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Closing a restaurant for vacation

Question:

We are closing for a week in August for a very badly needed break and vacation. Any ideas about how to inform the customers that we will be closing and then beg then to come back as soon as we reopen?

– Abby Singh, Owner/Manager, Canteen 900, Forty Fort, PA

Answer:

Before we get to the advice, consider whether your employees can stagger vacations and you can remain open. Fixed expenses don’t take vacations, so it is preferable to continue operating uninterrupted. Closing, as you suggest, may frustrate guests and it may be challenging to win them back when you are rested and ready to receive them.

If your organizational structure is such that you do close for vacation, be thoughtful about when to do so. Look at previous years’ sales figures to see if there is a dip during any particular week. If you anticipate needing to close for one or more days for other reasons such as renovations or repairs, try to combine (though supervising contractors does not make for the restful vacation you had in mind).

In terms of communicating the closing, I recommend you be upfront with guests about your need to take a break to return refreshed and ready to serve them. Obviously tweet, blog, post to Facebook and have servers remind guests the week before your closing that you will be away next week. You can also include a note presented with the check.

For first-time or occasional guests, it can be frustrating. They may have driven out of their way to your restaurant, only to find a note on the door that you are on vacation. And you risk them not giving you a second chance. Try a note on the door with a code for a discount the week you reopen.

The day before you reopen, hit the web and social media sites again and let people know with some fanfare that you are back. Run a promotion for the week you reopen to entice people to come in and get your restaurant back in guests’ weekly routines.

Typical of this column, your question is really one of communication. Most of your guests take a vacation at some point in the year, and they will understand that you are taking yours, too. So focus on assuaging their disappointment that they can’t get their favorite meal and emphasize that you’ll come back stronger than you left them. Leave them hungry for your return!

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