A Hard Dose of Reality at NRA 2016

NRA Show Session - Reality Gets Real with Jon Taffer & Chef Robert Irvine

In May, I had the opportunity to attend the NRA Show’s first crowdsourced session Reality Gets Real with Jon Taffer & Chef Robert Irvine, two of the industry’s most recognizable television personalities.  As a huge fan of both of their shows, and as the marketing manager for East Coast Chair & Barstool, the national furniture sponsor of Bar Rescue, Season 4, I had been looking forward to this session since it was announced by the NRA.

As I made my way into the packed Grand Ballroom at McKormick Center in Chicago, IL, I had no idea what to expect, but I was pretty sure that it would be worth the trip – and it didn’t disappoint.  What followed was an hour of candid, rock solid advice from two hospitality pros that have seen and done it all in the industry.  Without any of the showmanship and bravado of their TV personas, these two highly intelligent thought leaders gave insights into everything from evolving to stay ahead of the competition to why they are so hard on the bar and restaurant owners that appear on their respective shows.

Hats off to moderator Phil Kafarakis of the NRA, who did an excellent job of keeping the conversation moving while still allowing for plenty of give-and-take between Jon and Robert.

Below, I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from the session.   If you would like to watch the recording (which I recommend), you can find it here.

Leadership

  • Leadership, or lack thereof, is the biggest factor in whether a restaurant succeeds or fails. Both Jon and Robert have around a 70% success rate in turning around bars and restaurants on their respective shows; they are able to achieve this level of success by turning failing owners into more effective leaders.
  • Both Jon & Robert said that the biggest failures they’ve had were caused by owners that never really accepted responsibility and refused to acknowledge that they were the reason their business wasn’t working. Both have witnessed owners undo all of the renovations and processes that they have put in place…before their shows have even aired.
  • Jon and Robert use fear as a motivator on their shows to get failing owners to take responsibility for their failure. Both say that nothing gets a failing business owner to take action quicker than appealing to the fear of losing their house and putting their family in serious financial trouble.

 

Marketing

  • A brand isn’t a logo, it’s not a color, and it’s not a marketing material. A brand is what we do.  Brands aren’t created; they’re built one guest at a time.
  • We don’t create food and beverage in this industry, we create human reaction. If a guest doesn’t react to your food, then you are going to be stuck in mediocrity.  Whoever creates the best reactions wins.
  • In Jon’s experience, if somebody comes to your bar/restaurant and has a flawless experience, the likelihood that they will come back is less than 40 percent. If they come back a second time and have a flawless experience, then the likelihood that they will come back is still under 50%.  However, if they come back a 3rd time and have a flawless experience, the likelihood that they will come back for a 4th visit is over 70%.  So, as operators in the hospitality industry, we should be marketing for at least 3 visits.
  • Millennials look at their phones about 260 times per day, so we, as marketers, need to find a way to get on that phone to communicate with them.
  • Jon believes that technology is bothersome when it gets between a server and a guest. He stated that people don’t come to your establishment for food, drink, or to watch sports, all of which they can get at home; rather, they come for the experience…and that is how you compete by giving them a world class experience.  So, don’t let technology get in the way of creating that experience.  Robert, on the other hand, believes that technology, when used effectively, enhances that experience.
  • Cell phones (technology as a whole) can be a killer of business, because they put all of the power in the hands of the consumer. It’s extremely easy now to get on your cell phone and tell a worldwide audience how your meal/server/experience was terrible.

 

Operations

  • About 70% of the restaurateurs that Jon comes into contact with on his show don’t even have data on their food costs, beverage costs, or overhead.
  • Both Jon and Robert believe that it is so important to know your costs and your weekly P&L. Robert gets daily reports on all of his restaurants’ profits & losses so that he knows what he made and what he lost.  “It’s my money, and I want to know where it’s going”.
  • Robert thinks that, as a restaurant, if you aren’t redoing your interior every 3 years, you run the risk of becoming stale and losing to the competition.
  • Robert believes that wallet-less payments will soon take over the industry. The technology is already there, the only thing lacking is consumer acceptance.  He said that servers will have a credit card that wages and end-of-the-night tips will be paid to, and the money will be made available to them immediately: “Uncle Sam will love it, and the servers will hate it”.
  • We are creatures of habit. We love to go to the same restaurants and eat the same food.  Excellence can only be achieved through consistency.  If you aren’t producing a consistently great experience, there will always be somebody newer that is.

One thing was clear from attending this session: Jon and Robert create successful restaurants by taking a top down approach.  If you are a struggling business owner, you don’t have to be on television to change your fortunes; you can learn a lot by watching this session and questioning your leadership, processes, and attitude toward change.  Don’t expect your employees to do it for you: any major changes are going to have to start with you.

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How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Problems with Restaurant Furniture

 

It takes a chunk of change to furnish a bar or restaurant.  And when you spend that “chunk” on commercial grade items, you want to see them last.  Proper maintenance and cleaning is the key to long lasting furniture but it won’t fix some common problems that may arise.  So, if they are common problems, shouldn’t you then be able to avoid these issues if they are happening everywhere?  Absolutely!  Our hope is that by providing you with this information, you are able to take a proactive approach to caring for you bar and restaurant furniture so that these common issues don’t happen to you.  Like the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.”

 

Problem #1:  “The metal legs on my chair and/or bar stool are bending and don’t seem as strong.”

Problem-1

Solution:  Damage to the legs of chairs or bar stools often stems from improper use by customers and staff, something that can happen on a regular basis.  For example, customers may lean back in their chair putting all of their weight on the back two legs. Yikes!  If you see this happening, politely ask the customer to refrain from doing this in hopes to keep the leg strength strong…and of course to save your customer from getting hurt.  Another example is when staff members unknowingly use a chair or bar stool improperly.  As a standard procedure when sweeping and mopping floors, most restaurant staff members place the chairs upside down on the tables.  They clean the floors, let them dry, and proceed to lower the chairs back to the floor.  The issue arises when the staff member slams the chair or bar stool onto the floor with such force that the leg strength is compromised.  After this occurs many times, it can in fact make the legs of chairs and bar stools look bent.  To avoid this, it’s important to show and/or communicate to staff members the proper procedure to gently lower chairs and bar stools back onto the floor so as to keep the legs nice and strong.

 

 

Problem #2:  “My chairs and/or bar stools are scratching up my flooring.”

 Problem-2

Solution:  Scratches on floors from chairs and bar stools are often due to the absence or wearing of one or more floor glides.  Floor glides are the pieces of rubber or hard plastic that are placed on the bottom of the legs of a chair or bar stool to protect the floor.  Without them, the chair will scrape along the floor, cause some scratch marks, and even make a sound that can be like fingernails down a chalkboard.  To avoid this, be sure to regularly check the wear of floor glides as well as that they are all in place.  It’s also a good idea to keep a few extra glides on hand, just in case.  Following these suggestions will keep your floors scratch free and looking fabulous.

 

 

Problem #3: “My tables are peeling, staining, or cracking.”

Problem-3

Solution:  It’s important to be aware of what your table tops are made of and how to properly care for them, especially when it comes to wood table tops.  In the case of wood, it is a natural material that expands and contracts with the changes in temperature.  With any wood product, including table tops, it is important to keep them away from direct heat to avoid cracking.  When we say direct heat, we mean in direct sunlight through a window, under a heating vent, or in a warm area that can become humid and warm from the heat of a hot oven.  It is equally as important to not place a hot tray, sizzling pan, pizza pan/pizza box, or anything right out of the oven directly on the wood top, or any table top for that matter.  If there is no way around it, invest in products to protect the table tops from heat generated from hot foods like a hot plate or an elevated pizza tray.  These items will be worth your money and you won’t have to witness an altering of your table top finishes or heat stains that will appear if you’re not extra careful.

 

 

Problem #4: “My chairs and/or bar stools are wobbly.”
Problem-4

Solution:  If you are experiencing wobbly chairs or bar stools, first check the floor glides to make sure that all four are present and not worn out.  If they are in place and not causing the wobble, loose screws that were either not tightened at assembly or have worked loose over time could be the issue.  With regard to assembly, a lot of commercial restaurant furniture companies ship their chairs and bar stools with the seats unattached.  This enables them to stack the furniture and ship more products at a lower price.  Also, by packing the seats tightly together, it reduces the likelihood of shipping damages.  So, when assembling your seats on site, it is important to follow the proper instructions as well as use the suggested tools with the hardware provided.  Make sure that screws are snug and not too tight so as to avoid further damage to the seat.  In addition, it is just as important to routinely check the hardware on all tables, chairs, and bar stools, and tighten them as needed.

 

Problem #5: “My furniture isn’t lasting as long as I thought it would.”

Problem-5

Solution:  When purchasing furniture for your bar or restaurant, it is important to know where these items are going to be placed and how they are going to be used.  If you need chairs, bar stools, and tables for an indoor dining area, it is important to purchase items that are intended for indoor use.  The same goes for outdoor furniture items.  An outdoor chair, bar stool, or table intended for outdoors, should only be used outdoors.  Or, maybe you want items that can be transferred to and from an indoor space to an outdoor space.  Buying items that have this dual use is the key.  Also, chairs and bar stools are meant to be sat in and tables are meant to be used for eating off of.  Any other uses that customers or staff might be using them for can affect the longevity of the item.  Staff and management should be aware of the intended use of all restaurant furniture and doing what is necessary to make sure that use is maintained.

 

 

Buying restaurant furniture is an investment.  As with any investment, you want to protect it so that you get your use out of it for years to come.  But along with that comes your responsibility to do what it takes to keep your furniture in its most pristine state.  Taking care of your items with the suggestions above will help deter common problems and likely, will last for the years that you were hoping for.

 

 

Sourcing Local Foods During the Winter for Your Restaurant

The local food movement has gained popularity in recent years as more and more chefs, restaurant managers, and even everyday food shoppers show a preference for locally-sourced food. It continues to gain traction around the United States as a growing number of people become more socially and environmentally responsible consumers.  If your servers can place fresh food atop your cafe tables year round, your food-conscience patrons will appreciate your concerns…and the tastiness of your cuisine!

"Fresh food for dinner" by Tammy Strobel, RowdyKittens on Flickr (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8217/8333713835_2f486e2278_o.jpg)

“Fresh food for dinner” by Tammy Strobel, RowdyKittens on Flickr (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8217/8333713835_2f486e2278_o.jpg)

Advantages of Eating Local

Eating local benefits not only those who produce locally-sourced food and those who buy it, it also is good for communities as a whole. Many people who eat local form long-lasting relationships with the farmers from whom they buy, and locally-sourced food is more nutritious than what you will find from your bulk food distributors.

Further, the environmental benefits are significant: food that doesn’t have to be transported hundreds or thousands of miles produces a much lower carbon footprint.

Sourcing Locally During the Fall and Winter

If your restaurant is concentrating on providing customers with locally-sourced food, remember that your menu may be limited to what is on hand in the region that you live in. You’re offering autumn harvest menu entrees now, but what happens when the snow begins to fall?  Here are some suggestions for finding market-sourced food during the cold months.

  • Purchase local meat and dairy. Raising animals isn’t limited to the spring and summer. Be sure to talk to local farmers and buyer’s groups so that you will be able to create new dishes using locally-raised meats.
  • Some Fruits and Vegetables Are “Winter Ready.” Farmers often use greenhouses, fermentation, cold storage, and other methods to grow produce the whole year. Many of them also use root cellars and climate-controlled spaces on their land that allow them to store produce.
  • Find a CSA Program That Offers Variety. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, allows you to have a relationship with a farmer or group of farmers who will supply you with local food during the entire year. They often pool their produce and sell it to restaurants, schools, and families. The more farmers there are in the group, the better your winter produce selection will be.

Don’t let the cold months stop you from serving your customers farm-to-table food!  During winter, you can still offer fresh, seasonal, and delicious items that will tempt guests’ taste buds and convince them to venture to your restaurant for a wonderful, local meal no matter the weather.

What product is your restaurant really selling?

“We had a great time catching up with each other at dinner, reminiscing and laughing and just enjoying the company.  And oh yeah, the food was good, too.”

Your restaurant sells food, right?  But is that the only product you’re marketing?  Of course not!  Here we take a look at how you can carve out a specific niche in your local market and focus on your real restaurant product.  To be successful in the restaurant industry, most will agree that you need good service and good food.  But what does that mean, exactly?  How do you define the word ‘good’?  It really does differ from restaurant to restaurant based on customer expectations of your specific location.  After all, if every eating place looked like and served food that tasted like and provide the exact same in service as Joe’s Place, there really wouldn’t be much need for market competition, would there?

First, you need to know what category you belong and how people perceive the expected experience of your restaurant.  Here are four examples, but please know there are more than four.  Figure out what it is you’re selling.  It’s not just the food or service; it’s really about the experience you’re giving your guests.  Once you know what your product is, the next step is incorporating little things that will let your customers know you’re willing to exceed their expectations and stand out in your niche market.

Product: Convenience and speed

The quick service restaurant industry sells convenience and speed.  The food doesn’t have to be top-quality, but the price has to be comparable to preparing a meal at home.  The convenience factor is what leads the consumer to make the decision to buy out instead.  The food still has to be “good” and service has to be friendly but on the level that a customer perceives to be acceptable in return for the time-savings they’re really seeking.  A frozen-then-reheated burger? Eh, at least it didn’t come out of the customer’s freezer.

Tips to do it better:

  • Make sure your take-out service is excellent. Environment-friendly to-go containers? Check. Easy to carry bags? Check. Extra napkins and silverware? Check. Lids and straws? Check. Neatly packaged dips, dressings, and sauces? Check. Coupon for next visit? Why not? Don’t forget, the hot foods and cold foods should be kept separated to help maintain safe temperatures in transit. Drink carriers appreciated.  And please double-check the order to make sure it’s all there and all correct.
  • Be clean. It’s okay to serve quick and easy dishes that appeal to the masses, but the masses aren’t going to return if you have a dirty restaurant table, crumbs in your booths, or a germ-infested bathroom.  Make a coffee break / pit stop a quick and clean one for guests traveling through, and they’ll remember you the next time they’re in town.
  • Offer some made-to-order options. Be flexible enough to cater to specific requests when they won’t harm your bottom line. Gluten-free and allergy-friendly choices are also important in today’s made-for-me society.
  • Appear fresh. Add in some healthy selections. Allow customers to see some of the food making process. If you’re transparent in what you’re creating, and they feel like you’re choosing the best ingredients at an affordable price – and it’s all being done in a sanitary fashion – then you’ll make them feel confident in choosing your restaurant.

–>The emotional reaction: “They made it so quick and easy for me, when otherwise, there would have been no time to eat. Plus, I could easily afford the meal-on-the-go!”

Product: Social gathering place

The neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name? The best spot in town to catch the game with your friends? If you’re going for social, then it’s about offering a place for people to kick back and have some fun with their friends.  Maybe you have pool tables or dart boards or a digital jukebox.  The large-enough-to-share appetizer menu with affordable drinks and “bar food” to order; sound familiar?  Whatever it is that makes people pull up a bar stool and relax in your joint, meet up with their friends, or order up another round is your key selling point.

Tips to do it better:

  • Your staff have to be really outgoing and fit right in with the groups of socialites choosing your bar for their next hangout. Hire personable staff members and train them on excellent service skills.  If customers like your staff members, they’ll be back to see their friends.
  • Consider bringing in some entertainment, such as live music, a karaoke night, or an interactive trivia contest.  The more reasons you give, the more likely your customers will plan night outs at your place.
  • Be social online, too.  Offer exclusive deals to your Facebook or Twitter followers.  Start a Pinterest page for your restaurant, and reward your Foursquare mayor frequently. Thank your Yelp! reviewers and find creative ways to encourage your in-restaurant guests to chat you up in all of their online social spaces, too.

–>The emotional reaction: “My friends and I had a blast! We created memories that will last a lifetime, and we cannot wait to go back and make new friends next time.”

Product: Family dinnertime

With two-parent working homes and a busier-than-ever lifestyle, more moms and dads are turning to restaurants to help them feed their families.  This means they want healthier choices, fresher ingredients, and more so, the comfort of being in a homelike atmosphere to sit down and enjoy both a meal and conversation about the various family members’ days while huddled around the restaurant table.

Tips to do it better:

  • Staff must be friendly and be able to talk to the kids and the adults equally well. When the kids are happy, Mom and Dad are happy, too.  It’s all about making the entire family feel special and at home.
  • Promote customer loyalty with always-changing kids activities, and develop a kid menu that parents and kids will both love.  Keep the kids occupied from the moment their wiggly behinds hit the restaurant booth, so everyone dining at the time is having a great experience.
  • Have you heard of the “Give ’em the pickle” philosophy? If you can make small sacrifices to keep your customers happy, they’ll feel appreciated and will let others know.  Use the word, “yes,” a lot.

–>The emotional reaction: “I got to spend some quality time with my family before homework and bedtime routines. Plus, I didn’t have to use precious time to cook or do the dishes, bonus!”

Product: Culinary masterpiece

If your guests find themselves at a fine dining establishment, chances are they expect a pristine interior with immaculate place settings.  They also expect top-of-the-line ingredients and a nice fat price tag that signifies quality.  Your exotic menu with fanciful choices and an extensive wine list reads like a descriptive travel book.  Above-excellent service is expected, but if it is accompanied with a bit of a snooty attitude, in this scenario, your guests will find it completely acceptable, because there is a trade-off for the culinary masterpiece that will arrive on a clean white plate in such artistic form they’ll feel like royalty.

Tips to do it better:

  • Complete your website content by adding a full menu with prices and your dress code, so patrons know exactly what to expect before stepping through your front door.
  • Share your chef’s story anywhere you can: on your website, on social media pages, through local and national food magazines, in your menu, via your trained staff.  The more personal you can be, the better. This is a social and engaged world, and people like to know the intimate (but not-too-intimate) details of other people’s lives.  So be human.  It’s what will make your restaurant a favorite.  The chef will visit your table during dessert? Even better!
  • Presentation matters.  Create anticipation with descriptive menus and follow it up with an adrenaline rush when the waitstaff sets down the plate, so gorgeous your guests will literally drop their jaws for your food.

–>The emotional reaction: “It was so romantic and luxurious, and the meal completely wowed me. I can’t wait for the next date night!”

Dining out is less about the food and more about the emotional reaction your customers have from the entire experience.   Think about the whole picture and what your customers are expecting when they choose your bar or restaurant.  This will help you capitalize on their wants and needs, which in turn, means you capture a loyal customer who will positively impact your restaurant’s success.

4 Restaurant Trends Heating Up Summer of 2012

It’s hot outside, but are you turning up the heat on your business?  Here are some of the biggest growing trends in restaurants this summer:

  1. Outdoor Dining – In recent years, the number of restaurants turning to outside dining has significantly increased.  Customers are attracted to the great outdoors and enjoy knowing they have the option to sit on a patio while dining with friends.  If you have the space and ability to serve diners outside, perhaps you should consider applying for the proper permits and looking for some outdoor restaurant furniture!
  2. Chef Grown Foods – The buzzword of the last few years has been sustainability, and restaurant chefs need to be aware of the change in how people think about food and where it comes from.  Plus, economically speaking, if you can sustain some of your own menu items, it is win-win for everyone!  Rooftop herbal gardens are popping up on cityscape restaurants, but it doesn’t stop there.  Your restaurant may grow your own veggies, or take it a step beyond and consider a farm-to-fork program to raise your own meat, or even recruit a chef who doubles as a bee keeper.  By controlling what ingredients you use, you also control quality, which is also important to you and your guests.
  3. Seasonal Menu Items – From fast food to fine dining, most restaurants introduce appropriate summer themed menu items.  Whether you add bacon and barbecue sauce to your best selling burger, or launch a line of healthy salads (I recommend a mixture of strawberries, spinach, feta cheese, almonds, and a sweet poppy-seFriends enjoying an outdoor restauranted dressing), it’s summer time and you need to take advantage of the fresh foods available at this time of year and also meet your customers’ expectations for a sizzling summer taste.  Offer corn on the cob as a new summer side dish, or challenge your chef to get creative with other fruit and vegetable recipes.  Experiment with rhubarb, asparagus, or artichokes.  Don’t forget it’s also a great season to get the freshest seafood from your local fish markets.  Create your own spin on classic summer dishes or invent something brand new that hollers summertime.  Summer can be done well, no matter what type of clientele you cater to, so don’t be afraid to introduce fresh new summer specials to your menu today.
  4. Less is More – Summer diners tend to enjoy smaller portions, maybe due to the heat or maybe due to a change in summer lifestyle where they are snacking more throughout the day and don’t need a huge dinner-sized meal when they stop into your restaurant.  Be sure to offer some smaller portioned entrees, and don’t forget to give them a small shot of dessert, too.  Keep in mind many people will meet up with friends for just appetizers and drinks more so in the summer, so adding a great summer appetizer and cocktail list to your menu will be well appreciated, too!  Don’t forget to promote your local breweries and wineries, which often launch summer ales and new wines this time of year as well.

Whether you have an outdoor restaurant or are just making the most of summer through your menu (and air conditioning!), it’s a great season for your bar or restaurant.

Is your bar or restaurant hosting holiday parties?

This is a busy time for families and friends to meet up at a local bar or restaurant to reconnect over the holiday season and at the turn of the new year. If you are a newer bar or restaurant or have experienced a lot of growth this year, it might be a little overwhelming to manage all these reservations or impromptu gatherings in your establishment. So, we are here to help! I’ve put together a list of tips to help your bar or restaurant survive (and succeed) this holiday season.

1. Review your menu. Do you have holiday favorites, like spiced apple cider, peppermint milkshakes, or sugar cookies available?  It doesn’t take much for even the smallest restaurant or cafe to add some special treats to their holiday menus this season.  If you are hosting many sit-down dinners, do you have turkey, ham, and pork & sauerkraut meals with all the trimmings listed?  You may suggest family-style dining to your larger parties and try something new that could be very pleasing to your guests!   It’s also a great time of year to test market some new ideas or try out some new seasonal customs.  For example, you could try a ‘decorate your own’ gingerbread cookie for the kiddies, ‘top your own’ hot cocoa (think flavored whipped cream, holiday-shaped marshmallows, or shots of holiday flavors),  ‘create your own’ cocktail, or just add in some new products or promotions you’ve been wanting to try.  Maybe you want to introduce a new dessert buffet or try new mixed drink concoctions. The possibilities are endless, and if it’s popular and well received, you could find a way to work it into your everyday menu.  You may want to add just a small holiday menu, dress up some of your regular menu items in a new way to fit the holiday season, or create a holiday option in each category on your menu (beverage, appetizer, meal, dessert).  Any way your chef, brew master, or caterer addresses the holidays this season, your customers will be thrilled!  Make sure any changes or additions you make fit your bar or restaurant theme and coordinate well with your entire menu’s cuisine (for example, French restaurants could introduce a cranberry crepe or drinking establishments could sample an adult eggnog beverage).  Don’t forget: Be sure to add any new ingredients or required kitchen equipment to your regular purchase orders.

2. Check your staff schedules. With large parties needing extra attention and more people in general coming and going from your establishment, you will need to bump up your salary budget this time of year.  Make sure you are fully staffed and ready to give your patrons the joyous holiday get-together they are anticipating.  We know that end-of-year spending might be tight, but cutting staff at your busiest time of year could prove very detrimental to service and quality of your customers’ experiences.  In addition, take advantage of the prelude to the busy season to re-train or remind your staff on best service practices, speedy kitchen and delivery times, quick and clean bus habits, and overall quality standards.  There’s never a good time to make a blunder at your bar or restaurant, but during the holiday season, you want to make sure everyone and everything is running smoothly. This is especially important if you are introducing new menu items or expect your bar staff to learn how to make new drinks or properly serve in new glassware.

3. Define the space. If you are not used to hosting large parties, you may need to look at your tables and chairs and reconfigure your space in order to keep larger parties all seated together.  Can your tables push together?  Do you need to add extra tables?  Would it be better to place parties in certain rooms or areas and keep the smaller parties in a different section?  Should you swap out your bulky restaurant chairs with more sleek backless barstools to help more people fit around the room?  Large parties will need to feel like they are the only ones in the joint and be able to carry on conversations from end of the table to the other.  Being prepared for a large group of people at your bar or restaurant is your best defense this holiday season. (If you need help with future bar or restaurant furniture needs to help define your space, we can help!  Let East Coast Chair & Barstool show you tables, chairs, and barstools that will eliminate your worry.)

4. Re-design the take-out process. Whether it’s baked goods, holiday party catering, or extra 6-packs of beer, your customers may be demanding more take-out service this holiday season.  Is your bar or restaurant prepared?  Is there a special wait line for take-out orders only?  Do you offer carry-out parking/delivery?  Are the orders being marked accurately, and do you offer in-house order tracking on an order board or customer tracking digitally?  Are your prep cooks ready to handle the bulk of orders and getting enough lead time?  Working out the details for a smooth take-out process now could save you, your staff, and your customers a lot of grief.

5. Address extended wait times. It’s busy.  Your customers are told it might be an hour or longer before they can be seated.  Depending on your establishment and the party, they might have young children with them.  What do they do?  Is there a special room for guests to wait?  Can you hand out holiday-themed coloring books in advance to any kids?  Do you have a bar and appetizer area, so they can get started nibbling?  What about music/TV/other entertainment?  Will a long line that’s visible deter others from stopping?  Will waiting guests get in the way of your wait staff?  Do you have enough seating for waiting guests, too?  Considering how you might address this in advance will be a great help to you when you have a crowd waiting.

6. Set the mood. Decorations. Music. Party gear.  It doesn’t take a huge budget to make a large impact.  Worried you’re crossing a politically incorrect line?  Stay simple and just add a little oomph to dress it up for the season.  If you are doing a New Year’s Eve special event, make sure you have champagne goblets (glass or disposable) on hand for a toast and some kind of party hat, noise maker, or favor for your party-goers.  You want to make your bar or restaurant feel festive, so people have a good time and remember you when they’re looking for a place to eat or drink the whole rest of the year.

7. Announce any special holiday hours. Closing for the holidays?  Or offering extending hours?  Make sure people know!  Post signs on every door, add your new hours to your Web site, let regular customers know via wait staff, and add your holiday schedule to your regular promotions. The one reason why people aren’t at your bar or restaurant this holiday season shouldn’t be because they didn’t know if you were open. And if the only thing someone wants this holiday season is your famous pie, let them know if you are going to be closed so they can pick up a slice ahead of time.

No matter what challenges your bar or restaurant may face from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember to stay jolly and show your patrons a merry good time!  Shake off the small stresses and feel honored that your neighbors want to celebrate in your establishment. No matter how big or small you celebrate this season, remember that it’s a special time of year for everyone.

Happy holidays to you and yours!