In the months and weeks leading up to the winter holidays, we’ll be sharing tips to help restaurants prepare for the busiest time of the year. Check back for more ways to make this your best holiday season yet, and see all of our tips here!
Holidays are big opportunities to wow guests with special dishes that don’t appear on your everyday menu, and prix fixe menus help streamline service on a busy night. But while some holiday diners do seek out the seven-course chef’s tasting menu, others simply want to celebrate with their usual favorites at their go-to restaurant. Either way is great for restaurants, but a word of caution:
If you are serving a set menu that guests can’t opt out of, it’s critical to communicate the change loud and clear, on every channel that is available to you.
Many of the negative reviews we see on holidays are from guests who had no idea that when they booked a table at a restaurant, they were opting in to a prix fixe menu they hadn’t seen. Guests tend to gripe when the menu they see online doesn’t match what’s offered on the big night, and they are extra sensitive to the perceived value of a menu, likely to call out small portions and high price tags. Here’s a sample one-star review from New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago:
“We were totally BLINDSIDED when we arrived as no one ever told us there was a set three course meal! We paid more than 200% more than we had expected to for the meal and then were told we had 10 minutes left at the table as dessert was served!!!!!!!!!!! They had every opportunity to advise of the menu as I spoke with them by phone on three separate occasions about the reservation!”
Take control of the experience by talking up your menu proudly with your staff and in marketing communications so it’s something guests look forward to with happy anticipation. Here are a few places to advertise a special holiday menu so your guests are delighted, not dismayed.
Website. Call out special promotions and menus front and center — not only will you entice guests to come in and celebrate with you, you’ll also set expectations accordingly.
OpenTable profile & promo pages. The “Special Offers” section of your OpenTable profile allows you to add details about holiday dining, happy hours, and anything else you are offering guests outside your usual routine. Describe your special menu here, and also make sure to describe it when you sign up for our holiday promos — the details will show up right next to the reservation link.
Reservationists & hosts. Anyone who is answering phones and taking reservations should have an in-depth knowledge of your holiday plans and holiday menus. When guests ask for a Christmas Eve table, let them know how excited you are about the menu your chefs have prepared — chances are, they will be, too.
Social media. You’re already using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social channels to invite guests to join you for holiday dining. Why not be more specific? Talk up your holiday plans here, and show photos of your cooks testing and tasting featured recipes to pique diners’ interest.
Email. Ahead of the holiday, email your database to thank them for celebrating with you and let them know how much you’re looking forward to seeing them. Reiterate the details of your menu in case anyone missed them in the booking process. This is your last chance to set expectations and generate excitement, so make the most of it.