HOW TO MANAGE A RESTAURANT DURING THE HOLIDAYS… WITH LESS STRESS

INTO THE HOLIDAYS WE GO

As we move full steam ahead into the holiday season, it’s pretty clear that Andy Williams wasn’t talking about working in restaurants when he sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. That’s not to say that restaurant work from November through the beginning of January is all bad… It’s just that some restaurants are less prepared for it than others.

Inside and outside of work, one of the biggest stressors during the holidays comes from a lack of planning. Waiting until the last minute to buy gifts, not discussing time off with an employer soon enough, mistakenly agreeing to take on too many large parties on an understaffed night, accidentally throwing away a bartender’s time-off request that was written on a cocktail napkin… Stress triggers are everywhere, but can be avoided with the right planning and preparation in place.

If you’re wondering how to manage a restaurant during the holiday season and come out with a smile on the other end, here are 7 steps you can take to make this holiday season a happy one!

1. Prepare 

  • A few weeks before the holidays, begin planning.
  • Create a calendar with all hours of operations and restaurant closings.
  • Mark off black-out days that cannot be requested off.
  • Create the team schedule far in advance so that everyone has a chance to review and update before you lock it in.
  • Hire seasonal employees ahead of schedule so you have time to properly train.
  • Invest in a paperless HR tool that will make all of the scheduling, coordination, and preparation much easier.

2. Communicate 

  • Hold a holiday kickoff meeting so everyone is aware of what’s to come, as well as how you plan to prepare for the unexpected.
  • Share the projected holiday schedule with your team so there are no surprises or last-minute call-outs when you’re the busiest.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and try to accommodate time-off and shift change requests to help employees maintain a work-life balance.
  • Stay positive (with your staff and with yourself), no matter how many people shed tears over having to work the holiday.

3. Organize

  • Organize all shifts during this time period using an easy-to-use online system that everyone can access. Transparency is key.
  • Oversee all shift swaps to make sure you have the proper coverage when it’s needed.
  • Keep track of all catering requests so the kitchen is prepared.
  • Keep track of all (planned) special events that may affect foot traffic, so the FOH and BOH is prepared.
  • Schedule time with teams to review new menu items or any other changes in the restaurant.

4. Train

  • Train seasonal employees in preparation for their supportive role.
  • Train all employees on new menu and promotional items ahead of time.
  • Prepare your teams for large parties or special requests that will affect their workload during a given shift.

5. Focus

  • Set up contingency plans for the FOH and BOH in the case of unplanned rushes so that surges in traffic don’t throw everything into total disarray.
  • Just because there is increased business doesn’t mean you’ll make more money, especially if you need to hire seasonal employees. Keep an eye on reining in any unnecessary expenditures (overtime, food waste, poor table turnover, etc.)
  • Extended holiday hours can be tough to handle when employees are already anxious about missing time with friends and family. Try to keep them focused on the task at hand so they can get home quicker.
  • Turning over tables (of satisfied customers) is the name of the game. As soon as your host staff confirms someone is not showing for a reservation, fill the seat with a willing customer.

6. Reinforce

  • This is going to be a tough time of year, so make sure to maintain positive communication regardless of everyone’s stress levels.
  • Create incentives to work well, work happy, and work efficiently through some friendly competition.
  • Provide rewards for a job well done or as a “thank you” for pushing through and killing it during the holiday shifts.

7. Celebrate 

The holidays aren’t just a time to celebrate with friends and family. Spread that holiday cheer to your employees with a day off, a party, a bonus… However you’re feeling the generous spirit this year!


Maybe you’re feeling stressed just reading through all these scenarios. Maybe you feel prepared, but are nervous about something falling through the cracks because you don’t have the most advanced back-office system in place. Remember: there are plenty of tools out there that can make most of this a total cinch.

Give us a shout today and let us help you focus on what’s most important: your business.

About the Author:

Better Chains is simplifying the hospitality industry with our restaurant management software designed by industry professionals to increase your profit and growth. Use our modules separately or together on any mobile device or tablet throughout the day. We are here to bring much needed change to an industry we love.

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