The Historic Clifton Mill, near Dayton, Ohio, is a casual American restaurant inside a 200-year-old grist mill. Complete with scenic covered bridge, country store and view of the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, the mill and restaurant attract visitors year-round. But come holiday time, owner Anthony Satariano and general manager Jessica Noes pull out all the stops.
“We put up a display with more than 4 million lights. We have an antique Santa collection, a miniature village and a toy collection,” says Noes. “We are a holiday display.” While not every restaurant is a historic destination, there is much the average operator can learn from these holiday pros.
The Holiday Spirit
For Clifton Mill, it all starts with a spirited menu the staff can celebrate and wholeheartedly embrace. “In September and October, we have pumpkin pancakes,” Noes says. “In December, we switch to ginger bread pancakes, peppermint ice cream and holiday cookies.” Give diners a taste of the holiday spirit with special dishes and encourage the service staff to talk them up at the tables.
We put up a display with more than 4 million lights. We have an antique Santa collection, a miniature village and a toy collection—we are a holiday display.”
An Authentic Passion
Build an authentic passion for the season with your staff. Find your own unique holiday selling point and get your team excited about it. Says Noes, “When the [holiday] lights come on for the first time and the music starts, we get a special feeling: We are in awe.”
Social media is perhaps the easiest way to stay top of mind for consumers during the season. Clifton Mill, for example, shows consumers the best locations for a photo on social media as an enticement to return to the restaurant.
With minimal investment, operators can leverage holiday decor to create an enchanting atmosphere. This is a great opportunity, not only to beautify your space but also to involve the entire staff and build camaraderie. String up lights, turn on a playlist of holiday music and set up a tree that you trim as a team. You can include decorations from other seasonal holidays as well.