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restaurant holiday statistics

Holidays like Mother’s Day are well known in the restaurant industry for non-stop service, increased reservations, and packed dining rooms. While those holidays may look different as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the Upserve data team has found that guests are still looking for a special takeout or dine-in option when available.

Below are some statistics from our team that show what holidays during the pandemic have looked like for restaurants and tips on how you can maximize your revenue for the next one.

Restaurants Could See Up to a 306% Increase in Sales Holidays

Coronavirus shutdowns in the US began happening in mid-March. Since then, restaurant owners in every state have had to go through a variety of restrictions, reopenings, and every-changing protocols as the pandemic shifts. Throughout that time we’ve seen four major holidays – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and the Fourth of July – and found some interesting spending habits among customers.

Mother’s Day is Still a Top Restaurant Holiday

When compared to the Sunday before, restaurant sales for Mother’s Day 2020 saw a spike in sales of 229% on average. That number shot up to 306% in fine dining venues, while upscale/casual restaurants were second with an average 200% increase.

Though less popular for dining than Mother’s Day there was an average 151% rise in sales on Father’s Day 2020 when compared to the Sunday before. This is generally typical as the traditions for many families seem to be dining out on Mother’s Day and having cookouts for Father’s Day. And speaking of cookout traditions – Fourth of July 2020 sales were about the same or slightly down this year when compared to the Saturday the week before, another typical trend, even during non-pandemic times.

Some Spikes In Restaurant Sales Occur the Day Before a Holiday

As you prepare for upcoming holidays, whether you are available for dine-in or still doing to-go only, it’s important to understand which type of holiday you are preparing for. For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, people are celebrating on the holiday and that’s when you should be preparing your restaurant for an increase in sales. However, when it comes to a three-day weekend holiday like Memorial Day, which always falls on a Monday, you’ll want to prepare for a bump in sales on the Sunday before. 

Preparing for the 48-Hour Post-Holiday Dropoff

Even though we are still seeing a rise in sales during the holidays, overall sales are still down as the pandemic looms on so you want to make the most out of those days where guests are looking for a place to dine in or order to-go. Our team found out that a spike in sales during these holidays was followed by a below-average drop in restaurant sales during the 48-hour period following the increase. Keep reading for tips on how to capture the most holiday business and help balance out this two-day drop.

Preparing Your Restaurant and Staff for Busy Holidays During the Pandemic

In order to capture the spike in business during popular dining out holidays, and to recover from the 48-hour dropoff after, there are three key strategies you should plan for.

1. Bring in Customers by Marketing for Each Holiday

Your competition is also going to be trying to cash in on the holiday, so marketing to your customer base and potential guests on social media, via email, and in other areas is key to grabbing their attention and their business. 

Here are a few tips for running a successful restaurant marketing campaign:

  • Start early (but not too early). Start posting online and sending out email blasts about three weeks out from the holiday. If potential guests like what they see, they’ll lock in their decision early – but you’ll have to keep reminding them with additional posts and emails. Ramp up your social media posting frequency the closer it gets to the holiday itself, providing more details and doing a countdown to get folks excited.
  • Promote specials, discounts, hours, and events. Guests will want to know exactly what you are offering and how it’s different from your competitors. Give them all the information possible about the event so they can make an informed decision and you can showcase your offerings. This is also a great time to offer bundles, boxes or pre-fixe bulk meals if your customers plan to entertain or order for their family en masse.
  • Use enticing images. Don’t just tell your audience what specials you’ll be running for the holiday – show it to them! We all know people eat with their eyes first, so grab their attention with a high-quality photo of your most-ordered menu items.
  • Hit all possible marketing sources. Promote your holiday menu wherever possible so it gets in front of the most people – on social media, your website, to your email list, on signage in front of your restaurant, and more. If you have some money to put into advertising, try reaching new customers in your area with Facebook ads.
  • Partner with another business. While this isn’t a “must” for every campaign, partnering with another local business on a holiday package deal will get the word out to more customers. One example would be partnering with a local spa for Mother’s Day to offer a massage gift card and brunch package.

2. Schedule Extra Staff for the Spike

You obviously already know you’ll need more staff for a busy holiday than you would for an average day, but since we’re in pandemic times it’s important to make sure you have an even distribution of the types of staff you’ll need. It’s not just a busy kitchen and dining room you’ll have to worry about. 

Make sure there are enough people to also manage the higher volume of online and phone orders, extra BOH staff to prepare those orders, and delivery drivers, if applicable. You may also need to make extra space, both in the kitchen and in the FOH, so that your staff isn’t tripping over each other as some try to service in-house guests while others manage to-go.

3. Save Time and Money with Integrated Online Ordering

A restaurant POS with an online ordering system built-in is designed to give you more control and save money on third-party fees (up to 30%). Since the entire system can be integrated, orders are sent to the kitchen in seconds, not minutes, improving turnaround time, better allocating kitchen prioritization, and delivering food to happier customers. By owning your online ordering in-house, you also gain access to valuable customer insights which will help you market to your regulars better, as well as integrate with your restaurant’s loyalty program to encourage repeat visits. 

Why is turnover is so high, what is the actual cost, and how do you fix it? Find the answers in our Staff Management ebook.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.