Where to go out on Christmas Day? If being asked 10 years ago, people would suggest a classic bundle of the nearest cinema and Chinese spot. However, things have changed since then. Now, a number of restaurants all over the U.S. are open on December 25. National chains have been the first to establish a new trend. In the 2010s, corporate-owned locations of almost all quick-service restaurants have operated on Christmas Day at least with limited hours.

It seems that people get used to dining out on Christmas Day. They check what menus and entertainments their favorite restaurants offer on the date. If it appears that their favorite restaurant is closed, they search online for “restaurants open on Christmas” to find alternatives. Striving to meet the demand, news, media, and entertainment websites provide listings of restaurants that operate on Christmas Day. Some of them serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or even stay open 24 hours.

These listings usually include 20–50 national chain restaurants with the details on the operation hours for corporate-owned locations and the availability of special Christmas menu. People are advised to call the spot before heading there, however, they can count on chains as on an “emergency dining option.”

Do quick-service restaurants benefit from being open on Christmas Day?

In 2012, press discussed the statements of Jim Johannesen, then-McDonald’s USA Chief Operating Officer, who claimed Christmas Day to be their “largest holiday opportunity as a system.” He made his conclusion based on the sales data for the preceding 2011. That year 14,000 McDonald’s locations stayed open on Christmas Day and sold meals to the amount of $5,500 on average.

If to look on figures, National Restaurant Association reports a decline in sales on Christmas Day for the whole industry. And this comes as no surprise because the vast majority of restaurants get closed as many other businesses do. The restaurant owners who decide to open on December 25 aim at 6 percent of Americans. It’s about 20 million people who eat out at least one meal on Christmas Day.

The number of customers visiting restaurants on Christmas Day grows each year but so does the competition. More and more independent restaurants invite people to have their holiday dinner. They put significant effort into marketing. They try to win as many customers as possible by crafting offers that resonate with people’s expectations. People give preference to their unique offers over the dining options provided by quick-service chains. At the same time, chain restaurants can count on loyal fans, travelers who need a quick meal on-the-go, and people who don’t celebrate Christmas for religious or other reasons.

How do restaurants win their customers on Christmas Day?

Imagine a huge family that stops to get snacks when heading to their relatives. Think about tourists wandering around holiday attractions or someone who is just spending a day off on their own. There always are people who appreciate that their local chain restaurants offer comfortable dining and tasty food 365 days a year. The strategy of operation on holidays helps national chains build a trustworthy image and makes customers feel they can rely on quick-service restaurants in any case.

To engage more customers on Christmas Day, quick-service restaurants leverage limited-time offers and use social media to spread the word about them. Limited-time offers are one of the best marketing tools that help chain restaurants generate customers’ excitement and interest. For Christmas, they add special dishes on their menu or twist their standard recipes to add a holiday spirit. It gives potential customers one more reason to stop by.

As the last point to persuade customers to come, chains use coupons and various special deals. Some of the deals are available all month, while others are limited to Christmas holidays. Whether it’s a buy-one-get-one-free, a discount or a gift, people love the idea of tasting their favorite snacks for free or at a seriously cheap price.

How restaurant owners motivate staff to work on Christmas Day?

To promote the idea of Christmas dining at restaurants, marketers appeal to people’s desire to get extra leisure time. Doing the big Christmas meal is quite an effort. People would love to relax while someone else prepares food and washes dishes. However, it often makes people feel regret about restaurant staff who are bound to work on the holiday.

Restaurant employees who volunteer to work on Christmas Day have to sacrifice a part of their family time. This represents the negative side of the restaurant holiday operation. To make up for it, employers increase payment rates and try to balance employees’ days off. Although restaurant workers consider double salary a strong advantage, money does not solve the motivation problem completely. Managers are supposed to explain and justify their decision to operate on the holiday and show the expected benefits for the business.

Each year restaurants hire seasonal help for Christmas. They often recruit students or graduates who look for the first working experience. For them, seasonal work is not just an opportunity to earn some extra cash. They want to enhance their CVs, build up contacts in a work environment, and develop new skills.

Comparing to small local restaurants chains have a lot to teach their seasonal newcomers. They have effective learning programs, time-proven operational processes, clearly defined standards of service, and modern restaurant technologies including POS systems, inventory, booking, and scheduling software. Furthermore, when hiring seasonal workers restaurant owners often expect them to stay on after the holidays. Managers can leverage this to encourage employees to work better and get a permanent job.

Rodion Yeroshek, co-founder & CEO at Poster POS (https://joinposter.com/en), @JoinPoster, a cloud Point of Sale and management console for restaurants and shops.
Outside Insights, Story