With the holidays fast approaching, now’s the time to be prepping your venue and your staff for what’s to come during this often-hectic season. To help you better prepare for holiday event sales, we created this guide comprised of relevant data, tips, and quotes from events experts to make sure this busy season goes off without a hitch. Here’s to hoping this year’s holiday events are your most successful yet! Some restaurants notice a decline in patrons during a seasonal holiday, with sales dropping as much as 20 percent. Holiday private dining inquiries generally peak in October, at least two months before the December holiday season. Holiday spending in 2016 was the strongest in five years. When it comes to private event bookings during the holidays, the majority are corporate events, such as company holiday parties. Tips from the Pros Download Guide Consider catering. Restaurant Hospitality reports that fourth-quarter catering sales are the highest of the year. R Magazine suggests testing what menu items can be delivered and served, promoting the service on social media, and make sure everyone on your staff knows the details in case they get asked by customers. Make sure you’re stocked with staff. Hiring a few extra workers during the holiday season helps pick up the slack that may be left by those taking time off for the holidays. This will help ensure your venue can take on as many private events as possible, while also offering the level of customer service your clients deserve. Embrace weekdays. Fridays and Saturdays are obviously popular days when it comes to holiday parties. But pros suggest that weeknight events will keep business booming, and open you up to a ton more potential clients, since weekend evenings tend to fill up so quickly. If weekends are filling up, consider sweetening the deal with a weeknight discount. Ramp up marketing efforts. Revel Systems explains that the holidays are the time of year to show customer appreciation through loyalty offers, exclusive meals and services. Their recommendation? “Tap into the spirit with window displays, festive decor, and seasonal banners that cater to your target market.” Check your data to plan ahead. Sirvo recommends looking back at your numbers and other data reports from the last holiday season (if you were using Gather last year, this will be a breeze!) to see when peak times were and how many sales you made. This will also help when determining how much staff you’ll need. Keep an eye on inventory. The pros at scheduling software Humanity say it’s imperative not to run out of menu items during this time. “There’s nothing wrong with over-forecasting your needs,” they report, “in fact, that’s recommended.” Again, taking a look at your inventory from past holiday seasons will help you better gauge what you’ll need this time around. Q&A: What the Experts Are Saying Gather talked with Elisabeth Flaherty, Director of Events at High West Distillery in Park City, Utah, about how to prepare for your venue’s busy season, making the best use of slower months, and more. You’ve been at High West since 2009 — what are some of the biggest lessons you learned about running a private events program? I’ve learned the importance of having processes and procedures in place. In the beginning, we wanted to customize every menu and every experience. We still like to customize, but now we have the ability to steer our clients in the right direction and better manage expectations. We try to really educate our clients on what has worked best and what will work best in our space for their event. We act as a resource to our clients as opposed to just managing everything. How do you prepare your venue and staff for the busy season? We gear up at the beginning of our season by reviewing the roles and responsibilities of each team member to ensure roles are clearly defined. High West hosts a multi-day training for all staff members. It’s important for everyone at the restaurant to meet one another and get excited for the upcoming busy season. From an event-team perspective, we want to have a strong relationship with all areas of the restaurant to make sure everyone from our kitchen team, to our venue operations managers, has an open line of communication. What do you all do during slower months that helps you manage busier ones? We have started hosting “Start Stop Continue” sessions at the end of each busy season. Along with our event team members, we have representatives from our culinary team, bar team, front of house team and operations team, to participate in this meeting. We review the past season and dive into what worked well, what didn’t work well, and where do we go from here. It’s extremely helpful to capture all this data and review before the next summer or winter season (our busy seasons). How has Gather helped you manage growing event sales? Having access to Gather has been a tremendous timesaver. It has empowered everyone on the High West team to access event specific material in real time. It’s been a huge help and allowed us to grow.