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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and the prime time for retailers to turn a profit.  With 152 million shoppers expected to hit retail stores this upcoming weekend, restaurants can also cash in with Black Friday discounts. Are you and your staff ready to handle the hungry shopping crowds?

Here are 10 tips (courtesy of to make this a happier, more profitable time for your restaurant, enabling you to capture new customers, increase volume and sales, and establish a loyal clientele for the slow winter months in 2013.

1. Devise a holiday plan with your chefs and managers. Get creative. Treat the five weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year as though they were one long weekend.

2. Staff awareness and focus is critical. Have a full staff meeting outlining your plan, stressing the importance of customer care and service, and reminding the staff that tips increase during the holidays if service is smooth.

3. Establish a variety of holiday specials. Highlight them on your menu. Make sure the items can be prepped early, cooked quickly, and presented with celebratory flair.

4. Portion control equals profits. During the holidays portions can be smaller, as many people are more weight-conscious. This is a proven method to cut food costs and boost profits. Check out MenuMax and the capability it offers when tracking food costing and inventory.

5. Serve up some holiday cheer. Customers love special holiday drinks. Delve into a bar book or two and recreate a few retro holiday drinks to fit your demographic. It is a proven profit center.

6. Consider “catering for the table.” Many businesses have opted for department Christmas parties rather than the huge corporate blow-outs that once symbolized the good years. Offer to prepare a special meal for a larger party. This not only takes some heat off the kitchen but allows for built-in profit.

7. Promote your restaurant. Just because the streets are busy doesn’t mean your restaurant is top of mind. Social networking, email, and that old-fashioned check holder insert are the perfect avenues to let customers know about your holiday plans.

8. Make every trip into your restaurant an experience. Starbucks preaches “the customer’s journey” to their managers and staff. The Starbucks experience begins when the door opens and doesn’t end until the customer finishes his or her drink. If Starbucks’ preaches it, you should too.

9. This too shall end. Five weeks, that’s all you get. Then January knocks on the door. Waistlines have expanded, cash has diminished, and credit card bills come due. But people still need to eat. Holiday bounce-backs – those small incentives to keep customers coming in after the holidays - are vital to your cash flow momentum. Create a few specials, and give them out freely.

10. The customer Christmas gift. These are important. Do not forget to give your best customers a gift certificate for Christmas. Make it generous enough for two, but not generous enough for three or four. It will pay off. Don’t be stingy. It is Christmas. And nothing succeeds like a busy restaurant – especially on a cold Tuesday in January.

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