A server prepares a festive holiday table for guests

How Will You Measure Holiday Dining Success?

The data you collect this year can make future holiday seasons even brighter.

The holiday season is filled with busy tables, banquets, office parties, catering, gift card sales and so on. It’s hard to know what’s working until things slow down. If you can’t track your results in the moment, take time to do a post-holiday review. You’ll be glad you did—it’s essential for measuring success and making course corrections. Here are some places to look:

Mine your data

Data is the operator’s best friend, says Doug Clayton, a Brighton, Michigan-based Commercial Sales Manager.

You were too busy to notice, but your POS system compiled a wealth of information, and one thing you want to watch is your guest count. A year-over-year increase is a clear sign of success. The more people you get in your doors, the more chances you have to build business.

Track your guests

If you use a reservation system like Open Table, you can create a file on customers, noting whether it’s a first or repeat visit. You can also examine online metrics, collected outside the four walls of your business. A Facebook business account, for example, provides numbers about potential customers clicking on your site, such as who, what, when and where they look. Facebook and google.com analytics are free, and so is checking online reviews on yelp.com, tripadvisor.com or eater.com.

Breaking it down

Holiday-season foodservice has a lot of moving parts. Jim Milliman, a Tennessee-based Business Solutions Specialist, urges keeping a “Holiday File” to track information. Some areas to include:

Holiday promotions. Did your holiday marketing result in more people booking parties? Milliman says the amount of pre-booked parties for next year is a signal your promotions this year set your operation apart.

  • LTOs. Holiday themes can be very profitable marketing tool. Clayton says if you measure the success of holiday appetizers, special desserts, seasonal beverages and celebratory entrées, you may discover ways to create a similar mood and promote similar offers at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Easter.
  • Gift cards. Don’t just track sales, track when the cards are redeemed, how many guests the user brings, and the check average. “Gift cards are often given to a new customer by a friend who likes your restaurant,” Milliman says. “Train your staff to engage with these new customers, or capture a repeat visit with a bounce-back promotion, like a free dessert with their next meal.”
  • Catering. Gauge your success by measuring repeat business, and make sure to send out notes to those you served, especially corporate customers likely to call you again.
  • Staffing. Operators are always looking to add quality employees, Milliman says. The holidays allow you to hire temporary people and watch them perform. Clayton says those with high morale and the ability to create buzz at the table that translates into sales of your holiday specials are keepers. “Ask them for referrals so you have a pool of candidates to call upon—at the very least, those people might be your temporary workers next season.”