Holiday promotions are critical for small businesses like restaurants. Here’s a creative marketing idea to attract new business and keep advertising costs low.
The final quarter can be a challenging time for restaurants. The holiday rush means more profits but it also heralds the New Year, when customers tighten their belts after end-of-year spending sprees. But if you maximize revenue during December with holiday promotions, you can get through a slower January and February with much less stress.
One smart way to build holiday sales, attract new business and enhance customer loyalty is by promoting your restaurant as a valued source of prepared takeout meals.
“Providing your customers high-quality and convenient to-go dining over the harried holidays can pay big dividends in the short and long term.”
Creative marketing ideas to increase sales require practical considerations. In this case: sufficient supplies of food (without overstocking), ample space and equipment, packaging and personnel.
Kitchen space is usually at a premium, and current service still takes precedence over anything else, so using slower times such as midmornings and/or late evenings for takeout prep and cooking could be a smart way to get the most from your existing facilities. If kitchen space (and time) is impossibly tight, you should consider “borrowing,” renting or trading with a nearby restaurant, or outsourcing your food prep to another local facility, while maintaining your standards and recipes.
With careful planning and thought, you can look at your current offerings to figure out what can be used and/or adapted for your holiday-takeout menu. Promoting your most popular regular menu items should play a part in your advertising ideas when you market this new takeout initiative. Some foods (soups, sauces, stews, dumplings etc.) might be part of your regular menu that can be refrigerated or frozen for takeout.
- The biggest challenge you face in implementing holiday promotions like this, however, is the same as with your regular business: managing personnel. If you already have a large staff working in shifts, you probably have some flexibility and can move people around as needed. You will, of course, have to figure out how many people and hours you’ll need, which would require good employee-scheduling software. (More about that shortly.)
- Offer recruiting bonuses to your full-time staff for recommendations that pan out. Current part-timers, former employees and competitors’ staff might be good candidates, too, and many of them will surely recommend friends or former coworkers who can also pitch in. Colleges, universities and other educational institutions that may be experiencing a slowdown or operating under a limited schedule can also be a fertile ground for potential staff. Local professional cooking schools can help, too, with close consultation and strong faculty endorsement, of course.
- You want to make sure your regular menu doesn’t suffer, so keep your incumbent staff in place as much as possible to work on your ongoing service and have your temporary people focus on your takeout offerings to minimize disruptions and ensure consistency. If possible, a spare manager or other senior employee might take on supervisory responsibilities to oversee the takeout staff. The new people may be unfamiliar with the kitchen and storage space, so it would be beneficial to have managers on hand to supervise and assist.
- Managing schedules to accommodate your new needs, current and temporary staff and the requirements of each, can be your biggest challenge. Clearly, relying upon hand-made written schedules won’t get the job done. Even using a computer spreadsheet has its limitations. Reducing overtime, adding extra shifts, accommodating time-off requests and sick days — these things just can’t be efficiently recorded and tracked on spreadsheets.
A dedicated Web-based program, such as TrackSmart, can reduce stress and make the process efficient and cost-effective. Once you enter your employees’ data — or easily import it from a spreadsheet — you can set up schedules while the program monitors compliance with relevant regulations and tracks overtime, time-off request and hours.
Your staff can access the program from any computer or smart device to confirm their schedules, or request time off or shift changes. You (or another designated manager) needn’t answer calls or deal with written requests, and can instead focus on the more productive and profitable aspects of the job without getting bogged down with untangling schedules and handling individual requests.
Your full-time and temporary employees will be happier, too, because they will have a clear idea of what’s expected of them so they can make their own plans during the holiday season and avoid conflicts with their work schedules.
You’ll also have solid records of labor costs, which is always one of your biggest expenses, so when you plan any other creative marketing and sales promotions, you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to succeed.
Setting up a holiday-takeout program takes planning, ongoing monitoring and effective promotion, but if it’s successful, it can boost your on-site business while elevating your takeout service to a whole new — and more profitable — level.