The Restaurant Holiday Rush: How to Prepare for the Busiest Season

By Katie McCann

Four friends sitting at a restaurant having a good time as the waiter takes thier order.

Does the restaurant holiday rush have you feeling swamped? If it does, it may be time to invest in key restaurant tech that can help to lighten the load and streamline your operations.

The busy holiday season is a welcome time of the year: With more guests, comes more revenue and profits. But, the restaurant holiday rush isn’t without its problems. 

You have to contend with a multitude of challenges. You have to make sure you have enough staff on shift to cope with an influx of guests. You also need to make sure every one of these guests is still getting VIP treatment, despite the craziness. Not to mention, managing all the takeout and delivery orders coming in.

And that’s only the half of it.

We don’t need to tell you it’s challenging to maintain your sanity during these periods – you already know that. What we can tell you is how to better cope in these times. The solution? 

Investing in the right restaurant tech.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to handle restaurant holidays, including:

  • A modern POS system
  • An integrated payments solution
  • Restaurant reservation software
  • An in-house online ordering system
  • A restaurant loyalty program
  • Physical and digital gift cards

The Tech You Need to Prepare for the Restaurant Holiday Rush

The right restaurant tech will assist in handling all the challenging scenarios associated with the holiday rush, as well as popular restaurant holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

It will also help you save time on all those general restaurant tasks you have to do regardless of the season, like analyzing reports and managing operations. The time-savings lighten your load and make running a restaurant during busy times just a little more manageable.

Read on to learn about six key restaurant technologies you can use to overcome the challenges of the restaurant holiday rush and ensure your operation runs like clockwork.

Bartender using a restaurant POS system.

1. A Modern Point of Sale (POS)

A POS system is your restaurant’s central transactional hub. Unlike traditional cash registers that simply record transactions and rely on staff taking orders via pen and paper, a modern POS like TouchBistro can do so much more, including:

  • Integrated payments processing 
  • Manage inventory
  • Schedule staff
  • Track labor
  • Monitor key data points
  • Tableside ordering

How a Modern POS Can Help During the Holiday Season

A modern POS is particularly useful during peak periods like the holidays because it:

  • Integrates with other software and systems to streamline your operations: Some of these integrations include staff scheduling, restaurant reservation software, integrated payments, and more. When all of these integrations work seamlessly with your POS, you have a powerful all-in-one restaurant management system to help manage restaurant holidays.
  • Is mobile: It can be tricky to keep up with the pace of business during busy times. A modern POS offers mobility, allowing you to process transactions quicker and improve the workflow between the front and back of house. This mobility benefits full and quick service restaurants. In full service restaurants, servers can take orders at the table without an extra step of returning to the counter to input it. In quick service restaurants, counter staff can bust through long lines to process orders on an iPad before they even get to the front, ensuring customers get served on time.

But, perhaps, the real strength of a modern POS sits in the data it provides you to handle the peak periods. You can have many different types of POS reports, including labor reports that can help you make better scheduling decisions and save money. 

These labor reports will help you:

  • Identify your best servers to schedule for peak periods: Detailed shift and tip reports tell you who is making the most sales and keeping guests happy. These are the servers you’ll want to schedule when things get busy.
  • Keep an eye on theft and implement restaurant loss prevention strategies: During peak season, everyone is so busy with their jobs that it’s easy for theft to go unnoticed. But a POS provides detailed no-sale reports and deleted items to quickly identify if any shady business is happening in the background.
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2. Integrated Payments

During a busy service, taking orders is only half the battle. The other half is processing payments.

And that’s where an integrated payments solution comes in.

Integrated payments refers to credit card processing that’s tied directly to your POS system, so data can flow seamlessly from one platform to the other. For instance, TouchBistro Payments Powered by Chase is a three-in-one hardware, software, and support solution that connects payments directly with your TouchBistro POS.

By bringing these two systems together, it makes payment processing faster, easier, and a more seamless experience for everyone involved. Plus, you enjoy surprise-free pricing and expert support.

How Integrated Payments Can Help During the Holiday Season

An integrated payments solution like TouchBistro Payments can help your restaurant year-round, but it’s especially helpful during the holiday rush because it:

  • Saves time: An integrated payment system talks directly to your POS, which ultimately shortens the amount of time between when the transaction is entered in your POS and when the transaction is complete. This saves both staff and customers valuable time during a busy service.
  • Eliminates manual data entry and prevents errors: Using an integrated payment solution eliminates the need to manually type each customer’s card information into your credit card readers because all the necessary information is already ready when you initiate the process using your payment terminals. This can help to prevent costly errors when staff are at their busiest.
  • Strengthens security: Integrated payment systems help to reduce your risk of fraud because they provide you with the hardware, software, and services to accept payments safely and more securely. This is especially important during the holidays because the holiday season is peak time for credit card fraud.
  • Improves the customer experience: A POS-integrated payment solution allows you to accept all payment types, including magstripe, dip, tap, mobile payments, and even card-not-present transactions. This means you can provide all your customers with a seamless payment experience, even during one of the most hectic times of the year.
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3. Restaurant Reservation Software

Restaurant reservation software is a tool you use to digitally manage table bookings. With a system like TouchBistro Reservations, you can accept new bookings, store guest data, send automated text reminders to guests, and use reports and data to make informed decisions.

How Reservation Software Can Help During the Holiday Season

Tracking bookings, controlling your waitlist, and even managing diner preferences – these are just a few of the many tasks you need to handle with restaurant reservations

It seems straightforward enough, right? 

Well, if you’ve ever tried to manage reservations when you’re busy, you know how tricky it can be – especially if you rely on handwritten notes and spreadsheets. It becomes easy to mix up bookings, forget to remind guests about reservations, and even write down information wrong.

Software like TouchBistro Reservations helps you organize the chaos, ensure everyone gets a seat, and boost profits. Here’s how:

  • Create and store guest profiles: Use this information to create targeted promotions and treat guests like VIPs, even at your busiest. Save notes about allergies, dining preferences, or special dates so guests don’t need to remind you on each subsequent visit.
  • Take reservations from multiple sources: Diners can make these bookings anytime on your website, the TouchBistro Dine discovery platform, or Google. This means bookings aren’t limited to your open hours, ultimately giving busy guests more flexibility. 
  • Better manage your waitlist: You can inform diners automatically via text or email when a table opens up and better predict wait times for people waiting for tables – a major bonus during peak meal times.
  • Reduce no shows: Send automatic text or email reservation reminders, so you don’t need to have a dedicated staff member calling people with reminders all night. You can even choose to charge no-show fees to give your business a financial cushion against no-shows. 
  • Tweak your floor plans and optimize your tables to increase sales: For example, you can redistribute tables among your servers based on how busy you are.
  • Access these online reports remotely from any device: Access reports anytime – even after hours – so you can plan ahead and better manage the holiday rush.
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4. Online Ordering Software

In addition to managing the major influx of diners during the holidays, you also need to prepare for an increase in takeout and delivery orders. According to a study conducted by ​​Technomic, a whopping 47% of people said they planned to order their entire holiday meal from a restaurant, which means you need to have a plan in place for higher takeout volume.

One of the best ways to manage your takeout and delivery channels during the holidays is to implement a direct online ordering system. An in-house online ordering solution like TouchBistro Online Ordering allows customers to place orders for takeout directly from your restaurant’s website. Those orders then flow directly into your TouchBistro POS in real-time so you can keep track of everything coming in – something that’s significantly more difficult if you’re still taking call-in orders by phone.

Restaurant chef wearing a holiday Santa hat while prepping orders for takeout.

How an Online Ordering System Can Help During the Holiday Season

Implementing an online ordering system ahead of the restaurant holiday rush has many benefits because it helps:

  • Streamline operations: With orders flowing directly into your POS, staff can easily manage and control incoming takeout and delivery orders. This is incredibly beneficial during the holidays, when order volume is at its highest.
  • Offer diners more flexibility: Software like TouchBistro Online Ordering gives diners the option to place orders for right now, or schedule them for later. This gives busy diners more flexibility and it helps your restaurant plan ahead for big holiday orders.
  • Speed up the pickup process: High turnover is essential during a busy holiday service. An online ordering system with integrated payments lets diners pay for their orders online, which allows for faster and more seamless pickups.
  • Drive repeat visits: The holidays are the perfect time to turn new customers into regulars with tempting offers and promotions. For example, the TouchBistro Online Ordering and Loyalty integration encourages repeat visits by allowing diners to place orders, earn points, and redeem rewards when they order online from your restaurant.

5. Loyalty Software

As mentioned above, the holidays are the perfect time to delight new customers and turn them into loyalty regulars. And the best way to do this is with a restaurant loyalty program.

A loyalty program like TouchBistro Loyalty is a system that helps you build customer loyalty by incentivizing your guests to dine with you repeatedly. Typically this is achieved by offering your loyalty program members exclusive promotions, discounts, or other special perks for visiting your restaurant. 

How a Loyalty Program Can Help During Busy Seasons

During busy periods like Thanksgiving and Christmas, a loyalty program can help your restaurant:

  • Deliver an exceptional customer experience: A loyalty program like TouchBistro Loyalty doubles as a restaurant CRM, which means you can capture valuable details about your guests like their food preferences. You can then use that information to craft personalized restaurant holiday promotions that will keep those guests coming back.
  • Keep guests engaged: A loyalty program can help keep your restaurant top of mind during even the busiest time of the year with tools like a custom web app that lets diners keep track of all of their rewards.
  • Boost sales: Platforms like TouchBistro Loyalty make it easy to craft targeted and personalized marketing campaigns so you can drive repeat business and influence guest spending.

6. Gift Cards

Though the holiday rush is great for business, you want to keep diners coming in year-round, which is where gift cards – and some savvy restaurant holiday gift card promotions – come in.

In a restaurant, a gift card is a prepaid, stored-value card that can be used as an alternative to cash for future purchases. These gift cards can come in the form of physical cards that diners can carry in their wallets, or digital gift cards that are virtual and can be stored in a customer’s email or accessed via their phone. If you opt for a solution like TouchBistro Gift Cards, you can choose physical or digital gift cards for your restaurant.

How Gift Cards Can Help During Busy Seasons

Offering gift cards is a smart move during the holiday rush because this technology allows you to:

  • Attract new customers: 44% of people say they would try a new restaurant if they received a gift card for it, so offering gift cards could help new diners discover your restaurant post-holiday season. Plus you can keep customers back through fun promotions and events. Check out these restaurant Halloween ideas or Christmas promotion ideas for some party suggestions.
  • Generate immediate cash flow: Gift cards create immediate cash flow by injecting money into your business for goods that will be redeemed at a later time. And strong cash flow is valuable during the holiday season when you may have extra staff on payroll.
  • Boost check sizes: Gift cards often lead to larger covers. In fact, 80% of consumers who redeem their gift cards at fine dining and fast casual restaurants spend more than the value of the card when using one.
  • Drive seasonal revenue: While customers give gifts all year long, shoppers are eager to spend during the holiday season. Using a product like TouchBistro Gift Cards during the holidays is a great way to benefit from that seasonal generosity.

Running a restaurant during the busy season can be a nightmare as new challenges arise.

But it doesn’t have to be. You just need to implement the right technology and the restaurant holiday rush will be just as manageable as any other time of year. Even better, your restaurant will be equipped with everything needed for success in the year ahead.

Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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