Busy, with a Chance of Crazy

Better, more accessible data in ever-greater abundance is one of the biggest stories of 2015 for restaurants and all foodservice operations. By this time next year, we may actually be able to predict the weather. For now, we’re pleased to present, below, this handy homegrown planning calendar of holiday data highlights.

We wish we could stuff the stocking of every KaTom customer with a version of this calendar bearing 3D-printed chocolates tucked behind little doors. Who knows? This, too, could be within reach soon given the pace of tech advancement in our industry. What we can offer you right now are some suggestions for applying national trends and insights to your business. We want to help you make the greatest profit under the sanest circumstances in what already looks to be a brilliantly busy season.

Four Fronts

Year-to-date results. Quarterly outlooks. Thanksgiving week. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, Hannukah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. The calendar rules as always, but to find sales and marketing opportunities for your restaurant within its relentless linear march, it’s helpful to sort customer giving-and-gathering behavior along four fronts: online and “nonline” shopping and dining, holiday travel, and the gift card phenomenon.

Digital Days and Nights
Consumer surveys indicate more holiday shopping than ever will be done online this year: almost half of all research, browsing, and buying, with a large and “skyrocketing” percentage of that–the highest since 2011–on mobile devices.

Restaurant Takeaway
Be mobile friendly. Make sure your restaurant’s website loads fast, looks legible, and is easily clickable in every browser and all kinds of lighting, and by fingers fat, gloved, fast, and slow. Keep the content current, socially consumable, and searchable by major engines, industry niche sites–like Yelp and OpenTable–and geolocators alike.

Card Currency
With 59 percent of consumers surveyed saying they’d like to receive one, gift cards are the most-requested item for the ninth consecutive year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). They are also a lucrative link between online and brick-and-mortar spending.

Restaurant Takeaway
Beef up the benefits of your loyalty program during the holidays, and offer gift cards with purchase to your restaurant, website, and social media visitors. Family promotions have particular appeal this season and menu-driven limited-time-offers can add depth and reach to your offering. Keep in mind that there are almost as many approaches to growing gift card sales as there are types of restaurant.

Ground Control
Asked what keeps them off the streets over the holidays and doing their buying online, shoppers said they disliked crowds most of all, then lines, the attitudes of other shoppers, and poor service. Restaurants face another challenge now that increasing numbers of retailers are hoping to draw shoppers into their stores with food and beverage offerings. And, lest we forget, during the most wonderful time of the year, it’s the family dinner table that takes the spotlight.

Restaurant Takeaway
Stay top-of-mind as a respite for shoppers by promoting online specials in your brick-and-mortar locations and by co-promoting with retailers–especially those who offer in-store pickup, a key consumer preference this year.

Go all out with your local partners for Small Business Saturday, an important window during the shopping season. Speaking of windows, they can work holiday magic on your sales, too. According to the NRF, window displays influence retail purchases about 24 percent of the time.

Restaurants that have their customer-loyalty, booking, and catering acts together are in for a possible windfall. “A surge in expense-account dining during the third quarter indicates the restaurant industry could see a double-digit jump this year in year-end corporate party sales, Restaurant Business magazine reports. Special events are another way to involve corporate customers and, with increased charitable giving predicted for this year, could push your fourth-quarter revenues well beyond expectations.

Holiday dining can seem like a perfect storm. Restaurant managers dread the task of staffing this quarter, what with illness, family commitments, employee travel, and the current labor shortage compounding the challenge. Guests who dine out on Thanksgiving and Christmas tend not to be regulars. Kitchen staff have to adjust to special menus. Yet more restaurants than ever have chosen to stay open, and diners’ expectations have risen accordingly. Thanksgiving has become the high-volume, large-party day of the year for a growing number of eateries.

Restaurant Takeaway
Fine-dining restaurants should seriously consider opening for Thanksgiving since overall holiday sales in their category have been declining. Restaurateurs who’ve promoted successfully can expect to offset the extra prep with comparatively easy execution and truly festive profits provided they offer a streamlined menu of traditional choices, group seating times, and carryout meals as well as table service.

Similarly, with more Americans enjoying holiday travel on record-cheap fuel and last-minute airline specials, fast-food restaurants and other chains can look forward to higher sit-down volume throughout the peak travel windows in this 61-day season. Data captured in recent years makes it easier than ever to scale food and labor costs for those windows and for big holiday-destination cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, among others.

With the price of everything from turkey to eggs appreciably lower this quarter, 2015’s holiday message is a resounding “stay open!”

2015 restaurant business holiday calendar

Elaine Evans
Elaine Evans Elaine Evans is thrilled to blog for KaTom, where her work in restaurants, bars, catering, and artisanal food has caught up at last with her career in journalism and public relations writing. Connect with Elaine Evans on Google+
  1. November 21, 2015 at 2:31 am, Dennis Duffy said:

    love those maps & charts!