8 Crucial Tips for Managing Restaurants During Busy Seasons

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Thursday, October 26 2023

The busy season in the restaurant biz is the crème de la crème in terms of customer volume-to-profit ratios. It’s also, to the chagrin of restaurateurs in places with a talent shortage, from Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, and all of Riverside County, a time of strain for filling a robust team. 

That’s where these eight critical tips for managing restaurants in busy seasons come into play. Here at Culinary Staffing, we’ve been fulfilling staffing needs for all restaurant seasons since 1999. We’ll satiate your staffing needs, with these tips making it easier to manage all aspects of your business through the busy seasons.

The Association of Busy Restaurant Seasons and High Demand of Service Workers

The best thing about busy seasons in the restaurant industry is the influx of business and a boost to your profits. On the other side, and particularly for communities with limited hospitality talent, there’s the difficulty of having a lack of consistent staff during these busy times. 

With so many of your workers consisting of seasonal hires, when it gets hectic, staff gets snatched up quickly by all the competing restaurants in the area. These eight tips for managing restaurants during the busy seasons focus on the core needs of staff you already have without sacrificing any part of the customer experience.

1. Make Your Core Staffing Roles a Priority

Sometimes there won’t be seasonal staff available for the entirety of your dream team. It’s inevitable in locations short on talented team members, especially during the busy seasons. When these times come up, prioritizing support for your core staffing roles maintains your restaurant’s standards of exceeding customers’ expectations without pulling your hair out over staffing.

Maybe your ideal staffing for front-of-house is eight people, but you can work sufficiently with five. Perhaps your back-of-house needs 12 team members, but 10 will do the job. Find what can work and keep it as a baseline when the staff you want isn’t available.

2. Focus on Cross-Training Your Team

Team members who can assist across your restaurant not only means you can work more efficiently with less staff but it also means you’ll have a team of exceptionally qualified workers. Cross-training your team on serving, hosting, bussing, and administrative tasks gives you staff you can rely on in the tough times.

When you’re searching for staff, keep an eye out for folks who already have experience around a restaurant and are flexible. In addition to seeking those who possess multiple restaurant skills, go in-depth in your training process, to give all employees the tools they need to provide full-scale support.

3. Lean Into Flexible Scheduling When You Can

Oftentimes the difference between having the staff you need and what is “available” is dependent on the reputation you have among service workers. Among networks of potential staff, flexible schedules are the talk of the town. 

The staff you want won’t necessarily be available every day, for a particular set shift. They could, however, be ready to work as shift coverage, swing shifts, or set times outside of a full-time position. You can have a fully staffed restaurant made up of flexibly scheduled staff. Giving future employees those options for flexible or casual scheduling will keep your head above the rising tide of a busy season.

4. Do What You Can to Streamline Menus and Operations

When you’re working with a smaller staff and a heavy influx of customers the more you can streamline operations, the better! For your menu, this means prepping ingredients in advance, offering a limited menu selection to ensure perfection in each dish, and managing your inventory to prevent worrying about running out of specific ingredients for a particular dish. 

For restaurant operations overall, the best path toward effective and enjoyable service is a number of familiar contingency plans. If a staff member calls in sick, have management prepared to step into their role. In the case of a menu item being unavailable, have something comparable ready to offer to your customers.

5. Make Use of Technological Support

There are an array of different duties in your restaurant that require human attention. On the other side, there are basic functions that can be carried out through technological support. Some of the best options include:

  • Online reservation software
  • Ordering kiosks
  • Kitchen display systems
  • Inventory management programs
  • Multiple digital payment offerings and a well-tuned POS system
  • Staff scheduling software

These software assistants can trim down the number of tasks you assign to each individual staff member. Heck, some of them reduce the need for specific staffed positions! Additionally, all of the above come together to save you time and help mitigate stress.

6. Find Ways to Reduce Non-Essential Tasks

There are countless foundational tasks completed in your restaurant each day. Opening and closing checklists are a must, as are sanitization standards, table bussing, and high-traffic area organization. There are also tasks that, while important, aren’t essential in crunch time, such as:

  • Intensely frequent cleaning of low-traffic areas of the restaurant
  • Overly complex plating practices
  • Excessive wine and cocktail lists
  • Overt decor updates
  • Immoderate menu printing

There are ways to trim operating tasks and avoid wasted time. For menu printing, switch to QR code menus. When it comes to excessive wine and cocktail lists, offer a limited selection suited to your menu items. Find ways around these unreasonable demands on your finite schedule during peak seasons.

7. Constantly Search for Ways to Improve Efficiency

Restaurants excel when they have efficient practices, and there are always ways to be more efficient. Brainstorm a list of efficient practices to implement when the busy season hits. Some ideas to get you started are:

  • Scheduling regular maintenance on equipment ahead of time, to steer clear of hiccups and avoidable breakdowns.
  • Streamlining your table clearing and dish cleaning processes, to minimize time between guest arrival and when they’re seated.
  • Utilizing data analytics in all aspects of your restaurant, to make sure no aspect of the customer experience slips through the cracks.

Finding ways to be more efficient is a worthwhile effort, especially when you’re short on staff and time in periods of high demand.

8. Ensure Health and Safety Are Top Priorities

There are functions you can cut down on when you’re short-staffed and pressed for time, and then there are standards you can’t skimp on, even in busy times. The most important piece, vital to running a restaurant, is health and safety. When you’re putting your restaurant through the paces of the busy season, you cannot afford to prune any safety steps. 

To keep food safety and health standards at the top of your priorities list dedicate a major part of your staff training to ensuring and building in time for the execution of proper safety procedures. This focus will ensure your customers are safe and happy which is, after all, the end goal.

Frequently Asked Questions About Managing Restaurants In Busy Seasons

Managing restaurants during busy seasons creates an urgent need for staff to meet the rush of customers. It parallels your management practices in slow seasons. Dive into these frequently asked questions to learn about the balance between busy and slow seasons and the overall effects of seasonality in the restaurant business.

How Can a Restaurant Deal with Seasonality?

The best way for a restaurant to deal with seasonality, especially when it comes to busy seasons, is to prepare in advance. This can mean having a pool of potential seasonal hires lined up as well as creating a streamlined menu that showcases the best of the best for these hectic times. Whatever the case, preparation is key to managing seasonal difficulties.

What Is the Busiest Season for Restaurants?

The busiest seasons for restaurants, most especially in the Palm Springs locale, are fall, winter, and early spring. These chilly seasons are the times when people flock to the welcoming desert climate, looking for warm weather and delicious meals. 

What Are the Slow Months for Restaurants?

The slow months for restaurants in this desert neck of the woods are generally April through early September. There is a noticeable limit on how many people visit the desert in these months, preferring to stay in slightly cooler climates. These months are your time to prepare for the busy season coming around the bend.

What Is the Slowest Day In the Restaurant Business?

The slowest days in the restaurant business are Mondays and Tuesdays. You can work against this early-week slowdown by offering happy hour deals or specialized limited-time menus offered only on these days. Some restaurants close their doors on Mondays, which can be useful for preparing for the weeks ahead.

What Are the Top Five Busiest Days for Restaurants?

The top five busiest days for restaurants are the following holidays:

  1. Mother’s Day
  2. Valentine’s Day
  3. Father’s Day
  4. New Year’s Eve
  5. Easter

The best way to prepare for these uniquely jam-packed days is to have specially curated menus for them. Each of these days is a time to celebrate something specific, so your menus should reflect those specificities.

Busy Seasons, Restaurant Management, and Hiring with Ease 

The tips, strategies, and tricks outlined above will set you up for success with the staff you currently have when the busy seasons hit. Culinary Staffing can also help fulfill your customer service standards in that regard. 

We’ve spent the past few decades building a network of service industry professionals, who are just a call away as you see your staffing demands increase. Reach out to our experts at Culinary Staffing today and find the staff you need!