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The holidays are a lucrative period for catering businesses. Business Insider notes that shoppers are more likely to spend their holiday budgets on dining experiences than in the retail market. Hopefully that means you’ll see an uptick in online catering orders this holiday season. That’s great news, right? But it also means you have to prepare so you have the right people in place to handle the work. Crafting a strong holiday restaurant staffing plan means you’re sure to master the rush with the same quality you give your customers all year. Here are five steps to get you started.

1) Identify Your Impending Holiday Needs

The first step in your restaurant staffing plan is to determine where you may need to hire seasonal staff. If your catering business has seen a few holiday seasons come and go, think back to where you most felt underprepared last year. Could your prep cooks handle increased orders? Did you have enough drivers? Was your management team prepared for increased shift hours and deliveries? If you’re a new catering business, where do you already feel stretched thin? Either way, you can’t afford to be understaffed come the holiday rush.

Next, look to the most frequently ordered menu items of prior holiday seasons and those that were increasingly popular this last year. You’ll need to order extra ingredients to make sure you can keep up with the increase. Confirm with your vendors that you can actually secure what you need. And then use any quiet time leading up to the holidays to have your current team clean out and reorganize storage spaces. Label storage areas clearly. Make sure the dry good items accessed most frequently during the holiday rush are easily accessible.

2) Hire Seasonal Staff

Once you’ve identified where you’ll most need extra hands, the next step in your restaurant staffing plan is to look to your “floater list.” This should include reliable past part-time employees and hourly workers with the flexibility to pick up shifts. Rehiring people who already know your business decreases your training time. If you still need more people, look to employees recommended by other franchise owners or caterers in your community. Or, you can post on traditional job boards.

Rehiring people who already know your business decreases your training time. Click To Tweet

According to a Kiplinger report, there are already labor shortages within the restaurant industry and competition for seasonal catering staff is high. Make sure you’re clear on which shifts you’ll have available and how long your holiday season lasts. Just remember it’s never too soon to start your search.

3) Prioritize Labor Efficiency

The holidays are not the time to create new menu items or extend accommodations. As Marcia Davis, Catering Director of Atlanta’s Portrait on a Plate warns, “Don’t go outside of what you do for a client.” Instead, use your restaurant staffing plan to prioritize labor efficiency so that you can confidently increase overall production.

Fully train seasonal staff before the holiday rush. When crunch time comes, pair up new staff with experienced employees to maximize energy, productivity, and quality service. Then make sure they have what they need to work their best. Check that vital cooking tools and machinery are in optimal working condition and that safety items like floor mats, protective equipment, and stocked first aid kits are easily available. Check on your delivery vehicles. Your busiest season is not the time to lose a truck to a major repair. Invest in any vital tune-ups or upgrades now so that your staff can transport orders safely when the pace picks up. If your staff knows you’re looking out for their needs, health, and safety, the more securely they will move through repeatedly busy days.

restaurant staffing plan

4) Anticipate Internal Holiday Overload

Before the rush, let your team know of any extended shift hours or added shifts to the overall schedule. It’s tempting to extend morning or evening hours, but that gives staff less time off in between to restore. Instead, consider adding a floater shift in between for staff who might not mind picking up an extra short shift now and then. When possible, give employees two days off in a row. Yes, this gets particularly complicated during the holiday rush. But think about how refreshed you feel after two days off. It will only make your team stronger when they return for work.

You may be delivering to offices that are open right up to each holiday. So ask your team to let you know their availability sooner rather than later. You won’t be able to please everyone, but they’ll know you’re doing your best.

5) Plan Your Own Holiday Celebration

You put massive amounts of energy into providing memorable food experiences for customers. Put that same care and attention into a post-holiday celebration with your team. Even if it’s well into the new year, it will boost morale if they know there’s a party waiting for them after the period of hectic delivery days. Express your gratitude to the team so you can set the tone for a healthy and successful new year.

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Jacqueline Raposo

Written by:

Jacqueline Raposo

Jacqueline Raposo is an expert interviewer. Her over 400 articles, essays, and podcast episodes feature Missy Robbins, Daniel Boulud, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and other such award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, managers, and hospitality personnel. Find her at www.jacquelineraposo.com or as @wordsfoodart.

Posted in: Food at WorkRestaurant

Tagged with: Budgeting, Draft Orders, Menu Planning, Staffing, Training Engagement