Is it smart to close for vacation in February during winter break for schools and Fourth of July week when we are slow so that all staff have a break to rejuvenate?
– Decatur, Ga.
There are a number of factors to consider around closing completely for a week versus encouraging your workers to stagger their vacations so the operation can stay open.
First, let’s look at some reasons not to close for vacation:
- Loss of revenue.
- Loss of goodwill among guests who expect consistent hours and are surprised by your closure.
- Loss of income for hourly staff who may be counting on work during the days you are closed.
- Obligations to pay fixed expenses (rent, insurance, salaries, etc.) even though you have no revenue that week.
Even with all of that laid out, I am a fan of vacation closures, especially for smaller operations that would be hurt by multiple key people being on vacation.
There are many reasons to consider closing for a week, despite the loss of revenue:
- Team building.
- Staff rejuvenation as you note. A refreshed team can show better hospitality.
- Opportunity to do deep cleaning, renovations, repairs or menu refreshes that will not impact operations.
- Ease of covering staff shortages as opposed to staggering vacations.
Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia has closed for two breaks, winter and summer, for the past decade. They brand it Vernickation.
Chef-Owner Greg Vernick says that while the restaurant does sacrifice revenue, he “treats it as a team building initiative—encouraging staff to take a trip together, with team members offering recommendations on where to go from past Vernickation trips.”
Vernick says that it's also a good time for the restaurant to conduct “larger scale projects like repainting the interior or resurfacing the bar top, which wouldn’t be able to be done on a regular Sunday and Monday closure. The kitchen will wind down inventory, reset their orderings, redo plating/sets for certain dishes, and so on.”
He says that staff have embraced and look forward to the weeks off, and that even guests have gotten in on the tradition, asking staff what their plans are and making suggestions for things to do and restaurants to try.
In my own experience, being on a typical vacation is restful, but as a chef or manager, there can still be some lingering unease: your team may be texting you with questions, you could have an employee no show or you could miss a VIP guest or reviewer. But if the restaurant is closed, you can truly unwind.
As always, communication is key. Let guests know in advance that, just as they take a summer vacation, so will you.
More on communicating closures here.