Restaurant Operations: Navigating Guest Holiday Parties

Push Operations
December 10, 2020

The holidays bring extra business and opportunity for restaurants. It’s an exciting time of year, but it typically means you’ll be juggling at least three weeks of holiday parties, business gatherings, and other events on top of the regular holiday rush.

Planning ahead, communicating with your staff, and developing specific policies and standards for holiday reservations will limit stress and help things run smoothly.

Create a holiday menu

Not only is a holiday menu fun and festive for customers, it also makes things lot easier for your employees. Offering a smaller, more specialized menu gives your kitchen staff fewer items to prepare and allows them to streamline their tasks.

Keep in mind that, since the holidays only come around once a year, customer expectations tend to be higher than usual. Although you may want to keep your holiday menu relatively small, special promotions such as holiday cocktails, desserts, or special entrées can be a great cross selling point.

Put a reservation checklist in place, and stick to it

A well-thought-out holiday reservation checklist can help ensure you, your staff, and the guests are on the same page. You'll be able to prevent possible unforeseen obstacles and miscommunication during shifts. Ideally, your reservation checklist should cover:

  • The confirmed number of guests  of the reservation. Maybe your dining room can only handle at large party at a time. In this case, you need to know how many people you need to accommodate to properly schedule your employees.
  • Rules about following up with reservations. For example, you may want to call the organizers of large parties 24 hours before their reservation as a reminder.
  • Going over cancellation policies with the reservation party. Unfortunately no-shows do happen but you can implement things like collecting deposits to cover any potential losses from a no-show.

Take notes on each party to help your staff prepare

Consider keeping a standardized sheet of questions to ask each party in advance of their reservation. Always make sure you get a name, phone number, date and time, and the number of guests in the party.

Ask about any dietary restrictions. You want to be sure you’re prepared for any vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free customers and that you’re aware of potential food allergies. Having this information in advance will make things a lot easier for you and your entire staff.

If possible, it’s helpful to ask large parties to pre-order. It’s also a good idea to ask whether the party expects to pay one bill or split checks before they .

Communicate early and often with your employees

It’s especially important that you and your employees communicate efficiently during this busy time of year. Consider posting an event calendar somewhere your entire staff can see. This way, they’ll know in advance what to expect during each shift.

You may also want to set up pre-shift meetings to communicate the day’s specific game plan. This allows you to review booked reservations, clarify channels of communication, and make sure your staff has a chance to ask questions.

Try to avoid disrupting regular dining services

While you want to accommodate the needs of holiday party guests, it’s important to keep other customers in mind. Try to space out reservations and always make sure you schedule enough employees to ensure regular dining services aren’t compromised.

Holiday events can get noisy. Consider placing large groups in the corner or back of the dining area to limit noise for other customers. For parties with lots of guests and special requests or dietary restrictions, you may even want to bring in an extra, dedicated server for the table to ease the stress on other servers.

In conclusion

Hosting holiday parties is a great opportunity to introduce your restaurant to new customers, increase profits, and work together with your staff. With the right planning, policies and communication, you can make sure the season goes smoothly for you, your employees, and all of your customers.