Mother’s Day is the restaurant industry’s busiest day of the year. Approximately 80 million people enjoy a restaurant meal on the second Sunday in May each year, according to the most recent data from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). But did you know that Easter is No. 5 on the NRA list of busy holidays? Upwards of 33 million people celebrate Easter Sunday with a restaurant visit.
We asked a panel of Gordon Food Service Business Solutions Specialists to share their tips for maximizing Easter and Mother’s Day business—and for using those holidays to drive future sales.
Make sure you have a plan for every big holiday. Don’t leave things to chance and don’t rely on somebody’s memory of what you’ve done before. Write everything down, and start early; the post-Christmas lull is a great time to start planning for Easter, Mother’s Day and other spring events.
Start promoting your event 60 days out in-store and via social media. Even before that, you can reach out to your regulars by phone and email: “Shall I reserve a table for you?”
Consider offering a small discount or a special perk for reserving early. Mother’s Day roses and Easter candy baskets are great incentives. If you don’t normally take reservations, set up a system to accommodate them, even if it’s just training employees to take phone reservations.
Many restaurants do buffets on Easter and Mother’s Day because it turns tables more quickly, but it’s hard to do buffets well if you don’t do them all the time. You may not have the equipment you need. Consider a brunch instead to create a sense of occasion and extend serving hours.
People aren’t typically watching their diets on these holidays. Think about adding indulgent dishes, creating special desserts, adding a meat-carving station. Don’t be afraid to charge more than you ordinarily would for this special-occasion experience.
Just make sure your kitchen and serving staff can execute any deviations from the norm. The last thing you want to do is disappoint mom on Mother’s Day. You might never get that family back in your restaurant.
Servers can help the kitchen by guiding customers toward dishes that are easier to execute. That takes some skill, so be sure to role play scenarios with servers before the big day(s).
Think beyond food. What else can you do to enhance the dining experience? Valet parking? Live music? A complimentary mimosa for Mom? It’s the extra details that will make the experience really memorable.
Mother’s Day, especially, is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Make employees aware well in advance that they’ll all be expected to work it. Need additional staff? Start by reaching out to last summer’s crew. They’re already familiar with your operation.
Owners and managers should be on the floor greeting guests. You’re likely to welcome a number of first-timers, and you want to let them know you’d love to have them back.
New customers present the opportunity to beef up your contact list. Train reservation-takers or serving staff to capture contact information. Encourage guests to interact with you on social media to build an ongoing connection.
Promote your regular dining experience in-house during the holiday, and afterward via your expanded contact list. Consider offering a bounce-back to be redeemed on a return visit. A personal thank you emailed to holiday guests the next day is a great touch, especially when it’s paired with a special offer. The bottom line is Easter and Mother’s Day are great marketing opportunities. Do them right and they can boost your business throughout the year.
Sit down with your team a week or so after the event for a thorough debriefing. What went wrong? What went right? What’s ripe for improvement? Document everything so it’s right in front of you when you’re doing next year’s plan.
Gordon Food Service expert contributors:
Freddy Shier, Jr., Business Solutions Specialist, Great Lakes Central
Justin Barnes, Business Solutions Specialist, Great Lakes Central
Vicki Thompson, Business Solutions Specialist, Allegheny Valley
Tom Enyeart, Business Solutions Specialist, Central States