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The holidays are right around the corner, and many restaurateurs are gearing up for a busy season of serving up festive fare to hungry patrons. As more Americans are feeling more comfortable dining at restaurants amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for restaurants to be ready for an influx of business.
It’s important to start planning ahead to avoid potential food shortages. After all, you want to make sure you have enough food to go around in the event you’re serving lots of customers, whether that be through dine-in or takeout.
Here are 10 ways to beat the busy holiday rush:
1. Look at Last Year’s Sales Numbers
Predicting how much inventory you’ll need is challenging. If you’ve been open for several years, begin by using historical data from previous years to pinpoint which menu items will be most popular, or approximate how much of a given ingredient you might need during a surge of sales.
If you use restaurant management software, you can look back to see which dishes you sold the most of this time last year and plan accordingly. If you offer seasonal menu items, like peppermint mochas or turkey and dressing, these are likely going to sell more than other menu items, so you’ll know to stock up.
2. Buy Ahead and in Bulk
We recommend buying extra nonperishable items in the weeks leading up to the holiday season so you don’t break your budget ordering a much higher quantity around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
If you anticipate that you’ll need 30% more flour and sugar for your world famous Christmas Tree cookies, take advantage of bulk pricing and place a larger order beforehand. Call your suppliers and negotiate ahead of time before they get too busy.
3. Get Your Food Inventory Organized in Advance
Organize your inventory in advance so when things get hectic, you’re confident you have enough ingredients on hand.
The best way to go about this is to implement restaurant management software to track your inventory. You can simply log all of your ingredients, which will make taking inventory a breeze, especially if it’s also tied to your point-of-sale system.
Restaurant management software will create automated processes for dealing with vendors, too. When deliveries come in, you can scan the invoice directly on your phone, updating your inventory automatically. This cuts down on human error (for example, the vendor only provides you ten orders of an ingredient when you ordered twenty) and ensures you don’t overpay for items.
You can also set inventory alerts to ensure you never run out of an ingredient during a busy service again. Restaurant management software allows you to set alerts when you’re running low on an ingredient so you can order it before it’s gone.
4. Take Advantage of Trends on Social Media
The food world is undoubtedly heavily influenced by trends (thanks Instagram). For example, the number of Americans who follow gluten-free diets is three times the number of people who suffer from celiac disease.
If you know what’s trending, you can plan ahead in terms of ingredients for dishes that will meet current palates. For starters, you can browse through popular #hashtags and look for local food bloggers and food influencers to see where all the hype is at.
More restaurants are offering both gluten-free options as well as vegan dishes to suit a wider range of tastes and diets. If you expect business to rise, you can expect demand for these types of dishes to increase, so plan ahead.
5. Train New Hires on Your Inventory Management Process
Many restaurants hire more help during the holidays, so make sure to get them trained early in all aspects of their roles, including using your inventory management software. A simple mistake due to not understanding the process or software could have a huge negative impact on business, so make sure they feel comfortable using the system.
Train employees to stock shelves and the fridge correctly, too. Implement a first-in, first-out (FIFO) policy. When staff members are pressed for time, they might have the inclination to load shelves quickly rather than by date. Make sure they always rotate older food items to the front to make sure they are used before they expire. This will discourage an inventory shortage due to spoilage.
6. Have Supplies Delivered More Frequently
While it’s easy to stock up on nonperishables, that doesn’t solve the problem of meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Talk with your supplier to see if you can increase the frequency that products are delivered if demand requires it.
Some vendors may charge a premium for additional deliveries, so find out if that’s the case. The holiday season provides your restaurant with a fantastic opportunity to boost sales and profit margins, but only if you plan ahead!
7. Plan a Seasonal Holiday Menu
The holidays are a perfect time to be creative with a new menu. It can be seasonal, or perhaps pre-fixe. Having a set menu will help you plan ahead and order enough ingredients to create a limited amount of dishes. Therefore, you’re less likely to encounter a food shortage situation.
Every seasonal menu item should have written documentation of the formula or recipe that it’s used in. This can help to ensure consistency between dishes or batches, and also ensure that your staff is not overdoing it on portion sizes, which could lead to food shortages.
8. Plan To Take Reservations
Allow restaurant reservations so you can be prepared to serve a set amount of people. Even if you decide to allow walk-ins too, you’ll have an approximate number of customers you will be prepared to feed.
Customers expect to make reservations during the holidays, so be ready to use a platform like OpenTable or Reso to make it easy for them. Make sure you clearly state your holiday reservation policies on your website and social media channels to discourage confusion.
9. Automate Your Inventory Ordering
Another helpful feature of restaurant management software is automated purchasing and order management. You don’t have to lift a finger to order items that you’re running low on, rather, you can set an automation rule to order an item when you hit your par level.
Your suppliers will receive your order automatically and you can relax knowing that a replacement delivery is on its way. This both saves you time from having to manually place orders, and also eliminates human errors that come with handwritten orders (is that a 4 or 7?)
10. Close The Next Day
If you plan to stay open for official holidays, consider closing the day after to replenish your inventory so you don’t run into food shortages after a busy service. Plus, it gives your hardworking staff members a much needed break. Coming up with creative ideas to celebrate your employees during busy holiday weeks is important for raising morale, and giving them a day or two off is one of the best ways to achieve that.