Getting your restaurant ready for the Holiday Rush

It is always hard to believe how quickly it happens, but that time of year is fast approaching; the holidays. For restaurateurs that can mean managing three weeks of events and party bookings, in addition to the regular business rush, making it the busiest time of the calendar year. Getting your team organized and prepared to manage the busy schedule can help to minimize team stress, chances of error, and increase productivity. Maintaining or exceeding your service standard should be goal, in order to capitalize on the traffic and positivity effect the bottom line.

Here are some critical steps that restaurants can take in the pursuit of preparing and executing great service for events and party bookings.

Scheduling Labour

One of the most important operational aspects of being successful with holiday bookings is scheduling labour effectively to provide the best possible service; and that doesn’t just mean adding servers.

When building out floor plans and sections, it is very effective to add in additional support staff such as bussers and food runners. These additional hands on deck will help keep the cycle of service on time, and operating efficiently, overall assisting to better manage the increased work load from the holiday events.

Also increase Management floor coverage to manage the cycle of service and guest interaction, as the volume of business increases with events. It’s important to keep in mind that your restaurants will see many new guests during the holiday timeframe, so you need to leverage these opportunities to build business from creating great guest experiences from the larger volume of the market. Great guest experiences, lead to positive word of mouth and social media exposure, which leads to increased business.

Great Pre-shifts

pre-shift meeting

Great pre-shifts need to be informative and engaging for the team. Management should be prepared with a strong game plan for service, and the organization of event bookings to review with staff at pre-shift to prepare them for service.

  • Review all bookings and details with the team.
  • Identify point people for communication during service.
  • Discuss the importance of increased team work and communication.
  • Empower staff to ask for help or support on event service.
  • Ensure to include kitchen management for their input on menu and service details.

Service Techniques

There are many ways to organize events operationally for service that will help see success. Here are some suggestions that I have found success with:

  1. Space out reservations as needed to keep the kitchen, and cycle of service on time.
  1. For larger parties, always have a detailed event sheet for the booking to include:
  • Table set up details.
  • Menu details- with larger parties, look to try and take pre-orders when appropriate to give the kitchen more time to pre-pare and prep for success.
  • Include a list of any allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • Billing info- who should be getting the bill for payment, and if separate cheques are in order, then pre-paring this with the service team ahead of time is important.
  1. Organize how the servers will communicate the order details with the Kitchen, prior to the party.

For example: Servers may communicate details of the set up the table to communicate seat numbers for the delivery of plates, or the Kitchen may want the event order’s.

Service Engagement versus Service Mechanics


Engaging service can be defined as any emotional connection we provide for a guest during our service. It refers to how valued we make them feel as guests, and how warm and genuine we are when we serve them etc. This is one of the most important aspects of great service, if not the most, and largely the measure if we will earn another visit from our guests.

Mechanics can be defined as anything we use to service guests that has no guest interaction, such as how we set a table, or how efficiently we process their billing details. What often happens when we increase our volume, with the addition of events, is that our service becomes more mechanical than it should, and less engaging. Our greetings become rushed, and more focused on timing, instead of being welcoming, informative and special.

The holiday season has already started with event bookings and reservations being confirmed for late November-December and New Year’s.  Starting to prepare your restaurant operationally, and focusing on creating great guest’s experiences before the season starts is not only a huge opportunity, it may be the difference between a slow and strong start to sales in 2017.

Expert advice provided by Alex Fraser, VP of Western Operations, The Fifteen Group 

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