With January behind us, the hospitality industry is looking forward to brighter times ahead. This time of year brings several events that for most pubs and restaurants ensure some of the busiest days of the year. First among them comes Valentine’s Day, a time for amorous pampering that tends to spread into a week-long festival of romantic meals for two and bumper champagne sales. March then brings Mothers’ day, another chance for inventive special menus, and for many the year’s best Sunday in terms of driving sales.

The days themselves can be relentless. The first wave of guests arrives early in the day, and while you are intent on delivering great service and food, you’re also worrying about whether you can turn tables around in time for the next sitting. Whether you have couples whispering sweet-nothings, or mothers basking in the glow of familial affection, customers are likely to linger over their meals, making you hard-pushed to stay on top. Weariness kicks in, and staying as good at 8PM as you were at noon is not an easy fight.

Preparation is Key

Events like these can test most of the processes in the businesses, all the way from prep to pot wash. Being fully prepared and 100% ready to swing into action is crucial to the successful running of your busiest days. That doesn’t just mean having a tidy kitchen ready to go. It means having a kitchen cooking in advance of tickets. It means having cold starters and deserts plated. It means having enough lemons chopped for the whole day and every detergent bottle filled.

Special Occasions as Opportunities & Examples

Many sites recognise special occasions are essential to their business, and therefore treat them as special cases, preparing especially well. But why shouldn’t this happen every day when you expect to be busy, like sunny Saturdays, payday weekends, or big sporting nights? What about every weekend? How much easier would every Sunday be if we treated it like Mothers’ Day? How much better would we cope with a full house on a Friday night if we prepared for it as well as we did for Valentine’s night? The actions we have no choice but to employ if we are to succeed on special occasions should be habits we choose to adopt the whole year round.

With these habits made the norm, many businesses would soon find themselves delivering better service at lower cost, and then maybe every Sunday would be like Mothers’ Day, every night like Valentine’s. A full house would cease to be an exception because we’re so good at what we do that we’re always full. Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it”, so let’s use this season’s big events as a golden opportunity to embed the key practices that will help us not just imagine success, but achieve it.

Image result for valentine's day pub

Valentine’s Day is a chance for bumper food and drink sales

Our top tips for Special Occasion Success

1 – Create prep lists well in advance of the big day and tick off items as you do them. Prepare food items that won’t deteriorate as early as you can to get them out of the way.

2 – Plan the pre-staging process and space for cold starters and desserts. Have enough food plated and ready to go, allowing you to deliver at speed and wow your guests with an efficient kitchen, even at the busiest times.

3 – This is the perfect time of year to order in any crockery, cutlery, and other items you need. You shouldn’t then need to order again until next year.

4 – Figure out the pot wash process and don’t let it be a block. Make sure there is an organised way to put the crockery and cutlery down and install shelving if you need to.

5 – Map the flow of your bookings very carefully, allowing longer for bigger tables. Don’t be afraid to max out on bookings, as cancellations are always likely.

6 – Stagger your bookings to relieve the pressure on the kitchen.

7 – Task a team member with floating front of house, charged with processing bills, setting tables, and any other odd jobs that arise.

8 – Be flexible. It is essential that the manager doesn’t get stuck in one place, but can see the whole building, reacting to pressure points by either adjusting staff or stepping in themselves.

9 – Brief your team as thoroughly as you can. Make sure everyone fully knows their role, set targets and encourage upselling; people in a festive mood are the most likely to splash out on extras.

10 – Keep your team fresh. For those working long shifts the fatigue is real and they need drinks and food. Be generous with your praise, as after all, that’s the biggest energiser there is.

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