Should Your Restaurant Stay Open for the Holidays?

The holidays are a bright and cheery time for many, but as a restaurant owner, the season may bring some additional stresses. Whether you’re prepping for holiday lulls when guests opt for home cooking rather than dining out, or working around your staff’s countless schedule requests, your head has probably been spinning for a few weeks now. 

To alleviate some of the winter warfare, we’ve got a two-part series that includes how holiday trends can impact your restaurant, and how your restaurant’s technology can help you make the most of the season. 

Ghosts of Christmas Past

With many out-of-towners flying home to celebrate the winter holidays with family and friends, it’s prime time to draw new and regular diners back to your restaurant. Here’s a look at last year’s dining trends in the United States that can give you some insight on what 2019 may hold.

Holiday Dining Habits

Thanksgiving Eve is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, and the busiest bar night of the year. It’s even been nicknamed “Drinksgiving,” so make sure your staff is trained on when to draw the line with guests who may have had a few too many. Toast bars and restaurants saw a 33% increase in sales in 2018 on Thanksgiving Eve compared to other Wednesdays in November of last year. 

In light of the higher amount of guest traffic in your restaurant on Thanksgiving Eve, you can use GuestCenter’s reservation functionality to give guests a real-time glimpse at how busy your dining room is, allow them to make reservations, and let them check their place in line from the warmth and comfort of their own home. You can also include your bar seating in your reservation bookings to accommodate an upsurge in guests.

Thanksgiving Day sees a much smaller crowd than Drinksgiving, and restaurants have taken note. Only 30% of Toast customers remained open on Thanksgiving Day last year, and a 2018 Statistica survey revealed that only 4% of people planned to eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. 

Christmas and Christmas Eve have seen a small amount of diners in years past. Christmas Eve brought a 39% decrease in sales compared to the rest of December 2018, and restaurants saw an even greater decrease of 85% on Christmas Day. 

Lastly, New Year’s Eve commonly draws a crowd if a restaurant embraces a later closing time, while New Year’s Day has fewer patrons, as people spend the day at home after a night of excitement. Restaurants saw a 5% increase in sales on New Year’s Eve, and a 72% decrease on New Year’s Day compared to average December sales. 

Now, let’s determine how these metrics directly affect your business.

Should You Stay Open on the Holidays?

Every restaurant may have slightly different objectives when it comes to revenue around the holidays. Look at your historical data and past performance metrics when determining what makes the most sense for your establishment, and begin advertising your holiday hours on receipts and social media so your guests aren’t caught off guard. 

Thanksgiving Day is becoming more synonymous with pre-Black Friday shopping, so there’s a chance that you will see a crowd. If you do opt to open on Thanksgiving Day, consider opening after everyone has recovered from their food coma. Opening your doors later in the evening also gives your staff the chance to celebrate the holiday with their family, so it’s a win-win!

Christmas Eve can be a great way for your servers who are staying local to make a bit of extra cash. Check sizes increased by 17% on Christmas Eve, and diners typically will tip their servers higher than average on this day. If you will be open, you might consider shortening your hours since most patrons dined around 7 o’clock last year, according to Toast’s data. Additionally, you can use GuestCenter to set parameters around when your restaurant will accept reservations. If it’s looking like your crowd has withered earlier than expected, change your online reservation allowance in real-time and post information on your Facebook profile.

Given the sharp decline in diners on Christmas Day, we recommend taking this day off to spend time with family and give your staff the opportunity to do the same. Your restaurant won’t suffer from the much needed R&R, and your staff will be extremely grateful. 

New Year’s Eve is a no-brainer: stay open and give your guests an experience they will never forget. We predict the 2020 crowds will be much larger than those in 2019 as guests ring in the new decade. The following day can be tricky — make sure that you’re offering something unique on January 1st, like bottomless mimosas to ease your guests’ inevitable hangovers.

All Wrapped Up🎁

There you have it: the proof is in the pudding. No need to fear for what the holidays bring — whether your restaurant decides to conduct business as usual or opt for a few nights of early close, you can make this season successful for you and your employees. Look out for our next blog post, 2019 Restaurant Holiday Trends to Jump On, to ensure you’ve got a ho, ho, whole lot of guests to fill with cheer (and food).

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