic is to hire seasonal workers. Many college students are home on break, looking to make a few extra bucks, so it’s a win-win situation. However, don’t wait until the last minute to add to your staff. Keep a list of possible seasonal hires you can call on every year, and plan ahead.

Set a work schedule & policies. During the holidays, when you need them the most, staffers are notorious for call-outs and no-shows. Set up a pre-holiday staff meeting to iron out all the details. Have a strict policy in place stating the consequences of such actions. Reward staff for attendance, and be sure to give incentives such as holiday and overtime pay.

Make a list and check it twice. You’ll not only require more staff, but you must also increase your inventory. Check last year’s inventory to gauge this year’s needs. Our ready-made appetizers make this even easier. And, if you have a liquor license, don’t forget the libations; they are an integral part of holiday celebrations.

Be proactive. Invest in the proper equipment. Give your staff the resources it needs to succeed. Replace or repair outdated equipment, from the kitchen to check out. Consider renting extra tables and chairs. Keep extra linens on hand, especially if you switch out your standard fare for holiday-themed items.

Cater to your customers — literally. Catering usually plays a big part in holiday prep for restaurants, so don’t overlook this aspect. Plan your holiday catering menu well in advance, and advertise it online, in advertising, and via printed menus on site and with take-out orders. That way, you’ll encourage early ordering and can plan accordingly. In fact, you may want to offer a discount for orders placed by a certain date.

Embrace online. Give your hosts and hostesses a break by offering online orders and reservations. Consider giving online-exclusive coupons as well. And if you offer delivery services, consider contracting with a third party during the peak holiday season.

Follow the tips outlined above, and you’ll minimize the frustration, making for a more festive holiday season.