According to a survey on vacation time commissioned by Sam's Club, nearly 50% of small business owners take only major holidays off or nothing at all. Even if you do take a vacation, it can be overwhelming to think of your restaurant running without you, so many operators choose to just close down while they are away. But how can you do that without worrying too much, so you can actually enjoy your time off?

It boils down to communicating — first with your staff and secondly with your guests. Everyone can understand the need for downtime, especially for small business owners, but disappointment comes when potential guests make a special trip to your restaurant and find it closed. Here’s how to set yourself, your staff, and your customers up for success while you’re relaxing in the sun.

Make a Plan for Staff

Let your staff know as far ahead of time as possible about your plans to close the restaurant. Many servers and hosts can pick up shifts other places, while BOH staff may choose to use the time for vacations of their own. Make sure hosts know the exact dates that the restaurant will be closed so they do not accept reservations during that time.

Maximize Your Time

Consider scheduling deep cleaning or other maintenance work during this downtime. You can designate and pay a manager to be the point of contact in your absence, or you can plan it around your ability to supervise the work.

Spread the Word

Start letting customers know about your vacation plans about a month in advance. Make sure to post on social media, include a note in your newsletter, and have staff inform guests verbally as well. Add your closing and reopening dates to your website.

Offer Incentives

Inevitably, some guests won’t get the message and may come to your restaurant while it’s closed. Instead of just a note letting them know you’re closed, consider offering a discount for guests to use when you return.

Let Them Know You’re Back

When the restaurant reopens, send a note to local press, post to social media, and let your newsletter subscribers know. If you were inspired by your travels, consider sharing what you experienced with your guests with a new special that shows off ingredients or techniques you enjoyed during your travels.

Bonus: Look for Write-Offs

If your vacation connects back to your work, talk to your accountant about potential write-offs. For example, a coffee shop owner recently traveled to Colombia. During her stay, she visited several coffee farms, roasters, and cafes. She was able to write-off some expenses related to that part of her travel because it was connected to research for her shop.

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