The 2021 holiday season may be challenging for restaurant owners, but unlike last year, more people may be inclined to book a holiday party to celebrate with friends and co-workers. In addition, some provinces’ public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are loosening, allowing restaurants to host more guests at what is traditionally the most lucrative time of the year for them.

An Angus Reid poll taken in May 2021 gauged Canadians’ view toward restaurants, finding 89% enjoy eating in a restaurant, and 64% say restaurants will be an important part of their lifestyles after the pandemic is over. Meanwhile, another study finds 28% of Canadians are eager to dine in a restaurant now, and 58% want to see restaurant staff and guests wearing masks indoors.

Nevertheless, it may be an uphill climb for restaurants to attract revellers, and the competition between establishments attempting to woo consumers will be tough. For many, that will mean offering flexible cancellation policies and enhanced cleaning and sanitation, in addition to required capacity restrictions, indoor mask mandates, contact tracing, and ensuring all patrons can provide proof of vaccination upon arrival.

Holiday Party at a restaurant

Liquor Liability and the Holiday Season

Holiday and year-end parties typically involve customers imbibing alcohol, and that’s where your restaurant’s liquor liability risk comes into play. It’s a smart move to add liquor liability coverage to your overall restaurant insurance policy. You and your staff have a legal responsibility to make sure your guests get home safely, as you could be held legally liable if one of your customers is injured or causes an injury after becoming intoxicated at your establishment.

A general rule to keep your insurance premium reasonable is to ensure that no more than 40% of your total sales derives from selling alcohol. Here are a few tips for mitigating your liquor liability risks​:

  • Limit your customers’ alcohol consumption and offer food service, and do not serve patrons past the point of intoxication.
  • Train your bartenders and servers, document their training, and don’t permit them to serve alcohol to intoxicated individuals. Ensure they know what to do if a patron has too much to drink.
  • Remind your customers not to drink and drive and provide them with options to get home safely, such as hailing them a taxi or ridesharing service.
  • Display posters from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada wherever alcohol is served.
  • Implement a mandatory customer identification policy and never serve alcohol to anyone under the legal age in your province.

6 Ways to Get Your Restaurant Ready for the Holidays

The sprint to the end of the year is already underway. But it’s not too late to get your eatery ready to capitalize on catering to merry partygoers who fancy a night out with friends and colleagues. Here are six ways to prepare your restaurant for the next couple of months:

  1. Have your menu and advertising ready. Many corporations, groups of co-workers, and individuals start booking their holiday party plans early. Now’s the time to showcase what your establishment provides. Tailor your menu, advertise what your dining room experience offers, and get in touch with last year’s customers who booked a party or catering event with you to let them know what you’re offering this year. Also, offer them an “early bird discount” to encourage them to book a table before December.
  2. Get an insurance checkup. Talk to a licensed broker who can review your existing restaurant insurance policy, help identify gaps in your coverage or other risks you face, and ensure you’re not underinsured. One third-party liability lawsuit could bankrupt you if you lack adequate insurance protection.
  3. Prepare your staff. Ensure you’ll have enough employees available to work throughout the holiday season and provide them with guidance on public health safety protocols.
  4. Use social media. Get active on social media networks to promote your restaurant and its menu. Offer your followers recipes, hold contests and promotions, and give tips for planning a party.
  5. Collaborate with local businesses. “Shop local” is more prominent now than it ever has been. Partner with other businesses in your neighbourhood or region to provide consumers with discounts at both establishments. For example, collaborate with a local theatre or cinema to offer moviegoers a free appetizer or dessert when they show a ticket stub at your restaurant and provide your customers with a discount to purchase tickets to a film or show at the same cinema.
  6. Offer holiday gift cards. Always popular with customers, gift cards are a great way to get return business. Package your gift cards in decorative holiday envelopes and make it easy for customers to purchase food from you whenever and however they wish.
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