Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and for the restaurants of the world that means a very busy day. Billions of dollars will be spent. There will be candles, flowers, and chocolate. There will be wine. Mostly, though, there will be millions of people taking their Valentines out to eat that night, and expectations will be high. It’s a night when the front-of-house really has to shine; every customer wants that perfect romantic dinner.
With that in mind, it becomes extra important to make sure your staff is up to the occasion. But you also have to set them up for success by setting clear expectations, and giving them the support they need. Here are some ways to keep your staff on track and delivering great experiences to each customer:
1. Don’t understaff.
Don’t even adequately staff. Have one or two extra bodies on hand to float between duties in the back or front of house as needed. Valentine’s Day dinners are known for their above-average check size. Put that extra revenue to good use by making sure you’ve got the staff to meet the night’s extra demand.
The amount of money you save by keeping that extra person home isn’t going to make or break your business. And the repeat business you get from customers who’ve had a memorable night at your restaurant will more than make up for the difference.
If you’ve got a staffing or time and attendance integration for your POS, now’s a good time to put it to use. Make sure your schedule is in order and that everyone’s confirmed their shifts. Use the communication tools within the software to broadcast out the night’s specials, reminders for dress code, or any other special instructions for the night.
2. Give your staff ample opportunity to catch their breath.
This is where having backup staff factored in to the mix can provide the most benefit. A busy night in a restaurant isn’t just busy. It can feel downright chaotic.
Employees who are overworked and stressed out simply won’t be able to put their best faces forward. Make sure to check in with any employees who look like they’re struggling and see if they need a hand. Better yet, see if they need 15 minutes to just settle down.
Having a table management app in place makes it easy to check the status of each of their tables. If everyone’s comfortably seated and eating, you can safely send your employee for her break. Send the backup over to check in with the customers, ad you’ve got things covered. When break time is over, it’s simple to check in with the Tables app and see if anything new has been added to the order.
3. Change your menu to prix-fixe for the night.
People tend to have a lot of special requests on Valentine’s Day. Maybe a man asks the waiter to deliver flowers to his date before the appetizer comes out. Maybe an engagement ring goes into a champagne glass. Or the sound system plays DeBussey’s “Claire de Lune” at 8PM.
Your waitstaff will generally be involved in the execution of these special requests, which adds an entirely new dimension to their jobs. One way to simplify things for them is to change up to a prix-fixe menu—multiple courses and tastings that are for the most part pre-set in their execution and delivery.
Preset menus don’t just eliminate the potential for getting an order wrong, they also adhere to a pretty strict timing. That kind of predictability can help your wait staff more easily manage all the other tiny details that Valentine’s Day brings to the mix. It can also increase the efficiency of your kitchen, which won’t have to adapt to every new order that comes in.
4. Offer paired dinners, perfect for sharing.
Don’t put this on your menu. Instead, when customers look like they’re having a hard time choosing their entrees, have your waitstaff offer to split the two meals across both plates so they can share. Alternatively, identify pairs of entrees that would complement each other.
“The lobster ravioli goes really well as a side to the strip steak. Would you both like a little of each on your plate?”
Offering menu guidance, as well as the opportunity to create what feels like a meal more personally prepared for them, gives staff an opportunity to shine and make the meal memorable.
In some ways, a holiday like Valentine’s Day is what the hospitality industry was made for. At its most basic, hospitality is providing a service and experience that turns customers into pampered guests. It’s a day that’s celebrated by indulging all the senses, and it falls to those in the industry to facilitate those indulgences.
Keeping staff organised, supported, and ready to take care of customers requires an extra effort on Valentine’s Day. The stakes are high, but so is the reward.