Like it or not, the hustle and bustle of the holidays is about to be in full swing. What can you do to make customers really have a break when they visit your restaurant? Consider these tips for ways to build relationships that last after the season while boosting sales during it:
- Offer chair massages. It’s the ultimate pampering… and it can be very inexpensive to provide. Contact a local masseuse school where students need to complete a number of massages before earning their degree. Then, ask them to work for tips or by the hour. After the massage, train servers to suggest a glass of wine or a cappuccino… often customers will want to maintain that relaxed feeling.
- Provide gift-wrapping. During down times (like 2 to 5 p.m.) offer free gift-wrapping with an entrée. Shoppers tend to take earlier dinners after skipping lunch and they’ll enjoy getting something done while they eat. If you don’t want to put an employee on the job, ask a local charity to do it for donations.
- Make decisions easy. After a long day of shopping, many guests may find making one more decision of what to eat a little hard to handle. Train servers to guide guests to choices they’ll love. Tempting seasonal specials can also help guests make a quicker decision at the table.
- Offer take-home meals. Many guests are looking for ways to cut down on their household duties this time of year. Encourage them to give themselves a gift of no cooking with take-home meals that can be easily re-heated and served. These offerings are different from takeout food. For example, guests who are dining with you for lunch can purchase a family meal they can take home with them to serve for dinner.
- Welcome reservations or offer call ahead wait lists. People spend a lot of time waiting in lines this time of year, and they may make a restaurant choice based on how long they have to wait for a table. Communication is key with reservations. Set realistic expectations for guests when they make the reservation and when they arrive at the restaurant. If you still take reservations by phone, make sure your employees are trained on phone skills.
- Manage the wait. When people dine out, they expect that they may have to wait for a table, wait for for their food, wait for the check, and so on. While much of this in inevitable, how you and your staff handle it is within your control. Train your staff to minimize guest wait times by staying out of the weeds, and manage the perception of the wait with exceptional service.
- Give the gift of easy giving. Everybody offers gift certificates, but few do it in an appealing way. Wrap certificates of all amounts in boxes and top them with mini-gifts like wine bracelets or ornaments. Then display them everywhere and let customers know how easy it is to put them under a tree.
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