The holiday season brings different challenges to different establishments, but there are some issues that are standard during this hectic time. Understanding these variables and setting up your restaurant staff for success is key to coming out on top during this busy season. Here's what you should know.

Have a Plan

Start by making a list of what changes you can expect during the holidays—both in terms of your business and guest behavior. For instance, do you often have big groups come in during the holidays and take over the dining room? Does your business slow down a bit because people are busy with the holidays? Rather than having to react to these situations, be prepared. To start with, get input from your employees so they feel like they're part of the plan and eventual solution. You can also be proactive by surveying your diners to find out their holiday-season habits.

Make Sure the Kitchen Is Ready

Holidays can be tricky as far as planning and staying on top of your menu. A large party can arrive and wipe out dishes, forcing you to 86 items and appear underprepared. If you know you have a really large party coming in, talk to the person who made the reservation and ask them if they're willing to distribute the menu to the group and choose meals in advance. Explain that you want their experience to go as smoothly as possible, and you want to know exactly how much to purchase and prepare. Keep a close eye on how many reservations are large parties, and have a system of communication in place when new reservations come in. All employees should work hard to keep the kitchen informed.

Prepare Team Members

Holidays represent a time when guest attitudes vary greatly. It's a jubilant time of year when people are celebrating and enjoying the company of family and friends, and occasionally, in large groups or work gatherings, some let go a little too much. Make sure you keep an eye on the alcohol consumption of your guests, and be prepared to ask intoxicated patrons to leave.

The holidays can also be a stressful time, so make sure your team is prepared to deal with strong personality traits. Remind them that they're responsible for keeping the restaurant and all guests in a positive place, and show your staff appreciation for their extra work and diligence. There are a number of ways to show this appreciation, whether it's with an employee event, gift cards, or a monetary bonus. It can even be a simple heartfelt "thank you, we couldn't have done it without you" at the end of a shift.

Adjust hours and shifts as necessary in order to alleviate any unnecessary stress for your team members. Remember that their success is largely dependent on the quality of managerial planning and leadership that you bring to the table. Bring in extra staff members as necessary, and have an extra busser or floater there to help when an especially large party is on the books. On the other hand, make sure your restaurant staff has plenty of personal time off during the holidays to prevent burnout.

Overall, the holiday season brings an exciting and potentially lucrative time for your business. Work hard to avoid scenarios that take away from potential success—comps, voids, menu shortages, and being understaffed can tarnish your long-term reputation. Plan ahead for the holidays, and you'll be able to enjoy the positivity that comes along with being prepared—team member satisfaction, increased sales, and a positive, lasting impression on your guests.