QSR: How Restaurants Can Prepare for the Holiday Blitz
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Dickey’s maximizes holiday business by offering special meal options and a new delivery service.
Compared with other industries—say, transportation or retail—foodservice may seem immune to the holiday hustle and bustle. Nevertheless, restaurants do feel the sway of the season in myriad ways; chains anchored in malls will almost certainly experience an uptick in traffic, while consumers hosting friends and family will gravitate to concepts that offer catering and delivery services. Some operators will extend their business hours and hire seasonal employees to offset heavy demand and maintain the “fast” in fast food and fast casual.
Beyond these logistical considerations, the holidays present a special opportunity for restaurants to reach new customers and strengthen loyalty among existing ones by doubling down on quality and convenience. A seasonal LTO wouldn’t hurt either.
BEN KOENIG / Owner and Cofounder, Heritage Eats
The holidays are always a frenetic time of year for people, and the same is true for our business. We place a larger emphasis on our catering and events outreach during the holidays because we know that is when people really focus on opening up their homes to friends and family. We love being a part of those memorable events and magic moments.
In general, we do not hire seasonal employees. We do make a habit of “sharing” employees, however. We bolster our on-site teams at locations where we need the extra support. It works great for everyone involved: We are able to slot people into a new environment without skipping a beat and keep our team members fully scheduled and paid during a critical time for them, too. The staff members who are shifted into new units temporarily also look at it as a bit of a reward and tend to enjoy the change.
I have found that in our segment, the holidays are a time to lean on what gives you a competitive advantage. We play to our strengths of being affordable, fresh, conveniently located, and fast. Capitalize on the fact that everyone is busy. Also, remember that the holidays are a special time of year for your staff, too, so be sure to keep morale high by finding ways to keep it light and fun.
CHARLEY SHIN / CEO & Founder, Charleys Philly Steaks
We are 80 percent mall-based, so there’s a fair number of new or infrequent users who experience our brand during the holiday season. To keep up with high volume, we hire additional seasonal employees.
We begin reminding our stores to start their holiday employment planning in August to ensure that excellent employees are vetted in time to properly train them before the holiday rush. Our food is made fresh to order, and there’s a certain level of skill needed to maintain our quality standards.
Planning is vital in all aspects of the business. If you’re talking about holiday promotional activities in October, you’re too late. Operationally, planning equipment checks and calibrations a few months out is important to maximize your sales and ensure you’re serving the highest quality.
Our product development and testing program is ongoing, and our planning cycle can be a year or more. We like to feature our signature Phillys, and this year we’re introducing a new promotional item, The Tavern Philly. It’s a classic mushroom Philly with a delicious, creamy horseradish aioli. It takes familiar flavors and puts a twist on them as only Charleys can do.
In January, we always review the previous holiday promotion. We not only look at the numbers, but also discuss the qualitative data that can only come from our field team and franchisees.
LAURA REA DICKEY / CEO, Dickey’s Barbecue
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has been helping guests with their holiday meals for more than 20 years. We were receiving requests for holiday caterings of full turkeys and hams and decided that full holiday meals would be beneficial not only for the brand, but also for all of our guests looking for an easy meal option.
Guests look to us for an easy and convenient holiday meal option, and we are happy to provide a variety of delicious proteins and savory sides for them year after year. By meeting guests where they are—whether they are looking for full-service catering or a place to eat while holiday shopping—and providing convenient products and services to ensure each guest has a stress-free holiday season. Dickey’s Delivers is a huge initiative and we are proud that we have implemented this important revenue stream this fall, and it will continue throughout the holiday season.
From an operations and training standpoint, we plan all year long for the holidays. The marketing team typically begins planning in the second quarter of every year. Before Thanksgiving and Christmas, everyone in the Dickey’s home office travels to locations system-wide and assists in preparing all of the pre-ordered holiday meals.