You already know the holidays are prime time for generating extra revenue. Inspiring diners to choose your restaurant for their celebration—large or small—is key to getting that boost to propel your restaurant into the New Year. Having a strategy in place to keep diners coming through the doors and to inspire them to book parties of all sizes makes all the difference.

Be Open to Large and Small Groups

Of course, it’s tempting to focus on getting the whole restaurant rented for a night, or in filling an entire party room, but smaller groups of 6 and up can also generate substantial profits while allowing you to accommodate walk-ins with ease. Even if you don’t take reservations during the rest of the year, you might want to consider allowing them during the holiday season. You also should encourage customers to book group meals early with reminders on your website and on social media so they know they can plan a smaller event with you and be sure they’ll be able to get a table.

Share, Share, Share

Sometimes as a restaurant operator, you get caught up in food costs and running the restaurant (of course!) but a big part of booking those parties is marketing. You want to make sure your operation comes into customers’ minds when they are at home brainstorming location ideas for hosting a party. Update your website and social media reminding customers to book parties with you. Show pictures of delicious holiday dishes. You can even print menu inserts advertising parties at your restaurant that feature signature holiday menu items.

Decorate

Adding special touches throughout your restaurant will naturally make it feel like a fun place to celebrate. This doesn’t mean everyone has to buy a 6-foot tree. Think about the style of your establishment, and choose decorations that reflect it. A more casual, eclectic establishment might have fun with brightly colored lights and garlands, while an upscale steakhouse might just add some elegant wreaths or centerpieces that feel celebratory without detracting from the ambiance.

Offer Special Holiday Menus

A prix fixe menu is great for parties, and adding optional upgrades can help you make more money on each diner. Options like lobster, truffles, foie gras, lump crab, or even a cheese plate can encourage customers to get into the spirit of celebration and add something special to their meal. You can also add a flat price upgrade for wine pairings with each course.

Don’t Forget Drink Specials

Along with splurging on food, this is the time of year when customers just might spring for that glass of French champagne, after-dinner dressed-up coffee drink or sugar-rimmed cranberry cocktail.

Pre-Design Large Party Menus

Even if you don’t have a year-round catering menu, taking the time to pre-design holiday party menus now can help you predict and balance your costs when things get busy. It can also help customers who aren’t sure exactly what they want. You can design menus for several budgets, and similar to the prix fixe menu, offer upgrades customers can choose.

  • While a customer with a large budget might want to serve beef tenderloin, a customer with a smaller budget might like a carving station with ham, but they might add on steamed shrimp or crab cakes as an appetizer.
  • Think of low-cost, upscale sides that please a crowd and can make a menu seem larger without adding too much cost for you, such as mini pulled-pork tacos, browned-butter gnocchi or fried chickpeas.
  • Also look for items you can make ahead. If your restaurant doesn’t serve lunch, you could have your kitchen staff come in an hour earlier and knockout dishes like pimento cheese, curried sweet-potato soup or dressed up deviled eggs so later in the evening the kitchen won’t get backed up if you have regular diners and large parties at the same time.

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