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With the holiday season in full swing, the spirit of giving can offer comfort

As we have been told countless times throughout our lives, the holiday season is about giving. You, as restaurant operators, should be familiar with the concept. Giving quality service, after all, is a central tenet of the foodservice business. So here is some advice for what you can offer to yourself and your customers to help ease the hurt of a historically painful economic year.

Give your customers options. Marc Murphy, chef-owner of Land-marc in New York City, told Nation’s Restaurant News what he does and doesn’t like about holiday menus in this issue’s food feature. He frowns on creating a multicourse meal at a set price and locking his guests into that choice on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. Murphy would rather offer a few specials and keep the full menu available for those that don’t want to, and, these days, probably can’t afford to, spend an arm and a leg on a festive occasion.

“Sometimes restaurants put out menus, that, I don’t want to use bad language, but, put the screws to the customers,” Murphy said.

I would have to agree. As a consumer who has borne the brunt of those screws in the past, it is refreshing to hear a restaurateur talk like that. Murphy wants the regulars that support him throughout the year to feel comfortable coming in on New Year’s and getting just a beer and an appetizer.

Give yourself permission to be optimistic. As bad as this economy seems, and as negative as a lot of predictions seem to be, this business seems to thrive on the belief that the next day, the next week or the next month will be the start of a turnaround.

Flip to the anniversary section of our Year in Review and take look at all the independents and chains that have reached significant milestones from 100 years in operation to 20 years. They all dealt with hard times. Heck, some of them were around during the Great Depression. If they have survived for all these years, why can’t you?

There are thriving companies in every sector, from McDonald’s in quick service to Chipotle in fast-casual to Buffalo Wild Wings in casual dining. Same-store sales at those chains have stayed positive through out the year. Take a look at what they are doing right and maybe those lessons can help get your business back on track during tough times.

Give yourself a pat on the back for getting through 2008. With credit freezes, traffic downturns, foodborne-illness scares, menu-labeling mandates and a variety of other challenges, the foodservice industry has endured a heck of a year. The pages of this magazine were filled with all those stories and more. As a new year gets underway, let’s hope that those pages are filled with the stories of how the industry met those challenges and persevered.

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